As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Joe Carroll, who was playing Hans in the Broadway production of Frozen when the pandemic closed theatres around the world. The actor, whose Broadway credits also include Bandstand, Romeo and Juliet, Rodgers + Hammerstein Cinderella, and Once, has been seen on screen in The Politician, FBI, New Amsterdam, The Code, NCIS: New Orleans, Elementary, Chicago Fire, Deception, and The Carrie Diaries. With fellow actor Dan Tracy (Waitress, Kinky Boots), Carroll hosts the podcast Guys Who Like Musicals, which after 65 episodes of candid interviews and inside-Broadway conversation has been picked up by the Broadway Podcast Network.
What is your typical day like now?
Well, I wake up at 11… stay in my bathrobe till 3 PM… No, I'm kidding. I do spend a lot of time in my bathrobe, but the days always start early, and every day is different. My wife (Come From Away star Alex Finke) and I spend every morning having coffee together in bed. It's one of the greatest gifts from this horrible time. We're usually so busy, so we're cherishing the slow mornings right now. We just take a second and check in with each other, wait till the caffeine hits, and then we start the day. We're avid runners, so usually there is a run in Central Park or a one-bedroom apartment workout. I'm trying to get back to fighting shape because I got fat in 2020. Seriously. Prince Hans with a muffin top. Trying to lose that ASAP before Broadway reopens and I have to compete with Jason Gotay's abs.
I'm teaching and coaching a lot, anything from college auditions to professional work, and I run a production company with my buddy Dan Tracy (Waitress). We have a bunch of projects going on. Our main projects are our podcast, Guys Who Like Musicals, various TV projects, and producing digital showcases for university acting and musical theatre programs. The afternoons are usually working with him prepping interviews, writing, or working on a thousand other things. Keeping busy.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I think everyone should listen to Guys Who Like Musicals. It’s truly excellent podcast entertainment. I’m a massive TV/film fan. I want to watch everything. In no particular order: Palm Springs (my Once castmate Cristin Millioti is my fave actor on the planet), Killing Eve, Pretend It's a City, Crashing, Normal People, The Great, Schitt's Creek, rewatching The West Wing, I May Destroy You, Bridgerton, Derry Girls, The Great British Baking Show, Ma Rainey's was amazing, Big Mouth for a great laugh.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
There is something that I’ve noticed over the last several years in our industry that I’ve found particularly disturbing. White creative people are using their whiteness as an excuse for lack of opportunity. It almost sounds insane as I read that back. Artists have always struggled with opportunity; there are thousands of actors and musicians and writers trying to find work constantly. But I am hearing more and more often many white, liberal, so-called “allies” using their whiteness as an excuse. It would be one thing to say, “There’s no work right now”… but as Black and Brown stories start, at long last, to take up a larger part, but still a minuscule fraction, of the theatrical market share, I hear white artists saying, “There are no roles for white people.” Other phrases include “They’re going ethnic,” or “It’s tough to be a 25-year-old white actor right now.” A white “ally” would never say to a room full of BIPOC colleagues that “there are no roles for white people,” so why say it to a room full of white actors after a couple glasses of wine? That language is dangerous. I find it deeply troubling, and it needs to stop.
First of all, it’s so blatantly not true… The vast majority of people on TV and on stage are white. Turn on your TV and try to tell me “there are no roles for white people.” Everyone is white. Second, if Black actors make up the majority of I May Destroy You or Dear White People or Hamilton, and that makes you nervous, you need to look at yourself and think about the values you actually hold. If white creatives start looking at their Black and Brown colleagues and think that they, as white people, are being oppressed (which they’re not), then we have a big problem. White stories are not being suppressed. They’ll never be suppressed. The term is called white supremacy for a reason.
I want white creatives to please take their whiteness out of it. I want actors to stop complaining to other actors that there are no roles for white people. I want representatives to stop telling their clients there are no roles for white people. I want executives to stop telling creatives that “diversity is in” because “in” means “it sells.” It’s happening everywhere. Work is hard to come by, work has always been hard to come by in our industry. It’s a miracle anytime anyone gets a job, and it is particularly difficult for anyone who is not a straight, white, Christian, man.
BIPOC stories and the stories of other marginalized groups need to be shared and amplified and celebrated. And, there shouldn’t be a “limit” to how many times this occurs within a theatrical season. And, 30-year-old, mildly talented, middle class white actors like me will be fine. Or we won’t, but it won’t be because of our whiteness.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
That's a really hard question. I can only speak for myself when I say a long walk can change your life. Leave your phone, and go look at the little things around you. See your city or your street. Take a deep breath. Walk in the rain. Bundle up and walk in the cold. Getting outside helps me so much—especially because my walk is Central Park and the Upper West Side. New York is gorgeous when you take a second to really see it.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
Third time is the charm? Guys Who Like Musicals. We are thrilled that we just signed with the Broadway Podcast Network. The pod is pretty self-explanatory. We've had amazing conversations this year with friends and colleagues. We basically just geek out about musicals. Robyn Hurder, Corey Cott, Caissie Levy, James Monroe Iglehart, Gavin Creel ... They're friends as well as incredible artists. Check it out wherever you listen to podcasts.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I shot an episode of Pose before Christmas… That was amazing. To get to be an actor for a day. A few Zoom readings and some concerts from home. I was in final callbacks for a dream job when the pandemic took hold, so fingers crossed when things start to pick back up.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I have become such a fan of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. They have been around for years doing incredible work. The Broadway Advocacy Coalition builds the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities to dismantle the systems that perpetuate racism through the power of storytelling and the leadership of people directly affected. I have tuned in to all their panels this year and I've learned so much. Check them out.