Pop-Culturalist Chats with Sean Grandillo
Sean Grandillo is a singer-songwriter and actor from Cleveland, Ohio. He studied musical theater at Ithaca College and recently finished his fantastic run in Deaf West’s revival of Spring Awakening, where he played the voice of Otto. Pop-Culturalist was lucky enough to chat with the triple threat about life on Broadway, his career, and what’s next.
Let’s start with Spring Awakening…
PC: You were part of the Deaf West Production in Los Angeles and on Broadway. How were the experiences similar and different? What was the transition like?
Sean: Being a part of Spring Awakening from the first production downtown in LA was an incredible experience—for so many reasons. I left school to be a part of the show’s first production—originally just taking a leave of absence for a semester when a lot of my peers went to London. No one had any idea what it would be, or any inclination of what it could be. Then it picked up steam. We did an amazing production in Beverly Hills the following spring, and, even after that, I think it was just a pipe dream to imagine we might go all the way to Broadway. The cool thing about the show is that the majority of the cast stayed together, so we got to watch each other grow as people and as artists through the entire process. It really did become like a family, with all the love (and bickering) you’d imagine. The other cool thing was that Michael Arden (director) led us in such a way that allowed a lot of us to put a personal stance on our roles, and, ultimately, on the show. Same with Spencer’s choreography! I really feel like everyone who was involved in that first production made a choice that would eventually be seen on stage on Broadway. And that’s really f*cking cool.
PC: How difficult was it to stay in sync with your deaf counterpart, Miles Barbee? Did the two of you have any funny moments on stage?
Sean: Miles and I only had a couple of lines, so staying in sync was never an issue. We had a few moments during the show where we’d make eye contact and, without breaking character or anything, could tell that the other one was kind of messing around. We’ve got a fun relationship—very brotherly—that reminds me of how I am with my brother…Told you it was like a family.
PC: You made your Broadway debut—was there anything surprising about the experience? And what was the biggest lesson you learned?
Sean: I think just the fact that I made my Broadway debut was the biggest surprise, honestly. I’ve wanted to be on Broadway since I started doing theater—like so many people—and it is a really, really hard road to get there. There’s so many different ways people can get there, and this one was so much fun. I feel like it was perfect for the skills that I brought to the table. I’m really lucky. And, as far as a lesson from this process, it’s about trusting your gut. This project seemed cool when I first read about it online, and I took the chance to move across the country for no money to be a part of it because something in me told me it would be the right thing to do and an important thing to do. I’m really proud of that choice.
PC: The show attracted a lot of celebrities. Was there anyone you were completely starstruck by?
Sean: Jessica Chastain was radiant in the audience. Pretty distracting.
PC: Can you sign Pop-Culturalist? (just kidding)
Sean: Yes. Haha. Well I can finger spell it…
We’ve got a few questions about your new single and career…
PC: Your single on iTunes is fantastic and has a wonderful message. Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired the song?
Sean: Thanks a lot! I’m so glad you like the song. I’ve been thrilled with the response to it. Where do I lead off? The lyric for the chorus: “Let it go, you’re new today…” actually came to me through an Emily Dickinson line that was on a birthday card a great friend gave me for my 22nd birthday: “We turn not older with years but newer every day.” That really resonated with me. Other than that, I think we all have moments, days, sometimes weeks or months, where we’re holding onto something bad that’s happened, or [some] disappointment, and letting it go really does allow you to feel “new” in a way.
PC: Can fans expect more music in the future—possibly an album/tour?
Sean: I’m currently writing and planning to have a full length album ready to record this summer. So hopefully by the end of the year? I’m also working on a musical…
PC: You’ve done film, television, music and Broadway—which is your favorite?
Sean: I love art. I love the entertainment in the street, and I feel really lucky to be part of it in numerous ways. I can’t pick a favorite because it’s such a privilege to get to do any of it, and if I get to make money for it…that’s honestly too good to be true.
PC: Have you had a moment where you thought “I’ve made it”?
Sean: Nope. I think one thing I’ve learned is that there are all these milestones and benchmarks that I’ve set for myself in my head, in regards to my career, like “When I get on Broadway”, or “When I earn this much money”, or “When I get on TV”, or “When I have this many followers”, or “When I have my music on iTunes”. With each one that I’ve managed to accomplish, I find myself quickly almost taking things for granted. I appreciate getting to do this interview because it’s making me realize again how special it all is. I think the “I’ve made it” feeling is dangerous and could probably get in the way. I’m also way too anxious about everything to feel that comfortable…
PC: Have there been opportunities you’ve given up that you’ve later regretted?
Sean: There are a few things that I’ve had to turn down for scheduling and other reasons. It really hurt to do in the moment, but, I found in everyone of those instances, something else pops up, and it seems meant to be. I’m not sure if I believe in fate, but I do think that making decisions is a part of life, and being able to make difficult ones—mourn them sometimes, and then move on—is really important.
Now it’s time for some spitfire pop culture questions!
PC: Guilty pleasure movie & television show?
Sean: Movie: Anger Management with Adam Sandler and all reality TV.
PC: An artist(s) fans would be surprised to know is on your music player?
Sean: Every Lil Wayne song ever. Mix tapes and everything. Weezy F!
PC: Favorite Broadway show?
Sean: That’s way too hard! Les Miserables is up there for sure. I love ASSASSINS, South Pacific, RENT…SO many plays.
PC: Favorite book?
Sean: The Picture of Dorian Gray
PC: Favorite Social Media platform?
Keep up with Sean on…
Thanks again to Sean for taking the time to chat with us. Make sure to check out Sean’s single on iTunes!
And, because we love you guys so much, we’re giving away 50 downloads. All you have to do is email email@example.com for your chance to win!
Photo Credit: Luke Fontana