Me: Okay, two last things. One, I wanted to ask about the kids in the show. Both of them are obviously incredibly talented. But what was it like, especially with Zachary since you are both technically playing the same character? How did the creative team work with them, and you as well?
Rob: It’s amazing. I joke with Zach that I want this show to run long enough for him to replace me.
Me: Well, that would be great!
Rob: Wouldn’t it? We’ll see. Knock on wood. But, what’s great about Zach is that Zach is not a show biz kid. He doesn’t have any of that sort of cutesy precociousness to him. He’s just a kid. He sits in his dressing room and plays XBox and then the child wrangler goes and gets him, brings him to the stage, and then he does his job. And he cries, every night. And if you ask Zach how he cries like that every night, he doesn’t say some kid answer like I pinch my leg or I think of my dog dying. He says, “I imagine if my mom left me at a workhouse.” The ultimate correct actor answer! You just put yourself in the situation. That’s what he does, and he cries like crazy, every night. There are nights where it’s my eighth show of the week, I am tired, I show up and I’m bringing my A-game. But then we get to that first flashback and Zach comes out balling his eyes out, and I think to myself, “I gotta step it up! This kid is bringing it today!” He is extraordinary. He always turns up, and always turns it on. It was amazing, in rehearsal. He and Warren have a really amazing relationship that in a way has been passed on to me since Warren has now left the building. Zach and I are buds. But, Warren had a code word with Zach, and the code word was “Macy’s”. The reason he kept saying that to Zach was because he asked Zach if he had ever been in Macy’s with his mom and turned around and she’s not where she was? It’s that moment of “Oh my god, where’s my mom?” Zach clearly had, because he looked at Warren and said, “Yah, oh yah!” I remember when I was a kid and hid in the clothing rack and then my mother..
Me: Oh yah, she’s not there.
Rob: And that resonated with Zach, and he knew that moment. And that got Zach to an emotional place. So, in rehearsal, if Zach was every not quite turned up enough on the fear factor, Warren would say, “Hey Zach, Macy’s. Macy’s.” It just meant click back into that feeling of being alone. And, also interesting, when little Zach would stop, it took a lot longer for Zach to come out of those tears. And it wasn’t because he was experiencing any pain. It was just because suddenly he was crying and didn’t know how to turn it off on a dime.
Me: He’s a kid!
Rob: Exactly. So, he would go over to his mom and have a juice box and sit in the corner. Then he would shake it off and be fine. But, Warren loved the moment when Zach was done with the scene, but couldn’t quite turn it off. He thought it was really riveting to watch, and we all did. We would all stare at him and go, “look how in it he is.” So, in our show, during the exile sequence, there are all these papers falling, and then there is a projection screen of all these “failings”, as Warren called them, of Charlie. One of them is me trying to do a bit with the dog, and the dog is having none of it, and then walks away. And then it is a shot of me after doing the bread roll dance, in my head trying to figure it out. Then, the last clip is of little Zach walking out of the frame. When we went into the green screen studio to film him yelling all his “Mommys”, Warren got him to that place and then told the camera man to keep filming even when he yelled cut. So, what is on that screen at the end of the exile is that moment after Warren has said “cut”, and little Zach doesn’t quite know how to handle not crying, and walks out of the frame over to his mom for the juice box. That’s what’s in our show!
Me: That is just so incredible.
Rob: The way that Warren and Zach worked together was fascinating. And of course, little Ethan who plays the Usher can sing his face off. He’s also great, and he understudies Zach.
Stayed tuned for Part Nine!