Pillow Talking’s Interview with CONSTANTINE MAROULIS
Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking are pleased to present the following interview with actor, singer and producer CONSTANTINE MAROULIS
Constantine Maroulis has performed in just about every medium possible. A true multi-hyphenate, millions know him as a finalist on American Idol‘s fourth season. Theatre buffs know him as a Tony-nominated actor from Broadway’s Rock of Ages, Jekyll & Hyde, The Wedding Singer and the National Tour of Rent. Soap opera buffs know him from his thirty-one episode stint on The Bold And The Beautiful. Music lovers know him from his bands, concert tours, and albums.
Pillow Talking was so fortunate to catch up with this busy and very personable performer for a rousing, up-close-and-personal interview.
Constantine’s Official Website
See him in concert at The Ridgefield Playhouse
PT: Thank you for granting us this interview. We are HUGE fans of yours. We watched you on American Idol and also saw you in Jekyll & Hyde and you killed it!
CM: Did you see it on Broadway?
PT: Yes, we did! We had front row seats. We took one of our teenage daughters and we all loved it.
CM: Thank you! It was a wonderful year of my life. To take on a show like that and that challenge, knowing that I faced a lot of obstacles – a show that was iconic and ran for a long time. What tenor actor wouldn’t want to take a hack at that especially when the Nederlanders come calling for you and take good care of you.
PT: You were also on the road with that show prior to Broadway.
CM: Yes. We had such success on the road; it sold so well and people really loved the show and the music. We brought a new and exciting production of it to the stage. It was intended to be a limited run on Broadway and was a very expensive show to do. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I run into people all the time that loved it.
PT: Well, we aren’t just saying this, but we see an incredible amount of quality theatre on Broadway, Off-Broadway as well as regional, and that version of Jekyll & Hyde is one of our all-time favorites.
CM: Thank you!
PT: It also was the first time we saw Deborah Cox. We actually just reviewed her in the national tour of The Bodyguard.
CM: Of course. Deborah is one of my dearest friends still, and I love her and her family. She’s the only person who could have played that part in The Bodyguard. I believe the show will do really well. I could see it doing a limited run on Broadway.
PT: Limited runs are becoming more common on Broadway.
CM: Yes. There are so many different business models now which is so interesting. Broadway is such a new place. A show like that could do ten months on the road and then next summer do a ten- or twelve-week stint on Broadway. That’s new fashion now. Some shows are not built to run forever on Broadway. There’s only a handful of Wickeds and Hamiltons and Lion Kings (laughs).
PT: Exactly! So tell us a bit about your background and how you got into show biz.
CM: Sure – Well, I’m still trying to get into show business (laughs). I was born in Brooklyn, New York originally – in the mid-seventies. My parents were born in the Depression era in the early thirties. I’m forty-one now. I think I’m the oldest living [American] Idol technically (laughs) even though my manager doesn’t like me to say that. I’m kind of like the mayor, I’m friends with people from every season of Idol.
PT: (laughs) Well, we were big fans of yours on Idol as well!
CM: Thank you. So my grandparents came to Brooklyn in the teens and got into the restaurant business with just the clothes off their backs. They had a big family. We left Brooklyn around 1980 and I was five years old ready to start kindergarten or first grade. We moved to North Jersey, a beautiful area, Bergen County, with a big Greek Church out here. It was very different from Brooklyn, Bay Ridge, and even Park Slope back then. Those areas were going through a big change back then – it was how it was in Saturday Night Fever, the Bay Ridge like in the movie, a tough place. My brother and sister were older – there’s a big age difference between us – 10 and 11 years.
PT: (Wayne) I understand. There is a 10-year age difference between my sister and me. I also am a lucky guy for having a 12-year age difference between my beautiful and brilliant wife and partner.
CM: Then maybe there’s still hope for me for finding a woman who may be younger and smarter than me (laughs)!
PT: (Stephanie) I find it hard to believe that you have trouble there. I’m sure women throw themselves at you (laughs)!
CM: Well…I may not be lucky in the relationship department, but I have a beautiful daughter and a great life. As far as my older brother and sister, I just worshipped them. They had cool taste in music. My brother loved everything from jazz to Goth music – David Bowie, Bauhaus. And got me into Sinatra, King Cole and classic rock. My sister was loving new wave, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Cure. Of course, I was an eighties kid and loved Michael Jackson and Madonna, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. But I always had a thing for Broadway.
PT: That’s pretty cool.
CM: Yes. One film that brought our family together was West Side Story. The film would be on TV every year and we would watch it. My mother would point out all the Greeks that were playing Jets or Sharks (laughs). She knew the Jerome Robbins’ dancers from the old neighborhood. We had such an affinity for that story – New York Romeo and Juliet. And then my brother played Bernardo in the show in high school. I was maybe six? And it was just so real and I was bitten by the bug. I wanted to do that, too. He sang and danced.
PT: Your brother is a record producer.
CM: Yes. Athan Marulis. He’s an accomplished producer in the underground music world. He’s an eclectic type. My sister is an educator. She has a Ph.D. from Columbia and is a school principal. I think I just worshipped my family and wanted to do what they did. My mother sang in the house a bit. I had this belty huge voice from like 5, 6, 7 years old. So I started singing in school, but I had extreme stage fright. But I had a couple of great teachers along the way giving me confidence. And then when I was a freshman or sophomore it was my turn to audition for West Side Story.
PT: No way!
CM: Yes and it was for the same director that my brother had. And I went in there thinking I was all cool – like, I got Tony because nobody can sing like me. And then I froze in the audition.
PT: Oh, no!
CM: Yeah! Nothing came out. He smiled and he said, “I know your brother.” And I said, “Yeah.” Then I said to myself, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m never going to do this. I’ll play sports.” And then he did the best thing that anybody could have done – he put me in the ensemble. I learned from watching the older kids. And then you do the shows at school in the coming year and you work your way up. By the junior and senior years you have the leads in the shows and you have a little rock band on the side and you’re playing battle of the bands. And then everyone is going off to college and I’m like wait, “I want to be a rock star!” (laughs). So I was living with my family, going to school part-time, and auditioning for shows, trying to get my band signed and break into Broadway.
PT: You did eventually go to the Boston Conservatory.
CM: Yes. I was a young twenty-one and I met all these cats that went to the Boston Conservatory and the Berklee College of music. They said, “You should go and get some money and a scholarship. You already have some money. They will probably knock it down to three years.” So that’s what I did. I looked up to them – like Billy Porter back in the day before Kinky Boots Billy Porter, this was 90s Billy Porter. So I looked into it and went there and it changed my life.
PT: Wow. That was great.
CM: Yeah, I hustled and knocked it out in three years and I met Boston kids and Berklee kids. I was working going to school and then 9/11 happened right before my senior year there. We lost my first cousin, Gus.
PT: How awful. We’re so sorry. That was such a terrible time.
CM: And everything just kind of changed again. I said, ”What am I doing? Is this what I am supposed to do? Does this matter?” And then I realized that maybe it was the only thing I could do – to focus on my work, my family and try to bring joy, art and escape to people and that would be my gift in a way – as a way of giving back because that was such a dark time for my family.
PT: And after that?
CM: I went to the Williamstown Theatre Festival as an apprentice with movie stars like Chris Pine. I had the most competitive team and crew. And we’re all still friends. And then I met Michael Greif who put me in Rent. I was on the road in Rent and I had a band. It was great – I was in Rent and building a fan base. There wasn’t even internet back then like it is today – I had an email that I would check once a week. It was such a different time. And then I didn’t get the call to continue in Rent. So I went home and focused on the band.
PT: And then came the journey to American Idol?
CM: Yes, an old girlfriend told me she was going to audition for this show, American Idol. Remember, I had been in school and on the road so I really hadn’t seen it. I had heard of Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken. So I said, “Let’s go audition – this is what we do.” We took the Chinatown bus down there to D.C., cut the line like two real New Yorkers (laughs) got our bracelets and came back two days later after spending time in a hotel having fun. The cameras were all over me from day one.
PT: And the rest is history.
CM: For me, looking back now it feels like those were all natural progressions in my life. That’s how I see it.
PT: (Stephanie) We’ve also read that somewhere along the way you did The Bold and the Beautiful.
CM: Nearly ten years ago, shortly after I did The Wedding Singer on Broadway, around 2007 or 2008, something like that, I got a call from Brad Bell who is, of course, daytime royalty. His family not only created The Bold and the Beautiful but also The Young and the Restless and many other shows that are syndicated all over the world. It was a thirty-minute show and they always incorporated music into it. I think our story line was a little bit crazy, but even the experience of being out there acting for the camera for the first time – it’s different than when you’re on stage. I loved the experience. I think I probably did like 30 episodes with them. It was a great time and I met some awesome friends along the way that I’m still very close to. You never know. Maybe I’ll pull a James Franco and head back to the soaps one day!
PT: (Wayne) Believe it or not, you’ve done so many different things in your career that I was going to compare you to him. People know you from so many diverse mediums – network television like American Idol, The Bold and the Beautiful; Broadway – Rock of Ages, Jekyll & Hyde, The Wedding Singer—
CM: And the Lazy Boy and Rock Star Mickey [Mouse] campaigns. Thank you. I appreciate the comparison, although James Franco is a bit younger than me and has more Oscar nominations than I do because I don’t have any – (laughs). I did share a dressing room with him once. I was doing Broadway Bares, this insane once-a-year show to raise money for AIDS. And there he was locked up with headphones, typing algorithms – the guy is a walking mogul (laughs). He has a new show on HBO called The Deuce, a 70s underground, kind of dark show that he’s writing, producing, and directing. You never know. I may end up on there down the road.
PT: (Wayne) Well there’s no doubt that American Idol was a big stepping stone for you. But I think even without American Idol, cream rises to the top and you’re so multi-talented you would be successful at whatever you do. But with American Idol, some people have just fallen off the face of the Earth after it, others have distanced themselves from it, but you’ve embraced it. You went back a number of times, played the finale, been a commentator on many shows talking about later seasons.
CM: Yes. I love that stuff. As you can tell I don’t have a problem talking.
PT: (laughs) Neither do we.
CM: I’ve loved that sort of element. I’ve always admired newsy types and the craft in what they do. So, yeah, I took some pride in hosting for Yahoo, American Idol Extra and Fox and even Fox News – me as pretty leftist as you can get – but I have something to say. But thank you for saying that. No matter what’s, I think you’ve got to be nice. You’ve got to be cool. You’ve got to be nice, cool, professional, and do your job as best as you can. My job was to be “Constantine” on the show.
PT: We were really bummed when you they let you go on Idol. It was a shock.
CM: In a way it worked out. Me free falling off the show created headline news all over the place and it created a kind of fun, underdog persona and I went on to play that part. And that’s why I was nominated for a Tony. That was my story. Thank God I haven’t had a normal job in twenty years. But I’m a survivor and if I had to go back to a regular job I would somehow figure it out. I’m still in touch with Bo [Bice] and good friends with Chris Daughtry who was the season after me. He’s working on some great new things and I may be even be touring with him at some point.
PT: Being on Broadway in Rock of Ages must have been an incredible experience. Can you tell us about it?
CM: Shortly after Idol I was up at CAA, taking meetings and I met Matt Weaver, the executive producer for all things Rock of Ages and his wife. They met me at CAA. He came in with a mixed music tape – it even had handwriting all over it and said, “This is pretty much the show right here.” I said, “This is awesome! Can you really get all these songs?” And he said, “Yup.” And I was like, “Wow.” At the time they had done some LA productions where they would show up with a band and a couple of hot chicks and basically throw together the show. Then they got a couple of bucks to go to Vegas and do a three-week stint. They wanted me to play “Stacee Jaxx” at the time who is the rock star that Tom Cruise played in the movie. I didn’t end up doing the Vegas thing because I think I was setting up for The Wedding Singer and I had this TV show in development with Kelsey Grammer that we worked really hard on for a year and a half. But the Vegas thing really didn’t work. I thought to myself, “This show could work if they had the right group of actors to make this material work in an honest and cool way.” And then Kristin Hanggi, the director, said, “No, no, you’re not Stacee. I need you as Drew.” And I said, “That’s great. That’s what I want to do.” I wanted to show people the difference [between the two roles] and what I can do. That was a great thing for me.
PT: That must have been such a great entrée into the show.
CM: It was. I eventually met the whole cast. They put the right ensemble of actors together and they let us play with the writer [Chris D’Arienzo] – me and Mitch Jarvis, Adam Dannheisser, Will Swenson at the time and later James Carpinello. It’s a male-driven show – as beautiful and important as the women are in it. Sherrie [the female lead] was a revolving door for many years, but there was the constant of these three or four guys really working on the show. And I think that’s why it became something special. It was hard to replace a lot of us over the years. Other shows have more success at doing that. But this show was pretty specific. I think ultimately it was the building and rebuilding of the show with writer, director, the choreographer, the band and a pretty much unknown ensemble of actors that made it really special. I think that’s an important part of the collaborative process – a director or writer being willing to hear and listen to the actors.
PT: We totally agree, as writers and directors ourselves. Now the movie was different from the play. You did have a cameo in the movie as well.
CM: Yes. I thought I was finished with the Rock of Ages, but then the movie came up. But it was very different.
PT: So tell us about your upcoming show in Connecticut.
CM: I love Connecticut. I’ve played there before and it’s so great to come back. I have a big show at the Ridgefield Playhouse – a beautiful town, great space, great venue, awesome staff. I’m basically bringing a full-blown rock assault.
CM: It’s going to be a classic rock extravaganza – a lot of new material from my upcoming album which is out now on Spotify and really doing well for us. But there will also be a lot of material from Rock of Ages and some Idol hits of mine like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and some of the stuff everyone’s gotten to know me for over the years. I have an incredible band – Kareem Devlin “Jesus” from Lady Gaga – and all these cats from the city. It’s a family show for all ages. We have Brian Dunne opening up, a great New York City singer and songwriter. It’s going to be a great show. It’s part of a tour I’m doing.
PT: It sounds like it – we’re really looking forward to it!
CM: Yeah. I do these early February, frozen tundra tours (laughs). That’s when I go out on tour. And then we go to Boston and New Jersey after that. It’s going to be awesome.
PT: A big of our audience is made up of artists – actors, singers, dancers, writers, directors. And everyone wants to know about a performer’s process. How do you approach a project or what is your process if you have one?
CM: First, you must be disciplined. When you go in a lot for theatre, film, and television stuff – and thankfully I still do quite a lot and I have a team that really believes in me – you can’t always read the entire script most of the time. So what I like to know is just, what is the moment before. It’s about behavior. If I know what just happened before the scene then I’ll know how to play the scene. It’s all about being natural, grounded, and being in the moment; in the bubble. What are the given circumstances. I try not to get too insane with “taking on this animal of a character” and things like that. Doing Jekyll & Hyde was a lot. It was Hamlet. It was Macbeth every night. I needed rest, my warm bath with Epsom salts. I had to rest my voice; no smoking, no alcohol, lean diet and a lot of water. Sometimes if we closed the show on a Sunday and were off on Monday, I wouldn’t talk until Tuesday.
PT: We’ve often wondered about the physical strain of doing theatre.
CM: You get used to it. I had an assistant with me on the road and you just kind of get used to it. To perform on the level vocally that I need to do – I have one of these big power tenor kind of things – to do everything I need to do is demanding. And I’m lucky. The gift is strong. At 40 I can still sing anything put in front of me. But getting back to the process, I really like a collaborative proves. I like working with a director that lets me make choices and decisions.
PT: We know you’ve done some work with schools, classes, and young performers. What advice do you give them?
CM: Yes, I’ve done master classes and things like that. I don’t advertise it much, but it’s a strong passion of mine. I come from a line of educators. My sister is a principal at a prestigious school. I really enjoy it. For me, I have an interesting story to tell. I have an interesting sort of ride to some success. I have this like nice slow burn that’s been twenty years in the making. I tell them to do the work. Looking back, I didn’t do all of the work and that’s why it took me a little time. That’s why I wasn’t able to go to [drama] school right out of high school, because I really wasn’t ready. That was my path. I teach them that, too. You all have your own path. Just because your friends are all going off to school, maybe that’s not for you. Maybe a drama school isn’t for you, but you can go to a Penn State and take some theatre classes, some music stuff, meet people, have a normal college life, go to football games and get some real training in another craft as well. But some people are just ready to go, to move to New York and just get at it. Today some people get discovered with content on the internet. I think it’s a strong place for good content as long as it’s not too much. Be selective. Don’t put too much of yourself out there. Don’t say, “Here is my new headshot” and then show them sixty different shots and say, “Which one should I pick?” (laughs)
PT: (laughs) We see that all the time on Facebook and other social media. Young actors have done it to us as well.
CM: They shouldn’t. You’re already telling the world that you’re somebody that can’t make a decision and don’t know yourself or your brand.
PT: That is so true. That is such a great piece of advice. Branding is everything today.
CM: Yes. And be nice. You never know that maybe the kid sitting next to you and that you had a laugh with may be the head of a studio someday.
PT: You such a multi-hyphenate – you sing, act, perform in all types of media and platforms. Do you prefer doing one thing over another?
CM: I’m such a blue collar Jersey kid at the end of the day. I just like to work, man. I like the process. I like working with great people.
PT: What does the future hold for you?
CM: Coming up in 2017 I have a nice myriad of stuff to work on. I can’t announce too much of it yet. It will be cool to get out of town and work on a show, come back and do some concerts, do a stretch on some TV coming up. Something that I can talk about is that I am executive producing a new web series.
PT: Is that Psychosis? We saw that on your website.
CM: Yes. It’s a new scripted piece. We’re doing some crowd funding. But we have an amazing team and cast in place already. There’s a model out there where people are just going and making the show. They are not waiting for someone to give them the money – no we’re going to go out there and make the show. So we are going to go and make ten parts of this episodic series, Psychosis, which is a sci-fi type of thriller, young, sexy, kind of dark, kind of Final Destination thing. It’s exciting. I’m going to play a part. I’m playing the part of this actor, Giles in it. But it will be interesting to produce it. The writer, director, creator is this French kid Hisham [Abdel Khalek]. He’s an interesting guy who has some musicals in the works as well. So we are excited to get started. We are looking at getting into production later this spring and summer for sure and knock that out. I think it’s going to be pretty cool.
PT: It sounds great!
CM: I’m already going through episode one right now making notes. It will be fun.
PT: That’s how so many shows have started including Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
CM: It’s cool. Man. You put an ensemble of actors together these days and you can shoot them on an iPhone if you’re smart and clever. Look at what these kids did with Vine – the inventiveness is incredible. There’s so many crazy shows out there. I burn through shows all the time now. I have Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, so I have a lot of work to do.
PT: (Wayne) What is amazing is that all of these content providers are producing entities now. I’m sure you get the awards screeners, too and they are from Netflix and Amazon. It’s rare that you’ll find a straight-up sole studio production anymore. (Stephanie) But what’s funny is that we have seven kids between us and they’re like, “We don’t need the DVDs. We watch digital downloads.” They’re way ahead of us; they’ve seen everything.
CM: (laughs) Yeah, I hear you. Plus there is all the UK product out there. These streaming systems are so savvy. You watch one episode of Peaky Blinders and they suggest all these other shows. And I go, “Oh, God, my life is over now – all I’m going to do is consume television stuff.” But it’s just so good, the writing is so good now and the level of acting – it’s just so sick!
PT: We know! So, we have one final question which we ask everyone – it’s our signature question. If you could only use one word to sum up your life and career to date, what would it be?
CM: (Sighing) Wow…
PT: (Stephanie) We don’t make it an easy last question (laughs).
CM: I hear you. I would have to say…fulfilling.
PT: Wow, that is a good one! Thank you so much for a fantastic, fulfilling interview! We can’t wait to see you in concert!