Will Wingfield talks In the Heights
Will Wingfield is hot. But not only is he nice to look at (remember watching him in Tyce Diorio’s Emmy Award-winning Adam and Eve routine on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 4?!), he’s also burning up the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theater in NYC as Graffiti Pete in In the Heights. We caught up with Will to talk about his big Broadway break, the best part of being on the Great White Way and how “SYTYCD” has affected his career.
How’d you land the role of Graffiti Pete?
It was kind of a coincidence! I was in NYC finishing up The Wiz when I auditioned for the In the Heights tour. A few days after the audition Seth Stewart, who originated the role, announced that he was leaving the show. My agency called and said that they were offering the role to me! I was literally about to get on a train to start my trip back to L.A. when I got the call. I never imagined that I would get a principal role on Broadway in NYC. That was never a part of my plan. I hung up the phone and called my mom and my girlfriend (Ed note: Sorry ladies, he’s taken!) to tell them the news so it would feel real. Everything was surreal until I was onstage for the first time.
So what’s it like being on Broadway?
It’s a blessing and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I have a newfound respect for all the Broadway artists out there. It takes a certain amount of spirit to push yourself through this schedule. Your body is dead tired and you feel like you have nothing left in you, but you have a brand new audience full of people every night who paid full price to come see you. You have to give them the show they deserve to see. It’s challenging, but it’s forcing me to be a consistent artist and push myself to the limit every night.
The In the Heights family has also made the transition easier for me. The cast is so incredible and I couldn’t have asked for a better first family to come onto Broadway with. I’m so grateful for how open armed and inviting they were to me.
What’s your favorite part of In the Heights?
The very first moment of the show when I come out with the boom box. It’s just me onstage, looking around. The possibilities for the day are endless. Then I find my wall and boom, the show starts. It’s like being shot out of a cannon. I get to set the tone for what the show’s going to be, and I hope I do a good job with that every night.
You’re required to sing in the show as well as dance. Have you always been a singer?
I’ve always been around singers. I grew up in the church and my mom kept me in the choir—although I resisted very heavily! I hated the rehearsals. Then, when I went to L.A. and danced with Debbie Allen, we performed several musicals. She always kept us singing! I’m not a recording artist or platinum-selling singer, but if you put something in front of me that I can’t do, I’ll work my butt off until I’m halfway decent at it. Then I’ll keep going until I’m good at it.
What was it like learning Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography?
Andy’s choreography is genius. A lot of choreographers just do steps. They just want to see cool steps and throw them out there. But with Andy, the step doesn’t mean anything if there’s not intention behind it. The movement has to come from a place and go to a place. Usually it comes from the intention and goes outward to the audience to understand it. Details are so important to him, and that’s how I like to work. I can push my mind further than doing a bunch of cool steps. Plus, it causes you to have to be invested in the movement and the story. Debbie Allen used to say dancers are the best actors because they can speak without words. Andy’s choreography is the definition of that. The dancers tell the story as much as the principal actors tell it.
I spent three weeks learning the choreography and with every movement, Michael would tell me Andy’s story behind the step. There is rarely a moment in the show where something doesn’t relate—in fact, I only freestyle twice during the show. Everything is intent oriented and driven from a specific place, which is part of what makes the show so special.
What has been the biggest challenge of being in In the Heights?
The schedule, because it’s inconsistent. Lately we’ve been doing 10-show weeks and we don’t have Mondays off. It’s very difficult to push through that. Plus when I first moved to NYC and started the show, my allergies made me so sick! Eventually your body learns when to relax and recover, and mentally you have to do your best to make sure you’re taken care of.
How did being on “SYTYCD” help prepare you for this role?
Being on the show helps you prepare for more than just a Broadway show! It helps you prepare for life. That show pushes you to places you didn’t even know you were capable of going. In the 10 weeks on the show, we didn’t have a single day off. I pushed harder than I’ve ever pushed in my life—up until now! You’re on national TV every week and expected to be perfect every week. That’s a lot of stress!
Now, as a professional dancer, I’m under similar pressure. I have to hit my mark every night. “SYTYCD” prepared me for this experience by instilling in me confidence in myself and my artistry. There were so many times on the show when I questioned myself and what I was capable of. At the end of the day, you pull through and do the best you can do that day. And of course the show gave me a huge fan base and following, which helps in NYC when you don’t have a lot of family and friends around.
What’s your advice to DS readers?
Know that “SYTYCD” is not the end of the road! It’s a great goal to have, but it doesn’t need to be your single biggest dream. It’s a starting point, not an ending point. When the show is over, you have to hit the real world and do your own thing. Prepare yourself for what you want in this artistic world. Dream big—dream super big!