Learning Lessons from Hedwig
By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photography: Anthony Paderewski
MUA: Kristy Berry
Chad Darnell is a writer, producer, director, and actor who grew up in Atlanta. After working as an on-location casting director in Los Angeles and all over the Southeast, he is back ‘home’ in Atlanta to take on the part as Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at Pinch’N’Ouch Theatre. Peach talked to him about making the switch from behind the scenes to center stage, and why the role of Hedwig is so appealing.
You have mainly worked ‘behind the scenes’ as a casting director, producer, and director – now you’re taking the stage as Hedwig. What prompted this switch?
Acting and writing have always been my passions, but roles were extremely limited for my “type” when I was younger. I fell into casting by accident and so blessed to cast talent on over a hundred TV shows and feature films. I was there the night of the upside-down kiss was shot for Spiderman. I was on set for over a hundred episodes of Alias. I had a life-changing conversation with Carrie Fisher. I left the Pink House with Channing Tatum at sunrise. I spent nearly three weeks off-camera yelling at Daniel Radcliffe. I learned immeasurable lessons from Robert Altman, Kenneth Branagh, and Ava DuVernay. These were opportunities because of the casting. Every single day I’m in a casting session, I get to “act” opposite another actor, who wants this, and I love that. But now I want to start tricking people into thinking I’m characters I’m not. I love the trickery of acting.
What are some of your challenging in stepping into the limelight?
It’s a beast of a role! Honestly, the hardest part letting the character go. I did Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Savannah a year ago, and I knew I wasn’t done with the role the night we closed. I’m so grateful to be doing it again at Pinch’N’Ouch with the lessons I’ve learned with some distance from the show. And the angsty cocoon of 90s unrequited love before social media and selfies? I can’t say it’s not awesome to swim in every night.
What drew you to part of Hedwig in the infamous and award-winning “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” musical?
John Cameron Mitchell quit acting for years after he did the first run in the late 90s, and Darren Criss and Neil Patrick Harris called it one of the hardest roles they’ve ever played. I was like, “cool, I want to do that.” And it IS the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s no joke. It’s like doing an Iron Man every night. You can rehearse for 100 years alone, but you don’t have the show till you have an audience.
Why do you think we still relate to ‘Hedwig’ today more than 20 years later the musical premiered on Broadway?
For those of us who discovered “Hedwig” in the late 90s, this show represents a place in time when there was hardly any representation of LGBTQIA characters in mainstream media. Hedwig had a botched sex change operation, yet doesn’t identify as Trans! There’s a lot to unpack — addiction, abuse, pain, identity, and transition.
The part of Hedwig has been played by a variety of amazing actors – what is your personal spin on the role?
My “Hedwig” is made up of Amy Winehouse, Courtney Love, and Billie Joe Armstrong (with several dashes of Uma Thurman). I got to meet Shirley Manson from Garbage last year in Vegas, and it was amazing. I really wanted to study the connection that addiction plays in the life of a creative.
Mary Lambert is directing my screenplay Darlene in the spring, and I really hope to finally go to camera with Joey Stefano this year if we lock all the investors. And truly, I’m just focusing on acting in the Atlanta theatre scene. We have such an incredible theatre community of actors, and I back want in!
You can catch Chad Darnell in Hedwig and the Angry Inch which runs January 10 through February 2 at Pinch’N’Ouch Theatre. Tickets via pnotheatre.org.