How ‘Tick, Tick … Boom!’ Star Robin de Jesús Played the Long Game, Even Through the Setbacks

Robin de Jesús

Robin de Jesús is a three-time Tony Award nominee who’s currently co-starring in “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” one of this year’s film awards season contenders. But de Jesús will be the first to admit that it hasn’t always been easy for him.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

“It was rough and it was humbling,” he said of the years when he wasn’t working. “I had thought I was going to pop off.” On the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast, de Jesús shared what it was like during those rough times — and revealed how he pushed through them.

“I’ve always been someone who’s aware that I’m playing the long game,” he explained. “Even when I was 18 and not working, I remember thinking, ‘Mm, I don’t want to take that job because it’s not going to feel right.’ … I didn’t want to put myself in a place where I wasn’t creating with the best intentions or just feeling good about my creativity. So that meant I didn’t work sometimes.”

One of those fallow periods came after his back-to-back, Tony-nominated performances in “In the Heights” and “La Cage aux Folles.” “The jobs weren’t aligning,” he says. “I had to move back home to Connecticut and I lived with my sister. I was like, ‘Yo, I’m a two-time Tony Award nominee living in my sister’s house. What is going on?'”

He added, “That does do a number on your head. But that allowed me some humility, and it did give me some perspective, and I came back hungrier.”

He scored his third Tony nom for playing Emory in the starry 2018 Broadway revival of “Boys in the Band” (and reprised the role in Netflix’s film version of the show), and soon thereafter reunited with “Heights” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda for “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

Both “Boys” and “Boom” gave de Jesús the chance to play people of color in period pieces with gay themes — characters who had been played by white actors in the past. “Emory in ‘Boys’ and Michael in ‘Tick, Tick… Boom!’ are an insertion of my ancestors into periods that have deleted them,” he says. “So much of gay history is told from a white gay perspective, especially with HIV. I feel so blessed that I get to go, ‘Look, you existed in this time.'”

Also in the new episode of Stagecraft, de Jesús talked waiting tables at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., working with Miranda and why sometimes he’d rather get a role by auditioning for it than having it offered to him.

To hear the full conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and the Broadway Podcast NetworkNew episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.