James Snyder is a fan favorite with his charmingly good looks and a super friendly personality to match. After bringing audiences to tears every night in If/Then, he now returns to Broadway with the ground breaking new musical In Transit. A throwback to his college days as a member of the SoCal VoCals, In Transit is completely a cappella. There are no instruments and every sound you hear is being made live by the talented cast. We spoke to James about what it’s like to originate his third role on Broadway and advice he has for aspiring actors.
Joy: When did you discover that you had a passion for theater?
I grew up in Sacramento and went to the Sacramento Music Circus which was in a tent. That was when I first discovered what theater could do and how fun it was, but I didn’t do my first show until I was 13 or 14. I played Jesus in Godspell – it was my first show at my high school, Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. It was much more than I think I was expecting. Memorization was not a strong suit for me and so I don’t think I took it very seriously. It was just something that was a lot of fun. I would play soccer in the fall and would do the musical in the spring and it was great and then around my junior year I started to figure out what I was going to be when I grew up. My girlfriend at the time was auditioning at NYU and was going to be an actress and I was like okay, maybe I will see about doing that. So I auditioned for a few programs and I got into USC, Bachelor of Fine Arts program in acting. I would say college is where I really found my purpose and my ability to reach people. It’s where I found my calling within the context of being an actor.
You started out working in TV and film. Was that the ultimate goal or did you always plan on pursuing a career on Broadway?
I went to school in Los Angeles and Hollywood did have a cool draw to it – to do TV and film would be awesome. Then I ended up doing a ton of theater in Los Angeles. One of the first shows I did out of school was called Sneaux! starring Kristen Bell, right after she had done the Veronica Mars pilot. It was a weird gothic, horror, romance figure‑skating musical. So it was the weirdest thing I have ever done, but it was with director Andy Fickman of Reefer Madness when it was on off‑Broadway in NYC. Andy then went on to direct the movie She’s The Man and I got my foot in the door.
What it like being in She’s The Man and working with Amanda Bynes?
It was amazing. It was a few months, I worked two or three days a week. Amanda had to work really hard. She had like one day that she wasn’t filming. We were in Vancouver just having a great time. In fact, some of my best friends are from that. I got to have a lot of fun with my role, being the nerd and the goofball.
Are you still in touch with people from that movie?
Yes, absolutely. Jonathan Sadowski who played the hairdresser, yes. But I don’t talk to Amanda anymore or Channing [Tatum] really. He is a little busy so… You know, we were all just really young and trying to figure it out.
How did you land the lead role in Cry‑Baby?
I did Rock of Ages. Before Rock of Ages ever went to Broadway, we did it in Los Angeles – I was playing opposite Laura Bell Bundy, Chris Hardwick, Kyle Gass from Tenacious D. I was shooting a movie in Boston and had to re-audition to do a workshop of it and Bernie Telsey of Telsey and Company, they never heard of me and they were like, “you need to re-audition if you are going to do this workshop.” So I took the Fung Wah 14‑dollar bus from Boston to New York and auditioned for Rock of Ages at the workshop and then booked it, thank God. The week that I happened to be doing that workshop was the week John Waters was in town for the final round of auditions for Cry‑Baby and they came and saw me in the workshop and said “okay, he can do this.” So it worked out.
Cry‑Baby was great. It was a lot. It was