It’s no coincidence that Derek resembles Dmitry from the 1997 animated movie, Anastasia. With his adorable dimples and boyish charm, he is bringing the character to life onstage at the Broadhurst Theatre with added dimensions. We spoke to him about his crazy journey that led him to Broadway and what it is like to originate a dream role.
Joy: Was there a specific moment or age that you knew you wanted to be an actor?
Derek: I started acting and doing theater when I was six. Neither of my parents were performers, but my mom got us involved in children’s theater and we started taking voice lessons from a friend of the family. I always had a knack for it when I was young. As I got older and I played sports and did a lot more theater, I got to love it. It wasn’t really until high school that I started doing more professional regional and dinner theater performances that I started to picture my life with theater as a career and something sustainable that I would want to do. I played baseball my freshman year in college, then realized that I didn’t want to do that. I did a singing competition in L.A. and got an agent out of that and started doing some more regional theater around the area. That’s when the career aspect of acting kind of came to fruition. I really wanted to pursue it. So it wasn’t really until later that I started thinking of myself doing this professionally and for a living.
Was it your mom who inspired you to get involved with theater?
Yes, my mom started me and a lot of actors along the way. Norbert Leo Butz, Hugh Jackman. All those – Steve Pasquale who I got to work with on Bridges of Madison County. I just idolized these guys. Gavin Creel. Aaron Tveit. I mean, these guys were playing the roles that I would love to play someday and listened to them on soundtracks and hoped that I would get that opportunity. It’s kind of surreal to be originating my own role at this point.
What was the journey like to get to Broadway and was it harder than you expected?
It was kind of a crazy road for me. It all started when I was doing the singing competition in L.A. to get an agent. If you were in the top five of this competition, you got to do your own cabaret at the space. I decided to sing a song from Catch Me If You Can, which at the time was doing it’s out‑of‑town performances in Seattle. I saw this song that Aaron Tveit was singing online called “Goodbye” which is his 11:00 number of the show. The music wasn’t out yet, but my accompanist was able to figure it out and he said we can do this. A reviewer from Broadway World actually reviewed the show and mentioned that I sang that song, and then Marc Shaiman (who wrote Catch Me If You Can) actually messaged me on Facebook saying, “I heard you sang the song, did you sing it good?” At this point I didn’t really know who he was. I was kind of like, “I think so,” and then I looked him up and I am like holy crap, this is Marc Shaiman. And he said, “well, if you do sing it again, send us an mp3 because we are going to be looking for Aaron’s cover when we transfer it to Broadway.”