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Where have Hollywood A-listers been taking their kids for entertainment this winter? To Broadway — to see their favorite green ogre come to life. Celebs like Courteney Cox, Rosie O’Donnell, Hugh Jackman and Chris Rock have all taken their families to Shrek the Musical. In Touch recently caught up with the man behind the green makeup, Brian d’Arcy James. Brian, a Tony Award-nominated actor who has starred as Shrek since its debut three months ago, tells In Touch how it feels being part of one of Broadway’s biggest hits, plus what it's like to put a smile on kids' faces.
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In terms of the physical weight of the costume and makeup that goes into becoming Shrek, is it hard getting into character every day?
It’s quite an elaborate costume. It’s kind of like putting on a football uniform, actually. It’s a lengthy process; and after the costume, the makeup is an hour and a half. So, it takes about two hours to turn into Shrek. It’s not really heavy (it has foam padding), but it accumulates heat. It’s flexible and I can use my body to be agile enough to do things on stage.
Is this your first time playing this type of role?
Yes, I’ve never done anything like this. There’s an anonymity I have in terms of the actor disappearing. And the design is so elaborate you literally become someone else. In some senses, it’s easier to be the character when you actually look like it.
Does this role feel different because you’re a character that the audience already knows?
There is a responsibility to honor the icon because people have an expectation of what its supposed to be, which is more of a blessing than a curse because people are more likely to be satisfied when they are familiar with something. I try to give it my own spin! And because it’s a musical version, it’s going to be different regardless, too.
Did you watch Shrek before playing Shrek?
I was a big fan and saw the movies when they came out. I didn’t study them, but I have seen them.
And how about getting to meet celebrities like Hugh Jackman, Courteney Cox and Chris Rock?
It’s a lot of fun — especially when the celebrities bring their kids. It’s fun to see the people who you respect out with their kids. It feels great seeing Hugh Jackman and Chris Rock sitting in the audience because it makes them human. And everyone wants to appreciate a good time.
And it’s for the kids really, so it must be nice to see them there.
The show is magnetic in that way, and this is usually their introduction to theater, which I am very proud of.
When meeting people after the show, do you stay as Shrek?
I stay in costume and take pictures with everyone and yes, I’m still as Shrek. When seeing people through Shrek’s eyes, you get a sense of how people view this character.
Any other memorable experiences playing Shrek?
Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers (who did the voices of Princess Fiona and Shrek in the animated feature films) came by and were really excited and generous and liked seeing a new take on something that they are so familiar with — Mike Myers in particular. He was very nice. It was wild because we’re having this conversation and you’re talking about something that we both have unique perspectives on and then there is an immediate connection. But then when he left, I was like “Wow, I just met Mike Myers and I’m such a huge fan!” Moments like that are really great and are simply things that this character affords.