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By Jimmy Kontomanolis | August 7, 2019 | People
Michael James Scott has become a theater veteran since making his Broadway debut in 2005. And recently, Scott returned to Broadway to reprise the role of the iconic Genie in the Tony Award winning musical Aladdin, after having taken the show on the road in North America, Australia and the West End.
We chatted with Scott about taking on the iconic role again, Will Smith’s interpretation in the live-action film adaptation, and getting ready for a big personal milestone this fall.
How does it feel to be back in the role of Genie, and to be playing again for a Broadway audience?
MICHAEL JAMES SCOTT: It’s absolutely horrible [laughs]. It is the absolute best. I am such a theater nerd, and a theater geek growing up, so for me to be back in New York and on Broadway with this role is a dream come true. It’s something I do not take lightly and I still have to pinch myself when I am getting ready and the curtain comes down.
The role isn’t new to you, but does it feel any different now?
MJS: Actually it does, to be honest with you. To come back to New York was so exciting and meaningful, and it felt like I was coming back home. To come back home in this way, with this role, is pretty major. So it does feel different in such a wonderful, positive way.
What do you love most about playing the Genie?
MJS: I love the heart of it. I think that’s the most fun of it. It’s a role that is all love, light and laughter. That’s extremely exciting and very important in today’s world. For me to go to work every day and do an iconic role that people want to love and they’re ready for you to come out on stage and make them smile, is just such a gift.
What has been your most memorable moment of playing this role?
MJS: I think the most memorable moment for me would be the first time I did “Friend Like Me” in Sydney, Australia. It was opening night there. I had done it on Broadway, and there were memorable moments there, but this was really my time to take over the role and make it mine. My partner was there, and my representation, so it was an amazing moment for me as an actor. I finished the number and it felt like I was dreaming. I was in Sydney, Australia—a place I never even dreamed of going—and I was there playing the Genie for them. I sort of exhaled and lived in the moment, it felt like time stopped. I’ll never forget that moment. That moment and then the moment I got to perform for indigenous people in Australia, and indigenous children who had never seen any type of play on stage. They were in the front row—and it’s obviously people of color in Australia—and there they were looking up at somebody of color performing for them for their first experience. I’ll never forget their faces. I had to keep reminding myself to perform for everyone else, because I was just so focused on those little, gorgeous, colorful faces looking up in amazement. Obviously it was special for them, but it was insanely special for me, and the rest of the cast as well.
Have you seen the latest film adaptation of Aladdin? What were your thoughts on Will Smith’s interpretation of Genie?
MJS: I did see the film. I got to see a screening of the film, and it was really fun to see a new version of Aladdin. It’s fun to welcome new family members into our little Aladdin worldwide family. And Will Smith did his thing! It’s big shoes to fill, when the role started off with Robin Williams. For all of us after that, the foundation that Robin laid out is pretty incredible. The challenge is to make it your own, and I think [Will Smith] did that. For me, it was just fun to get to sit back and enjoy a new version of Aladdin.
What do you hope people take away from the show?
MJS: I hope people take away from the show the heart. You see the show and, on top of this sort of big, glitzy, fantastical musical theater comedy, there is a real heart to the story. And I’m so proud of that because it’s a show for everyone. You feel the heart, you feel the love, you feel the journey you just went on. I think with this production, people leave with the heart, and feeling the love and the light.
What’s next for you?
MJS: Well, I’m getting married. So there’s a big event happening personally for me, coming up in the fall, that I will be focusing on. There’s a possibility I may be doing an album. I’m open for what’s to come. But I have to get through this production of a wedding first!
When you’re not on stage, where can we find you in NYC?
MJS: When I’m not on stage, you probably can find me at ABC Kitchen, or probably doing some sort of shopping, whether it’s up by Columbus Circle or on Fifth Avenue, or in the Village. But I also love Soho—it’s fun to walk around there and just be there. That’s where you can find me!
Photography by James Lee Wall