By Natalie Mack
JJ Niemann is best known as a Broadway actor and a social media influencer. Niemann can be known for appearing in multiple Broadway productions, as well as his theater humor TikTok videos. TikTok is a platform for anyone to create a short video they choose for the world to see. As you can imagine, this app has become widely popular throughout the ongoing pandemic in all our downtime. It has become a way for users to express their talents in this isolated virtual world. Niemann and other Broadway actors decided to use this platform to create their own musical, fully on TikTok. This musical was based on the film “Ratatouille”. Niemann was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the Tik Tok musical and himself.
Natalie Mack: Out of the group of actors involved in the Tik Tok musical, who’s idea was it?
JJ Niemann: In terms of whose idea the Tik Tok musical was, Emily Jacobson was the one who created kind of the trend in the first place with her Remi the Ratatouille song and then Dan Martselft took that and turned it into a whole arrangement which is what really went viral and what I started seeing, and then everyone started writing music. I think there were eight writers total who wrote the music for Ratatouille and it was a crowdsourced musical, so that’s kind of what makes it so special and so cool. It was produced by C.B. productions. They really took this idea and ran with it.
NM: What are the names of the Broadway shows you have been involved in? What were your roles?
JJ: I was in the Book of Morman, on Broadway. I got cast in that three days after I graduated college. So I literally jumped right on to Broadway right out of school and I was a swing in that show, so, I covered all seven of the ensemble tracks and I was in that show for two and a half years. I loved my job their and I loved the consistency so I stayed there for many years and then I recently left to do the world premiere of a show called “Bliss” that I was in the development workshops of and then I got to do the out of town pre-Broadway try-out in Seattle at the fifth avenue theatre.
NM: How difficult has the pandemic been for you and your acting career?
JJ: The pandemic has obviously been difficult. I’ve never gone this long without performing in a show, my whole life, since I started performing when I was eight years old. So, it’s been weird. But, also kind of a positive at the same time because I’ve been able to pursue creating content online and have built a huge platform for myself that I never would have if I was focused on performing on stage all the time. So, it’s kind of been a blessing in some ways, but yeah, it’s been really hard to not be around my community. I miss it so much and I miss the go go go and the hustle of it all, living in New York City, all of those things.
NM: Do fellow Broadway actors have a support system going for each other during this pandemic?
JJ: I do have a good support system of friends and actors and we have our group texts and we really help and encourage each other and do lot’s of zoom calls.
NM: What are some new ways you’ve been expressing yourself and doing what you love, since not being able to perform live?
JJ: I’ve been doing a lot of creating content online, on Tik Tok. I started doing that in the middle of the pandemic in April and I now have 550,000 followers on there and over a 100 million views, so it’s been amazing to get to reach so many people that way and find that shared theater kid humour. I’ve also gotten to basically dive full time into coaching online. I work with the Broadway collective pretty much full time and that’s been amazing to have so much time to do coaching as well as doing my own individual coachings and one on one…a lot of actors have been doing that as well.
NM: What do you miss most about performing live on Broadway?
JJ: I will say I don’t miss doing eight shows a week on Broadway. I mean, I would love to right now but it is really a job. You’re going to work everyday and when you’re doing a long running show you go to work every single day and do that same show and it can be really taxing physically and vocally. So, I’ve been really enjoying this time of rest…and not being in physical therapy every week. What I miss most about performing on Broadway is just the audience. It’s that connection and the community and the energy. And, getting to be a part of creating something, a piece of art bigger than yourself.
NM: What would you say is the number one reason you got to where you are today?
JJ: I would say a huge reason for where I am today…obviously, we are born with raw talent, so that’s part of it. I’ve always been musical, I’ve been singing and dancing longer than I could walk or talk. But, I wasn’t very trained and I didn’t know how to do a lot of things, so I think training is essential and getting a good education. There are very very very few people who make it big without really working hard to hone their craft and their skills. I always recommend doing that. And also, just being determined. Being really self disciplined and I have been someone, if you ask anybody who really knows me, I am constantly busy, I am constantly working on something, I always have a project or something going on. So, just continue to create art in any instance. You can even, in the middle of a pandemic, so many cool things are being created right now…don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and just do the work. I think you’ll reach the benefits.
NM: Coming from a Broadway actor, what would be a piece of advice you would give to young actors with the same dream as you?
JJ: My biggest piece of advice for actors that are looking into the industry is trust your instincts. Trust your gut. At your core, you know who you are and if you don’t, you’ll figure it out. Don’t let other people’s perceptions of you and their opinions change and force your decisions. Be who you are, love who you love, do what you want to do, and if you really want to pursue it, do it with all your heart because people are going to have positive and negative things to say about you your whole life and if I listened to what people said about me, if they didn’t like me or didn’t think I was funny, I wouldn’t be creating content online, I wouldn’t be putting myself out there. If I had listened to the people who said there is not a possible career, I would have not made it. So, you have to just trust yourself and if it’s something that you really want to do then just go for it with all your heart and know you have a unique voice perspective that gives to share with the world.