MM: Jason Edwards, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with BroadwayWorld and me. We are really excited about the regional premiere of RING OF FIRE at the Denver Center!
JE: My pleasure! Great to be here!
MM: First off, I see that you have done a show here before with the Denver Center called Mama Hated Diesels. Have you done any other shows here in Denver?
JE: That was the first one. I was offered a couple of shows years ago out at Country Dinner Playhouse. A long time ago, like 20 years ago with Bill McHale, but Diesels was my first show here in Denver.
MM: So what do you think of Denver and its theater community?
JE: I think it's top notch! I love it. I love the town. I think the Denver Center Theater Company is probably the finest and most versatile theater company in America. That’s my opinion.
MM: Thank you. That's very kind of you. Can you tell us a little bit about RING OF FIRE?
JE: Well, it's sort of a celebration of Johnny Cash's work. Richard Malby, who conceived the show and created it, didn’t want someone impersonating Johnny Cash, though he did want people who understood the material. So what we are trying to do with the show is get beneath his image and down to his words, what he was trying to say. Just be as true and honest and authentic as we possibly can.
MM: How many hours of research do you think you have done in preparation for this role?
JE: Research?! Oh God, I’ve been researching for this role all of my life, basically my whole career. This has come full circle for me, from where I grew up and the music that I listen to and love – the region where it’s from and the people we are talking about. I'm originally a Southern guy. I live in New York City now, but the thing for me, not only as an actor and a character actor, is just to try to portray the people that we're talking about with respect and honesty. That’s what I try to achieve.
MM: Where are you from originally?
JE: I’m from western North Carolina, near Ashville NC. It’s where the Blue Ridge and the Smokies come together. It’s about an hour across the mountains from where the Carter family is from – June Carter, BP Carter, Mother Maybelle Carter.
MM: Any funny or odd thing that you discovered in your research of Johnny Cash?
JE: He had a great sense of humor, I can say that. I don’t think the image that he had covers what he was all about. Obviously, he was one of the inventors of rock and roll. Not only was he a great storyteller and great songwriter and musician, he was really a patriotic and spiritual guy, and the thing about him that I just can’t talk enough about was that he had a voice for the forgotten and overlooked people in the world. That’s where my respect lies. And it’s great music.
MM: I wholeheartedly agree. Any special technique that you have to do to transform into Johnny Cash?
JE: Well, you know, no one is trying to do an impersonation of Johnny Cash or June Carter, but what we are trying to do is get beneath the skin of who he was and what he was about and bring what we know and what we have learned in life and where we come from and try to relate it. I think as actors and musicians that’s really what our job is. We’ve got a great group of people who can relate to where Johnny Cash was from. I grew up in the same type of terrain, out in the country like he did, and as did everyone in this cast. We have a great group of people trying to tell this story. Researching and reading and looking at videos, I’ve learned so much about him that I didn’t know, just from being involved in this show since 2005.
MM: So, given its short run on Broadway, what do you think caused the show’s limited success?