The cast of Schmigadoon!
Garfield Wilson is no stranger to performing in musical productions.
His first big break came as the role of the disciple Judas in the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar. His new role as Henry in the fresh Apple TV+ comedy musical Schmigadoon! is a far cry from the serious and macabre atmosphere that encompassed Jesus Christ Superstar.
When describing the major differences between partaking in musical productions that occur on stage versus those produced on television he explains, "The difference with being on stage is that you just go from the beginning of the story right to the end, so that emotional journey is chronological.
"When I did Jesus Christ Superstar, it was intense and it was breakneck costume changes, and making sure that you're in tip-top physical condition. And you're really doing all that you can do to save your voice because you're using it so much throughout that one production on stage.
"With television it's different because you shoot different musical numbers and then different dialog scenes out of sequence, depending on the availability of actors and things like that. And you're doing take after take. Sometimes some of the tracks are prerecorded and then some of it is live. It's just a different animal altogether. But it's no less emotionally invested.
"There were scenes in Schmigadoon! where the tears were flowing every single day because it just gets you in your feels, because of a song and because of that part of the story. The cast is so unbelievable.
"I've worked with so many amazing artists, and just having that collection of brilliant artists, including director Barry Sonnenfeld and [writer] Cinco Paul, I was just in awe during my scenes. I was like, 'Wow, this is actually magical.' What they brought to the table was just an unbelievable experience."
Having the opportunity to share the atmosphere with actress Kristin Chenoweth was also an incredible opportunity for Wilson.
"She is one of the most beautiful human beings I've ever met. Just so much energy, so authentic, so giving of the space. She's been around for such a long time and has such a brilliant career. Just on paper, looking at who you're going to be in a scene with, it'd be easy to become overwhelmed. But she created an environment where it felt like we were old friends for years and years and we were having a reunion. That's the kind of artist that she is.
"And that's the brilliance of that cast. Kristin and everyone else – Dove Cameron, Keegan-Michael Key, Cecily Strong, Alan Cumming – they just make it so that it's a kitchen party. It was the first time ever that I've been on set when people have their last day of shooting and they get clapped out where people are crying tears of joy from the journey they've had. It was literally the biggest love-in I've ever been a part of on set.
"What was even more impressive about Schmigadoon! is that this went on during a pandemic. There were strict protocols, red zones, yellow zones, green zones, and making everybody feel safe. And then on top of that creating this connection in this environment on set was amazing."
When he first auditioned for Schmigadoon!, Wilson initially had no idea it was going to be a musical production.
"My audition was just completely authentic and as best as it could be. Funny enough, I didn't realize it was a musical until I booked the role and the musical director sent us all the songs to learn and I'm like, 'Oh! I gotta sing?'
"When I was on set all of the cast members were telling me about the songs they submitted when they auditioned. I was really fortunate that casting here in Vancouver knew that I had a lot of experience with musical theater, and I was a professional singer."
And Wilson's musical experience does indeed go far and wide. In addition to his role in Jesus Christ Superstar, in 2013 Wilson performed in the musical production of Dreamgirls, was a lead singer in his own band, and even sang back-up vocals for Canadian rock and blues singer Colin James.
Wilson also manages his own fitness company. About his ability to successfully juggle the many talents he has as well as spend time with his family, Wilson says, "Over the years I've had challenges striking that work-life balance because I have three amazing children and my relationship with my fiancée.
"Running that business and then having the passion to do what I do, which is singing and dancing and acting, has sort of organically evolved over the years.
"It's that law of attraction. I don't try to push anything anymore. I have really good boundaries in terms of the quality time that I want to spend with my family and the time that I want to work. I feel really grateful and I'm really happy with the balance that I have in my life right now.
"I'm really fulfilled with my career and my children are my life, and my fiancée is the most amazing person I've ever met. My life right now is crazy to me."
But Wilson's passions extend even further beyond the stage and in front of the camera. He is also a major proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement and the eradication of systemic racism.
"Our world is beautifully diverse. There are people of color and LGBTQ; and organizations, leaderships and governments should represent the world. It's a human right to be a part of this world and to have equal opportunities. And to be quite clear, that's never been the case. Systemic racism is alive and well in North America.
"The past has to be acknowledged. Those transgressions and that history of oppression of people of color, particularly First Nations in Canada and then Black people in the United States. That is real and that legacy is evident in what we see today.
"The opportunities that are there and lack thereof in terms of justice, in terms of representation, in terms of equal pay, opportunity, all of the above, and all of the hurt and loss of life because of that and because of that history. And to acknowledge that and to right those wrongs is paramount to having a better world and a better life for our children. And so, I'm a huge proponent of that.
"It's not the burden of Black people or indigenous people or the LGBTQ community. We will always raise our voices to shout out injustices and to seek a better life for ourselves in terms of equal opportunity. But I think the burden is also on white people to understand their privilege and understand that legacy and understand where they come from, and what that means, and to acknowledge that and to demand better for everyone.
"I believe that the Black Lives Movement, especially the year of 2020, really put a spotlight on the different facets of our society and has really affected the entertainment industry in terms of film and television.
"The projects that I see coming out now that I'm not in that have amazing, diverse casts, with really talented actors telling complex stories, and it represents what the world is now, what the world looks like now. It's not all white. It's beautifully diverse."
Although he has found himself turning down roles that he felt didn't necessarily represent people of color in the right light, Wilson admits he doesn't always specifically focus in on that when reading over scripts. Rather, he is drawn to opportunities where the characters are rich and complex.
"In the past, over the last five years, I have said no to opportunities when it comes to the characters that I want to play. And that's a personal choice for me. I don't judge people harshly – my brothers and sisters – that take those opportunities. But for me there are some roles in period pieces where you're playing a Black slave or things like that.
"Or most recently, from a streaming service, there was a romantic comedy where there was a large principal role and the opportunity I had was as a chauffeur and I was like, 'No, I don't think so.'
"For me I seek out roles, characters that are complex, that are challenging, that are outside of my comfort zone, that are rich and have integrity, that have intelligence and are an integral part of the story. Or have something that evolves from them in that mold where they first appear to be two-dimensional, but they have redemption at the end of it. They are more than what they seem. That's intriguing to me."
With everything he has accomplished in life so far and the many passions and successes he already has; Wilson is just getting started and doesn't show any signs of slowing down when it comes to his acting career.
"I've been shooting the biggest project of my career for the last three months. I cannot wait to share this project. It's unbelievable how excited I am. With this movie series I just signed and the feature film that I am finishing up...Oh, my God. My life right now is amazing."