Skip to content

Jesse Williams on how Broadway feels ‘so real’ compared to filming on location

Jesse Williams is back on Broadway in the remount of the Tony Award-winning revival of "Take Me Out.

Jesse Williams (Photo credit: Courtesy of Polk & Co.)

Jesse Williams is back on Broadway in the remount of the Tony Award-winning revival of “Take Me Out.”

In the latest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” Williams sits down with Fadal to chat about his career, the differences between stage and screen acting and the lessons he’s learned through this experience.

Interestingly, Williams revealed that he hadn’t considered Broadway until he was in film school. While he was a film major at Temple University — where he was writing and directing — he realized that “acting is also a significant part of the storytelling process,” he said. “It was a way to be really creative.”

Williams began exploring acting while waiting tables, bartending and working at a law firm in New York. While acting on TV or film and stage complement each other, to him, “they’re different sports.”

“Onstage is an entirely different use of the mind, body and soul for me,” he told Fadal. “It’s kind of fascinating how being on a bare stage on a stool just like this … can feel more real and compelling than being on location.”

“You don’t get another take. You don’t get another crack at it.”

Speaking specifically of his performance in “Take Me Out,” Williams said it’s been a “great confirmation of the reward and the satisfaction and the joy that can be derived from pushing yourself to jump off a cliff.”

Coming from a world of multiple takes — having played Jackson Avery on the TV hit “Grey’s Anatomy” for over a decade — Williams said that performing onstage has been “raw and risky,” but he’s gained a new community from the experience.

Some might think that riskiness had to do with the nudity required for his role, but as far as Williams is concerned, it’s not one of the top five things he gave significant thought. “I’m serving the character and we’re being the character’s honest selves in those times,” he said. “I’m telling the truth up there.”

“Take Me Out” is playing at the Helen Hayes Theatre through Feb. 5.

This week’s episode of “The Broadway Show” features an interview between Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope of Manhattan Theatre Club’s “The Collaboration.” Watch a “Five Things You Don’t Know About Me” segment with Krysta Rodriguez, who also appears in “The Collaboration.” Catch interviews from the opening nights of “Some Like It Hot” and “Ohio State Murders” and take a tour of Radio City Music Hall with two Rockettes.

“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.