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Behind the Curtain: An Interview with 'Hadestown' star Zachary James

Photo Credit: Timothy Clark

Zachary James has originated several iconic Broadway roles, such as ‘Lurch’ in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, 'Amenhotep’ in the Olivier Award winning production of AKHNATEN and ‘Abraham Lincoln’ in THE PERFECT AMERICAN, and is currently starring in Hadestown in the West End.

In this Behind the Curtain interview I to speak to Hadestown star, Zachary James, who plays as 'Hades' to find out more about his character and the show!


For those who are not familiar with the show, could you tell us what ‘Hadestown’ is about? 

Hadestown is an epic folk opera that intertwines the ancient Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. It is set in an industrialized underworld and follows the two couples as they navigate their love and struggle to survive difficult challenges. It’s about young love verses old love and the power of art.


Did you see Hadestown before you got the role? If so, how did you feel when watching the show and what was it that made you want to be in the show?

I saw Hadestown twice on Broadway before getting the role. I was blown away by the unique storytelling, the infectious music, and complex characters. It was the raw emotion and depth of the show that made me want to be a part of it. I went to see it one last time after I was cast as Hades just to scope it out and answer some questions before beginning rehearsals. 

You play ‘Hades’ how would you describe your character? And how do you approach the character to make them your own? 

Hades is a complex character who is both powerful and vulnerable, at the top and very lonely. I wanted to find the humanity in him to make him my own in a special way. My entry point was thinking of him as a wounded little boy who has been given the keys to a kingdom he didn’t ask for. The weight of the responsibility shapes him into someone he doesn’t like. The self loathing combined with extreme abandonment issues give him layers that defy the stereotypical villain archetype. 

You have played some great roles, which role would you say has been the most difficult and why?  

Each role I've played has presented its own challenges and opportunities for growth. I learn so much from the roles I play and they seem to all come at exactly the right time. I would say the most difficult was probably Sweeney Todd because of the burden of guilt and shame and resentment he carries on his shoulders. It was a great exercise in learning to immediately turn it off when leaving stage. I can’t carry that stuff with me. 


What would you say are the key differences between a West End and Broadway audience?

Broadway feels more commercially driven, it’s focused on the tourist market and attracting certain demographics. West End feels more balanced with locals and out of town visitors attending in equal measure. West End ticket prices are generally more financially accessible than the steep Broadway price tag.

Was there a show that started your love of theatre? If so, what show and why? 

Sweeney Todd. I watched the Kennedy Center filming of the original Broadway production every day in high school. It changed my life and defined what musical theatre is to me.  

Photo Credit: Alex Salinas

What would you say is your biggest drive when performing? And what is one piece of advice you would give aspiring performers? 

I’m here to connect with the audience and share of myself openly. I aim to tell stories in a way that builds empathy so that we may see ourselves in others and break down judgment and prejudice. 

My advice to young artists is be yourself now. Don’t try to be what you think someone behind a casting table wants you to be. You’re not a mind reader and it’s not your job to be your own critic. The things you’re criticized for early on in development as an artist often will be the qualities you’re most celebrated for. Know yourself and share yourself truthfully. 


Do you have any pre-show rituals to get into your role? 

I say a little prayer asking to be of service to the show, the material, the audience, my colleagues and to help me trust that I know what to do and can get out of my own way. I invite the spirits of the theatre, whoever has performed in this hallowed space. to perform with me.


What’s your favourite moment in the show?  


“His kiss, the riot” it’s when Hades finally gets to let loose and show who he really is to the audience. It’s a final plea to be seen and heard and understood before he makes a difficult decision. I love the relationship I have with the fates and how I allow them to influence my thoughts and actions. 

Describe the show in one sentence or three words.

Don’t look back. 


Hadestown is currently playing at the Lyric Theatre booking until December 2024.

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