Former Santa Fe College dance major, Amos Oliver III, to appear as “Thad” in NBC’s broadcast “Hairspray Live!” Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, at 8 p.m. EST.
I recently caught up with former SF fine arts student, Amos Oliver III, via Facebook Messenger, in-between his breaks during a dress rehearsal for the NBC musical production, “Hairspray Live!”
Originally a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical NBC’s incarnation, “Hairspray Live!” drops the audience in on 1962 Baltimore. Tracy Turnblad, a plump teenager, dreams of dancing on a local TV program, “The Corny Collins Show.” Tracy wins a place on the show, her effervescent personality making her an overnight sensation. Tracy uses her new-found popularity to campaign for integrating the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”
John Carmean: First of all, thank you so much for squeezing this interview in. I know life must be a blur this close to the live NBC show. Where are you right now?
Amos Oliver III: Currently, I am on the NBC Universal lot in California, in my dressing room.
John Carmean: Hairspray revolves around the struggle for integration in the 60s in a very retro, stylized way. As an African-American what’s your modern perspective on this?
Amos Oliver III: Hairspray’s inclusive message is so relevant in today’s time and I think it’s an important message for the world to see currently.
John Carmean: You are literally working with a galaxy of stars. From newcomer Maddie Baillio to A-listers like Ariana Grande, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson and three of my absolute faves Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein and Sean Hayes! I know I’m fanboying here. Sum up what that’s like for you.
Amos Oliver III: The experience is great! They are sweet and kind… and so much fun to work with!
John Carmean: What is one lesson you have learned working with them?
Amos Oliver III: I’ve learned you can be professional and still have fun!
John Carmean: Fun? Hmmm… any funny on location stories to share?
Amos Oliver III: Hah ha… No.
John Carmean: You know I had to ask.
John Carmean: What are some of the differences you have experienced in staging Hairspray as a live televised event as opposed to setting it in a traditional theater?
Amos Oliver III: Live television is different because you have rehearsals where we specifically have to block for cameras. We have to make sure that we’re in the same spot so that the camera knows where to be at every moment. Another difference is that there are multiple commercial breaks. Unlike like live theater where you have one big intermission.
John Carmean: In musicals that I’ve worked on inside a theater all of the sets were steps away. What’s that experience like on the NBC Universal lot?
Amos Oliver III: The scale of sets for the televised production meant inventing some unique backstage crosses on the NBC Universal lot. Where, as you said on a traditional stage all your sets are steps away, for Hairspray Live! we have to be golf carted from set to set… or run!
John Carmean: To prepare for this interview, I caught up with Alora Haynes, Chair of Fine & Performing Arts at Santa Fe College. Here’s what Alora said about you, “While in the SF dance program, Amos was disciplined, tenacious, musical and blessed with the ability to move seamlessly with any choreography that you gave him. Most of all, Amos has a great work ethic, and that, with all of his other qualities, will continue take to him far.”
John Carmean: What did the Santa Fe College dance program do for you?
Amos Oliver III: Santa Fe College helped me realize what I really wanted to do with my dance career.
John Carmean: What advice would you give to aspiring young performers?
Amos Oliver III: I want them to know that no matter what ANYONE tells you, you can do whatever you want. As long as you work hard, stay focused and keep your eye on the prize… nobody can stop you but yourself.
John Carmean: Amos, thank you so much for catching up and sharing your experience with us. Break a leg! You can’t stop the beat!
Catch Amos Oliver III, as “Thad” in NBC’s “Hairspray Live!” Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, at 8 p.m. EST.
Watch the cast of Hairspray Live! perform “You Can’t Stop The Beat” for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC.com http://www.nbc.com/hairspray-live/video/hairspray-live-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade-performance/3429754
Director of Communications & Creative Services
Santa Fe College