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NPR Arts & Life

Random Questions With: John Cameron Mitchell

John Cameron Mitchell from the 2001 film, <em>Hedwig and the Angry Inch</em>.
John Cameron Mitchell from the 2001 film, <em>Hedwig and the Angry Inch</em>.

Actor/director John Cameron Mitchell created the character Hedwig nearly 20 years ago in downtown New York City clubs, performing the one-man show about a transgendered East German rock star in full drag and with a killer songbook (written by Stephen Trask). Hedwig made her way to Off Broadway, and into a cult film in 2001, but she was never a mainstream hit until the production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch reached Broadway in 2014 with Neil Patrick Harris in the starring role. In January 2015, Mitchell himself returned to the stage to fill Hedwig's heels and reprise his original role for a temporary run.

John Cameron Mitchell
Mike Pont / Getty Images
John Cameron Mitchell

"The Broadway production is the first time I've had an actual hit in my life," Mitchell said. "We always were respected, but it's kind of amazing to be able to make a living off of something."

Before his Tony win, Mitchell said he'd be recognized more for his cameos on 80's television shows like Head Of The Class and MacGyver and as the voice-over actor for this Betty Crocker Dunk-a-roos commercial. These days, he is undeniably Hedwig.

We wanted to get to know the Mitchell behind the mascara. In this round of "Random Questions," find out which 80's television roles meant the most to him, and whether he prefers sequels or prequels. And don't miss his Ask Me Another Challenge, where we test his encyclopedic knowledge of New Hollywood films from the '60s, '70s and '80s.


Interview Highlights

On winning the Tony Award for the Broadway Revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I've never been introduced as a Tony winner before. I feel like Patti LuPone... Best job I've ever had.

The original inspiration for the character Hedwig

In Junction City, Kansas we had a woman named Helga who'd take care of my brother. And she kinda looked what Hedwig kinda looked like. Me and my friend Brenda would go over to her house, her trailer actually, and Helga had a lot of dates. She wasn't that good looking either and we thought, "Gosh, she's so popular. She has a different date every night and she doesn't really know what they're gonna look like when they come up the driveway." We would hang out with her, and she'd give us cigarettes and stuff, and we'd sing songs for her like "Copacabana" and we'd act them out. When the date came up the driveway, we'd have to go out the back. But sometimes, she'd look out the window and see the date come up the driveway, and she'd go out the back with us.

This segment originally aired on September 25, 2014.

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