Adam Kaplan

On Taking The Big Leap

Broadway actors know the Great White Way is not really the road to riches. At some point most try to make the leap to more lucrative TV/film gigs. Westport’s Adam Kaplan, who had an impressive theatrical streak on Broadway straight out of college—Newsies, Kinky Boots (national tour), A Bronx Tale—has made that leap in a big way. 

The thirty-one-year-old actor plays Simon Lovewell on Fox’s hilarious and heartwarming new dramedy The Big Leap. Simon is one of the more polished dancers among the motley down-on-their-luck characters brought together on the reality show within a show. The group, of all ages and sizes, is tasked with rehearsing for a live production of Swan Lake (a concept inspired by the British documentary (Big Ballet). “Simon pulls on heart strings and makes you laugh,” says Kaplan. Simon is unabashedly gay and uber confident but struggles to unhitch himself from his ball and chain: his toxic twin-sis dance partner and cutthroat stage mom (who makes the Dance Moms look like kittens).

The Big Leap audition popped up, and I remember reading the script and thinking it was so unique,” recalls Kaplan. “Even on the page, it read to me as Modern Family meets This Is Us or Ted Lasso meets Glee. And I remember thinking, Oh God, I want this one so badly, but you don’t want to get attached.” Kaplan submitted his self-tape audition (the norm in Covid times) and had a callback via Zoom. “It was the same casting office that cast me in Newsies and Kinky Boots so I didn’t have to do a dance audition, but in true Simon fashion, I slated in front of my Newsies poster just to be a little cheeky,” he says with a chuckle. It worked. Kaplan booked the role, shot the pilot a year ago in Chicago and wrapped the first season—eleven episodes—last November. 

“The wonderful thing about this show is a lot of it is on the fly, which contributes to the reality-show nature they’re trying to capture,” says Kaplan, in comparing acting in film versus on stage. “At the beginning and end of takes, we are encouraged to do some improv. And when we are not filming, we are in rehearsal learning dance numbers, so there is some overlap. Nothing is going to replicate live theater and that connection with a live audience, but I’m having the best time.” 

Kaplan honed his skills in Staples Players’ shows. “Adam’s work ethic never flagged—both on stage and off—and he was always the type of student you wanted to spend more time with,” says Director David Roth. Kaplan graduated from Staples in ’08 and took his first formal dance class as a freshman at Elon, studying musical theater. 

“It is wild to think that my Broadway debut was in such a heavy dance show and then this role, which is such a huge turning point in my career is on a dance-centric TV show,” says Kaplan. “What I will say is: It’s never too late to do anything, which ties into the theme of the show. It’s all about second chances. It really resonates with my trajectory in my career. In my Elon audition, I got a three out of ten in dance! But I worked my butt off. I took four years of ballet, tap, jazz. Post Newsies, I really haven’t had to dance much, so revisiting those skills has been a reminder of how hard it is and how hard you have to work.”

Watch Adam making dance look easy—not to mention nailing a nuanced portrayal of surprisingly complex Simon Lovewell—in The Big Leap, streaming on Hulu or the Fox Now app. 

What’s next for Adam? Possibly a musical version of the S.E. Hinton book The Outsiders. Stay tuned!

Jill Johnson Mann

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