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Nick Spangler on 'The Amazing Race' and 'The Fantasticks'
As promised last week, today Blog Stage spoke with actor Nick Spangler, star of the Off-Broadway revival of the long-running The Fantasticks and now a contestant on the upcoming season of The Amazing Race. Spangler will compete with his sister and teammate Starr Spangler, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, in the 13th season of the reality competition series.
In this exclusive Blog Stage interview, Spangler discusses The Amazing Race, The Fantasticks, and how being eliminated from a reality show isn't quite like bombing an audition.
Blog Stage: How did you get involved with reality TV, and The Amazing Race, in the first place?
Nick Spangler: To be honest, the major push came from my sister. The Amazing Race is kind of a special case though, because I remember watching the first season years ago. I think I was in high school at the time, and saw the very first episode of the very first season, and it became a big family event. My whole family would sit down and watch. And we would always joke, "Wouldn't it be so cool if mom and dad this? Or maybe Nick and Starr when we're older!"
Why did you apply for this season?
You have to be 21. So this was the first time that we were both eligible. I was about to open a show in Denver this past year, and I woke up to a phone call from my sister. She said, "Applications are due for The Amazing Race on Monday. I bought a plane ticket, and I'll be in Denver on Friday so we can flm a video together. Let's do it." And I was like, "Wait, what? I'm opening a show Tuesday night! How can you expect me to do that!"
And she just said, "Well, I already bought my plane ticket."
Do you think that being professional performers gave you an edge in the casting process?
I don't know if that helped us or hindered us. Everybody gets pissed off when they hear another actor [is on reality TV]. Starr's not an actress, but she's definitely a professional performer. I think that's where a lot of the draw came from for us. (laughs)
I think my minor success on professional stage helped. I wouldn't call myself a wanna-be actor. I am a working actor in New York City. So it's a little bit different than an aspiring actor, and I was comfortable applying, knowing that I had achieved some level of success before I got my 15 minutes of fame from reality television.
How did your friends and fellow actors react to the news that you would be on reality TV?
If I was on Big Brother, or one of the sit-around-and-do-nothing shows, I think people would have some negative things to say. But with The Amazing Race, the most common response I get is, "Oh my God, I'm so jealous! I've always wanted to do that!" Or, "It'll be so fun to know somebody on the show!"
I haven't gotten any raised eyebrows. I don't think everybody is associating being on reality television with the fact that I'm an actor. Trying to boost my career was never at the forefront of my mind. I didn't wanna go on and say, "Hey America! I'm an actor! Give me a job!"
Do you think your exposure on The Amazing Race will boost your audience for The Fantasticks?
It would certainly be nice. We could always use more people in the theatre. (laughs)
We had an American Idol finalist in the cast last summer, and he generated a small amount of buzz, but we weren't suddenly packed. The Amazing Race isn't a performance-based reality show like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol, so I don't know if the crowd that watches The Amazing Race is gonna travel to New York to see Nick Spangler in The Fantasticks.
How does racing around the world with your sister relate to your experience preparing for roles as an actor?
You really can't prepare to be on The Amazing Race, as much as people try, because you never know what's coming. There's so many twists and turns and surprises, and I think the way to be the most successful on the race is just to have a completely open mind and spirit.
In The Fantasticks, we've had so many cast members in and out of the show, and it's not uncommon for us to be performing with almost an entirely new cast from week to week. Your timing is kind of out the window, and a lot of things that you're used to suddenly aren't there. So I like to think that being a receptive actor who's not locked in a rigid performance, and having a mindset of being open to what other people are doing, helped me on the race.
Is working as a team with your sister similar to working as a team with your fellow cast members?
Absolutely. You couldn't run The Amazing Race by yourself. You rely on your teammates at times, and you carry your teammates at times, just like in The Fantasticks. I've got my favorite jokes that I tell in the show, but there's almost no joke that isn't set up by another actor. Unless you're doing your own standup comedy act or your own one-man show, you can't expect to have the same reactions that you get with the help of your cast members.
Which is scarier: the risk of getting eliminated on a reality show, or going to auditions and getting rejected?
I've had so many auditions that that's kind of dissipated somewhat. The fear of being eliminated on The Amazing Race, though, is at the forefront of your mind the whole time you're on it. You're standing on that starting line, before you've even started, and all everybody is thinking is, "Please don't let me be eliminated first. Please don't let me be eliminated first." That's everybody's biggest fear: Don't be the goofball that gets kicked off on that first episode.
In the acting world, I've gone through my share of big rejections, where I thought I did a bang-up job and they look at me like Simon Cowell. There are definite parallels, but they're difficult to compare.
So making it to the next episode is like getting a callback?
It gets worse and worse as you get closer to the end, because it becomes more real and you're going for the win. But that's the great thing about The Amazing Race. It never stops. It's like having a callback every damn day of your life.