THEATERMANIA: What is your earliest memory of yourself as a performer?
ANDRE DE SHIELDS: The instant that I was evicted from my mother's womb. My first sense of being a person was this image of myself on a stage. As I later learned, my mother's dream was to be a dancer, and my father craved to be a singer, but 11 children get in the way of those kinds of dreams. I think that when dreams are deferred they have to find an outlet somewhere. They invested all those dreams in child number nine, so I was the lucky one. Whenever I dance I'm dancing with my mother's feet. Whenever I sing, I'm singing with my father's voice. Through them from a very early age I had direction, focus, discipline, ambition, tenacity, long-suffering, all the things that keep you steadfast in the industry, that guarantees only two things, and that's not fame and fortune; it's rejection and insecurity.
TM: Theater must be a great outlet for you, isn't it?
AD: Oh, absolutely. When I leave the theater I leave my problems, my worries, my anxiety, my angst in a puddle of sweat on the stage. I don't walk out, I float out. What other profession is there where you get to play out or act out all of your nightmares so you don't have to carry them around as haunting ghosts?
TM: So many great actors have played Applegate over the years. How are you bringing your own stamp to this production?
AD: There is an allure and an intoxication about playing villains, and the devil is the archetypical villain. I take into consideration that this character is that individual who most people love to hate, and who is always afforded the opportunity to be not only dastardly but sensual. He's a slippery fellow. There's no more fun to have on the stage.
TM: Who is your favorite film or stage devil?
AD: Nosferatu, from the silent film.
TM: In Damn Yankees, the character Joe wants to fulfill his a dream of being a star baseball player so much that he gives up his soul. If you were given the opportunity to go back and do something differently, what would it be?
AD: I would have pursued the performing arts as a recording artist. There are limited opportunities for me to express my musical self on the legitimate stage. I respect the music that is the bedrock of the Broadway musical, but there is an alternate universe, and in that one there is an alternate songbook of rhythm and blues.