Actors who don't happen to be making Broadway-level salaries often moonlight in jobs ranging from data entry to waiting tables to babysitting. James Royce Edwards, a recent addition to the cast of the long-running Off-Broadway hit Altar Boyz, has a sideline as a personal trainer. His clients have included fellow performers who need to stay in great shape and want the guidance of someone who obviously knows how to do so.
TheaterMania recently followed James as he went through his own workout and trained two other actors at the Bally Sports Club in the Worldwide Plaza complex. "I got my personal training certification when I was on tour with Mamma Mia! in 2002," he says. "Since then, I've been training people on and off when I have the time."
"Sometimes I'll have as many as three clients, other times just one. There's been a lot of interest from people who are in all different kinds of Broadway shows and from friends who have come out of the woodwork since I've been in New York."
Here we see James working with Emy Basic, whose credits include regional and touring productions of Miss Saigon. "James and I did the national tour of Mamma Mia! together for over a year," she says. "Whenever I'm on tour, one of my favorite things is to be jogging, but what I'd find is that I'd jog and I didn't have much definition or muscle tone. When I saw James and his body, I said, 'I want to train with you!'
"I work out at least three times a week," says Emy. "I'm a cardiovascular woman; I'll go jogging or I'll do the bikes or the elliptical. But you need to do your weights, too. I'm still working on developing a whole system of exercise."
According to Emy, "James is very focused, very regimented, and he really watches what he eats. For him, it's a total lifestyle thing."
"Right now, the standards in the business are very high," Emy remarks. "Everybody needs to be a triple threat. You have to dance and act and sing. My husband bugs me all the time, 'Did you go to dance class today?' Before I go to dance class, I go to the gym. When I see James, I'm like, 'I've got to do my weights!' "
James also trains Whitney Osentoski, who's swinging (literally?) in Disney Theatrical Productions' Tarzan, now in rehearsal and set to open on Broadway in May. "We've been working together for almost three years," says Whitney. "I've definitely put on muscle mass. I've gotten a lot stronger, bigger, and more cut."
Says Whitney, "It's great to have someone like James train you and just be there with you at the gym so you feel comfortable around all these people who know what they're doing. It also builds your confidence for when you work out on your own. Right from the start, James was really good with me. He knew when to increase the weight and when to try more difficult exercises."
Whitney reports that "Tarzan rehearsals have been exhausting. Because of the movements in the show, we can see peoples' arms getting bigger just from supporting their own body weight. When I work out, I like to mix it up and try different exercises, which is what James did with me when we started. The first few weeks, we did the easier things. Then we added more machines and eventually, once I got stronger, he'd give me the same exercise but with the free weights."
"At one point," says Whitney, "my shoulder was hurting. I think it was an old injury from doing lifts in a show, and it just flared up. I'd let James know ahead of time that I was in pain, and he was able to watch it; he was always very careful with what he gave me in terms of exercises. Now, when I do chest or arms, I make sure to warm up my shoulders first."
James says he's motivated by the extremely high standards of physical fitness that performers must live up to nowadays: "I was on the Mamma Mia! tour and I was getting ready to do the lead in Joseph [and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat] at the Musical Theater of Wichita. Every time I'd sit down to eat something, I'd think, 'This is my three-weeks-till-I'm-in-a-loincloth diet.' When you're showing skin in a show like Mamma Mia! or Joseph or Altar Boyz, it helps you to stay disciplined! And it's kind of contagious; if there's one person in the cast who looks great, you think, 'Let's do this together. Let's all keep in shape.' " For more on James, visit www.jamesroyceedwards.com.