dishin' it

Robin de Jesús on ‘Camp’ memories, Chippendales dancers, and the movie kiss that changed his life

Photo Credit: Getty Images

We’ve got to admit: We’re kind of obsessed with Robin de Jesús.

The star of stage and screen first won our hearts back in 2003, strutting into Camp—every theater kid’s favorite movie—and wowing us with his raw talent. To no one’s surprise, that was just the beginning.

He’s since gone on to receive three Tony Award nominations: First, as part of the original cast of In The Heights, for his featured work in the Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles, and, most recently, for The Boys In The Band. He adapted that latter role for the screen in Ryan Murphy’s 2020 Netflix film, and followed that up with an unforgettable turn in Lin Manuel-Miranda’s tick, tick… BOOM! in 2021. It’s been a pretty dynamite few years for de Jesús.

Next, he’ll star opposite Kumail Nanjiani and Murray Bartlett in Hulu’s buzzy true-crime series Welcome To Chippendales—whether or not he’ll get to bust out some Chippendales dance moves remains to be seen, but fingers crossed.

In the meantime, we’re perfectly happy just listening to de Jesús, which you can do in his featured episode of the Love In Gravity podcast, described as “a collection of six original stories from the gay and queer Latinx and Afro-Latinx community.” Produced by Harley & Co. and presented by ViiV Healthcare, the star-studded audio series just had a splashy live read at Los Angeles’ Outfest—shortly after which, we caught up with de Jesús and made him the latest subject of our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It.

In the conversation below, de Jesús dishes on the on-screen kiss that changed him life, his dream movie-to-musical adaptation, and that time he and his Camp co-stars turned a quiet bar in upstate New York into “an episode of Sex And The City.”

de Jesús and Colón at the Outfest live read of ‘Love In Gravity.’

1. You lend your voice to an episode of the Love In Gravity podcast called “Our Lady Of The 6 Train” about a young man who has a life-changing experience on the eponymous train. What is it about this story that resonates most with you? Have you ever had a spiritual experience on the MTA?

Whenever my bestie non-sexual life partner and dope-ass writer Dominic Colón calls I answer! No one writes our people like him, mainland Boriqua queers from a working-class background. I think it’s a spiritual experience every time I see a fine ass man on the MTA!

 

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2. Is there a piece of pop-culture—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, etc…—that you consider a big part of your coming-out journey? Why does it stand out to you? 

The smile on Whoopi Goldberg’s face as Celie in The Color Purple when she kissed Margaret Avery as Shug Avery will always be magic to me. Despite their relationship in the story ending, that kiss let me know there could be safety in two same-sex people expressing their likes and love for one another.

3. Your debut screen role was in the iconic Camp, which actually filmed at Stagedoor Manor. What’s one of your funniest, most notable, or cherished memories from filming on-location? 

Because we shot on location we mostly lived on the campgrounds and there wasn’t much to do on our days off, so the cast and crew would often go to a local dive bar. The bar was definitely a very specific demographic that did not look like our cast but we would give that bar a show! We would dance our ass off to the point where the locals felt like they were in an episode of Sex And The City… except diverse.

4. If you could adapt any movie into a musical, what would it be? Why do you think it’d make a great musical? Which role would you want to play? 

For years I’ve said that Spike Lee’s Crooklyn would be a beautiful musical. It’s one of my favorite childhood movies. The film is already very theatrical and there are so many heightened moments that could be musicalized. There isn’t really a part in it for me but that’s alright, we don’t gotta be in everything! I can wait to play Bobby Strong in the Urinetown movie musical.

 

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5. You’ve worked pretty closely with Lin-Manuel Miranda over the years—in In The Heights, in tick, tick… BOOM!—what’s something you can tell us about working with Lin that might surprise his fans? 

How chill he is. He runs such a relaxed set and rehearsal process. It’s the safest setting for creating.

6. What’s your go-to karaoke song? What makes it the perfect singalong for you? 

My go-to is always Prince’s “Darling Nikki” but the singalong song has got to be “Summer Nights” from Grease. If you can’t get down with a good Shoo-Bop-Bop you’re not for me.

7. You’ll be starring in Hulu’s Welcome To Chippendales, a series all about the shocking true history of Chippendales. Could you cut it as a Chippendale dancer today? What do you think would be the hardest part of the job?  

Hell yea I could be a Chippendales Dancer!  Y’all ain’t ready for a body built on pork chops! I’m bringing all the thigh meat. The hardest part has got to be learning the choreography but we got this!

8. Who is a queer artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to? 

Y’all ain’t ready for Dominic Colón! He is in a come-up that is going to gag the masses and that’s all I’m going to say.

 

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