"I'm not that Jewish," Josh Young states as he bites into banh tap – shrimp crackers with pork. The actor who plays Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar" met with us during his only available downtime, between a matinee and evening show, at a Vietnamese restaurant in Midtown. The rest of his week has been stuffed with promotional appearances, performances and rehearsal for the Tony Awards. The 31-year-old has been acting since he was 12 and playing Judas with this production since it originated at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2011. But this is both his Broadway debut and his first Tony nomination: Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
We're talking about what he brought to Judas from his own background, as opposed to what he learned for the part. "I read the New Testament, which I'd never read before," he explains. "Other blanks I had to fill in, I just made up – because you can't find anything about [the life of Judas]. I said, well, he was studying to be a rabbi. He was studying the Torah, which says there was only one God. So if there's a guy saying he's God, it's like: Look, you're my friend, but if you're going to go around saying this ... I'm going to have a problem with that."
Young is excited as he talks about his success. Six months ago, he might have been more blase. He says, "I was ready to hit the ground running and be super triumphant. I had all the confidence in the world." But an ill-timed bout of bronchitis took him off the stage during previews, and he nearly missed his shot to qualify for the Tonys. Young tells us: "I guess that took the pressure off a little. I had to accept that I was really ill, and everyone was going to see me that way. The only other option I had was to not go on."
Perhaps thanks to those ups and downs, he teeters between modesty and mettle: "I'm not a typical choice," Young states about the role. "I know the other guys who've played [Judas] on Broadway in the past, and I'm very different from them. ... I would have to say I'm outside the bad boy, rock 'n' roll box." But then he adds, "I can do whatever anybody else can." We tell him we're going to print that, but the rising star isn't about to back down now. He just smiles and replies, "Good!"
Young has us convinced, at least– he's one of Metro's Tony Award picks. We'll find out how he fares on June 10 when the show plays live at the Beacon Theatre and on CBS at 8 p.m. In the meantime, you can find more on the actor – plus his latest album, featuring a recording of "Heaven On Their Minds" – at www.josh-young.com.