Nick Adams is an entertainer on many levels. Acting, singing, dancing, film, stage, and more, he’s done it all. He’s won Audience Choice Awards from Broadway.com, received an Astaire Award nomination for Best Dancer, and has been honored by the American Theatre Hall of Fame. He is instantly recognizable by his signature smile, powerhouse vocals, and yes, that body that held Mario Lopez to task. His theatre credits have taken him from appearing in classic Broadway hits that include Guys and Dolls, Chicago, and A Chorus Line to appearing in Wicked and the critically acclaimed North American Tour of Lincoln Center Theatre’s Broadway production of Falsettos. Film work has included a dash of everything from HBO’s The Other Two, Netflix’s Inventing Anna, Sex and the City 2, to Hulu’s big gay summer hit, Fire Island. This fall, he took part in the world premiere of DRAG: The Musical, written by Drag Race’s Alaska, and appeared alongside New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre, drag’s Jackie Cox, and Jan Sport, sharing some scene-chewing scenes with Alaska herself.
Nick’s love affair with musical theatre started at eight years old when a touring production of A Chorus Line came to his hometown of Eerie, Pennsylvania. Fifteen years later, he would join a revival of the show on Broadway. His first trip to New York City at age 15 to see his first Broadway musical, Chicago, would also prove to be fate.
The show was still very new and fresh then, so it was dangerous and electric. It was such a massive hit, and I was so excited. I love Kander and Ebb, this was just a huge weekend for me. I also saw Cabaret that weekend. I just remember sitting there thinking, how do I ever get there? It just seemed so unattainable and so lofty. And then I made my Broadway debut in Chicago.
His Broadway debut came hot on the heels of completing his studies at the prestigious Boston Conservatory. He booked his first musical and was met with a string of shows. His success was a double-edged sword, finding his voice on stage was easy, but who was he as a person?
I didn’t even give myself another option of what to explore or do with my life, because I was just so in love with this art form since I was a kid. I was in the city for less than a week and then got Chicago. I left and was just sort of on this streak of show to show. I was so grateful to be in the right place at the right time and was prepared to meet the moment. I think that was really the key to that happening. It worked out in my favor, but I’ll tell you, after doing so many shows in New York, the hard part for me was then I felt like that was normal. And when that didn’t happen, I immediately thought who am I, what is my worth? I was so used to the routine of school, that sort of regimented structure, to then immediately joining the workforce and doing shows. That’s all I knew was just to be in a show. I didn’t know my identity as an adult in New York City without it. And so that part of my life, once I wasn’t always booking and always in a show, was hard for me to sort of navigate, but like the best life experience because I had to find who I was outside of just what I do.
Nick’s relationship with his body and the recognition of his fitness would be put into the spotlight when he appeared in A Chorus Line. The production featured a highly campaigned appearance by Mario Lopez. Soon the focus would shift from Mario’s talents and body to Nick’s. Comparisons between the two performers’ bodies would soon become headline-grabbing.
It was wild – it was overnight. I was an ensemble dancer, and then suddenly, I’m in the National Enquirer. My mom was looking at pictures of me in the National Enquirer in underwear and my body, comparing it to people. That kind of changed things a little bit and for a period there, people that were in our industry knew what I did and what I had to offer, and that’s why I was being employed. But then I kind of felt for a minute like, oh, (my body) is all that people think that I am and that I have to offer. For a minute, I started to believe that, maybe that’s why you’re working. But then I had to get back to like, “you were doing this, you were part of this industry before there was any light shed on that.” And yeah, of course, l have been cast in certain things that require a certain aesthetic or something, but I don’t think, had I not been able to bring what I bring to the table just personally, I would’ve had any of the opportunities that I had. There is certainly pressure because it’s been this sort of inflated thing that I obviously have had some hand in contributing to because I know how to capitalize on it in a way when I need to. It’s been a lifestyle commitment.
I try to just focus on what I’m doing, and I’ve always done that. I don’t pay attention to what seems extraneous or doesn’t relate to who I am as a human. That’s part of the way you’re taught to package yourself and be a product and sell yourself and all of that. That came from when I was in college and my teachers said I was not going to work because I was so teeny. I was just a skinny little gay thing. They said, “You can’t be gay, and you can’t be thin. You must like look like a leading man if you want to work.” I was like, well, I’m going to do whatever it takes to do this because this is what I want. I wanted to move to New York and be as employable as possible. That’s really where my fitness came from.
In Hulu’s Fire Island, Nick plays a less-than-likable, uber-fit “Cooper,” alongside Bowen Yang, Margaret Cho, Matt Rogers, and film writer and star Joel Kim Booster. The highly anticipated film was a hit and brought topics like body issues, classism, and racism in the LGBTQ community to light. Nick believes the future of LGBTQ filmmaking is bright.
I think the way the movie presented it is very true to life. What’s also interesting is when I meet people now after that, even in interviews for press junkets and things, everyone would ask me, “Oh, are you very much like this character?” I’m nothing like that. Which was why it was so fun to play. We have all met that guy. We know who that guy is. And so, I had a lot to draw from, people that I’ve met.
The queer community is becoming more and more mainstream with every film that is made. I think the lens that we are portraying the community through has broadened. We are no longer limited to only tragedy or over-sentimentality. We are showing all sides of an experience that isn’t always universal and is very complex. I am thrilled at all the opportunities that continue to come and the stories we can share.
Shortly after finishing Fire Island, Nick was asked to be in the studio concept album for DRAG: The Musical. Unknowing what the future of the project was, Nick went in to record the album while recovering from a bad foot injury from shooting Fire Island. The music from the album was well received and the musical received a summer workshop and, ultimately, the world debut at the Bourbon Room in Hollywood, California. Nick’s character, drag queen Alexis Gillmore, finds herself wrapped up in a battle between two drag bars. Even amid the flashy numbers and catty lyrics, it is really about the sense of family that exists in the drag world and the LGBTQ community. What made Nick say yes to the project?
Originating something and being part of the process from the beginning – I think actors love to do that because you get to contribute, you get to be the help with the creation of something. It’s so much different than coming in as a replacement, which I’ve also done. It’s a little bit easier when you have a structure to follow and then bring your own flavor spice.
I think I’ve crafted, without intentionally doing it, a very queer forward career where I’ve never really had a moment of coming out and I’ve never shied away from it. So, I thought oh, a new musical that’s going to be part of our catalog. I said to myself, do I do another musical in drag? This is my fourth musical as a drag queen. But, this is what the industry is asking me to do right now. I do it well, so I’m going to do it. The last time was 12 years ago when I was in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. After that show, I was very resistant to doing anything drag related because I was afraid of being pushed into a category. But now I just figure, I’m good at acting like that, so lean into it. Enjoy it. Do it. So just say yes.
In looking back at his varied career, Nick notes the biggest change that he has gone through personally throughout his career.
My approach has changed. I’ve been centered around being in the present moment without tying any expectations to my work. There is so much freedom in that for me which has allowed me to fully be available to the work and experience the joy in real-time. I remove the need to impress or prove something and that unlocks a new level of enjoyment and artistry.
Looking forward, what is his biggest wish for his career?
I recently saw a play that shook me to my core. The Inheritance had me reeling with emotion, hanging on every word. I want to be a part of that kind of storytelling. I want to work in this industry as I age. I want to be financially secure as I do it. I want peace.
Follow Nick on IG: @theNickAdams
[All photos by Bella Marie Adams]
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