John Legend is playing the iconic role of Jesus Christ in NBC’s television production tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT, in Jesus Christ Superstar Live. Legend actually grew up with a religious background, telling the NY Times that, “I grew up in a Pentecostal Christian family, pretty fundamentalist. My grandfather was my pastor growing up. My dad is a pastor himself and played drums in the church choir, my mother was a choir director, and my grandmother was the church organist. My dad would even play Jesus in some of our passion plays in church. I’m not religious now, I would say, but there’s no way that you are raised in that environment, and also grow up singing that music, without it having an impact on your life.” So, being offered the role of Jesus Christ was hard to turn down, he admitted.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live producer Mason Jr. recently dished to People that even though Legend is a mega-star, with a ton on his plate, he is extremely dedicated to this role. Mason Jr. explained that, “He comes prepared. He’s doing a lot of different things right now, but he’s focused completely on this show. He knows the show inside and out and I’m really impressed with how diligently he’s working on stage with the cast and the director. It’s a lot of hours, but he’s dedicated.” And, though Legend has performed for stadiums and concert venues with thousands of people, he has never done anything on this large of a scale, admitting to the New York Post that, “I’ve been in musicals when I was in high school but never as big of a role. I was excited for the challenge.” Rehearsals were shifted around and other arrangements were made in order to be able to work around Legend’s 10 concerts he was already committed to in Asia.
When it comes to taking on a part like Jesus Christ, Legend told the NY Times that, “Preparing for this particular role is not just about understanding historical Jesus. A lot of it goes back to thinking about love, and what that means — love for the people who are close to you, but also for mankind, and what that means when it comes to thinking about the sacrifice that he was willing to make.” A more superficial preparation tactic for Legend’s role was actually a juice cleanse, according to People, and that’s because of Christ’s shirtless scene.
Recently, Legend’s wife Chrissy Teigen dished to People that she and their young daughter have been visiting Legend during his rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar Live. Unfortunately, Legend’s little girl is too young to stay awake late enough to watch it live, but Teigen said that, “She’s so captivated by it. She hears music and she’s just immediately drawn, so for her to sit down and be able to watch him is really, really cool. She’s almost like in her zen. I don’t think she’ll make the show on Sunday — it’s a little bit late for us — but she’ll be so proud.” According to UPI, Legend recently revealed that during rehearsals, the cast often talks about love, which is definitely a good subject to discuss in front of his family.
UPI has reported Legend saying that, “We talk about love every day. We talk about what Jesus’ message of love meant and what it means even through conflict with Judas. Even through the doubt and through fear that he had in fulfilling his mission, the overriding message was love and, so, we try to think about that every day.”
Jesus Christ Superstar Live airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the NBC network. Tune in tonight for the live production in ET time.