Winning an Oscar for Original Song with Selma’s “Glory,” a Tony forJitney and several Grammys over the years, John Legend landed his first Emmy nomination today for his portrayal of Jesus in NBC’s live, televised adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar, pushing him even further toward the rare EGOT honor.
Speaking with Deadline, the singer-songwriter admitted that he could never have foreseen the turns his career has taken to date. “When I started my career, I just wanted to make some really great songs and albums and hopefully win some Grammys,” Legend said. “This recent turn of events is really exciting, but this is nothing, at the beginning of my career, that I would have ever bet on.”
Taking on the challenge of a live televised musical for the first time, Legend didn’t make things easy on himself, setting out on a pre-planned Asian tour in the middle of his rehearsal period. “That was really the biggest challenge, combining those two things back to back, one in the middle of the other. It was pretty intense for me physically, just trying to stay healthy and rested,” he shared. “But obviously, it worked out and I’m just happy that we were able to make it happen.”
In terms of other creative challenges faced with the project, Legend tipped his hat first to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who did the leg work of conceiving the seminal 1970 rock opera. “Our job as actors is to find ourselves in that and figure out how to interpret the characters as they were written, and portray them beautifully on screen,” Legend reflected. “With our director [David Leveaux], a lot of the conversation was about finding the love in the story, and the love between the characters—even characters who were rivals. That really is what we thought about and talked about all the time.”
With the success of NBC’s latest live musical—which took 13 Emmy nominations today in total—would Legend consider stepping back into the ring for another go-round on the live musical stage? “I would do it again, but it would be hard for me to come up with a role after this that would be as exciting,” Legend admitted. “But if it happens, I’m down to do it. I really had a great time doing this one.”