Any part of perfecting your craft means studying the great and prosperous legends that came before you, knocked down doors, and paved the way before you. When it comes to the art form of music and entertainment, Brandon Lee Harris is getting the best studying and training you can get—playing Michael Jackson in MJ: The Musical. If you didn't already know, the broadway extravaganza (which has quickly become one of the top shows in New York City) has taken the show on the road in the United States, and will be making its debut abroad at the top of next year in London. Harris, a 24-year-old aspiring R&B artist who not that long ago was a student trying to figure out the next step to pursuing his dream, plays the role of middle Michael—aka teenage and early twenties MJ. It's a dream come true for the kid who could have never imagined himself here a year ago.
Meet Brandon Lee Harris, Star of 'MJ: The Musical' and Budding Musician
The 24-year-old has a bright future ahead
"The process started over a year ago back in March 2022," he tells ONE37pm. "I had just graduated from Berkeley College in Boston, and the career center let me know about an opportunity to audition for the touring version of MJ: The Musical. I was going back and forth of Boston to New York auditioning, and I would say the process lasted about a year. Eventually I found out that I booked the tour and was able to go to a couple of boot camps. I also got to be an understudy for Tavon Olds-Sample and join the NYC broadcast team for a month. It was a very cool experience. I've gotten to work with some incredible people so far, after going kind of blind."
Sounds like something out of a storybook—one minute you're a college student unsure of what your next path is going to be, then bam—you beat out tons of other talented people to snag a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of playing Michael Jackson on a broadway tour that's slowly on a path to reaching unseen heights. I was able to see the New York version when I interviewed Myles Frost last year, so I asked Harris how the tour differs from its NYC home base. "I would say we're essentially the same story, but pumped with a lot of new energy," he tells me before adding: "We have an entire new cast with fresh faces and voices being told differently. We hit different beats, we're a little bit more emotional, and things are reinvigorated in a different way."
So I had to ask...how do you live up to the pressure and expectations of playing thee Michael Jackson? "It's funny because those of us who have played the middle Michael role feel like it's something we've unknowingly prepared our whole lives for. People don't know this but, Michael and I share a birthday. It's crazy because he's my number one inspiration, and I've been inspired by him my whole life. It almost feels like it was destiny. I worked super hard with the creative team to prepare for this role, and I studied Tavon, Myles, and Elijah who took over after Myles left. I play Michael as such a pivotal part of his life where was going through puberty as a teenager, dealing with his voice changing, and then eventually stepping out as a young adult to carve his own lane. It's big shoes to fill!"
People don't know this but, Michael and I share a birthday. It's crazy because he's my number one inspiration, and I'm been inspired by him my whole life. It almost feels like it was destiny.
- Brandon Lee Harris
Being on the stage every night is helping me become more rounded with the audience as a performer.
- Brandon Lee Harris
At that root of that drive and ambition is a love for music and acting. "One of my long-term goals is to work on my music career. I'm an R&B artist, and music is something I've always done and wanted to do. I would say R&B and alternative is what I would classify my music as, but honestly I want to expand into other genres as well. That's what studying MJ has taught me because he was the master at doing all kinds of music. Also, being on the stage every night is helping me become more rounded with the audience as a performer, which is very helpful as well."
How about off the stage? Who is Brandon Lee Harris when he isn't in showtime mode? "I'm a horror movie buff. October it's my favorite time of the year because all I do is binge watch horror movie. It's funny that I've become this way because I actually used to be scared of Thriller!
So could we see Harris in a horror film of his own one day? "Oh absolutely," he tells me. "That would be a dream!"
You can continue to keep up with Harris and his career via Instagram.
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