British-American actor and Broadway veteran Leroy McClain plays superstar crooner Shy Baldwin, who was introduced in Season 2 and is a stand-out in the third season of Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” He tells Gold Derby that he had less than a week to bone up on such similar singers of the era, primarily Johnny Mathis but also Nat King Cole, before he showed up on the set. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“I went through a painstaking process watching as much of Johnny’s performances that I could find. Just as a springboard, trying to find a physical vocabulary for who Shy Baldwin would be.” But the show’s married creators, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, also wanted McClain to inject his own fresh and unique take on such a beloved entertainer — one who decided that stand-up comic Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) would be a great opening act for his next tour after they meet cute in a ladies room while appearing on a charity telethon.
However, it may come as a surprise to some fans of the series that McClain didn’t do his own vocals. “When I got cast, I was initially a little hesitant when I got the appointment because I knew this guy isn’t supposed to be able to carry a tune. He’s got to be one of the best in the world. I can carry a tune but you’re not going to confused me with some of the best singers in the world. I didn’t really know what how they were going to make it work.”
He would learn that another Broadway regular, Darius de Haas, would be the one responsible for providing Shy’s silky vocal renditions. “We actually met at an audition back in 2008, 2009. Of course, I heard his name so much in the theater community in New York.”
When McClain went to a recording session, “That’s when I found out that it was Darius … it took all the anxiety away because Darius is such a generous human being and he literally allowed me to sit on a stool like a foot away from him. He was laying down the track and literally I just stared at his face to see how his lips moved, how his face formed the notes he was hitting. I wanted to really get the lip-synching. I literally would sit and watch where he took his inhalation and marked those.” Basically, the actor made his own breathing script.
McClain goes on to talk about working with Sterling K. Brown, who plays Shy’s devoted manager Reggie, his favorite scene with Brosnahan and where the actor was when he learned that the Season 3 cast won the Screen Actors Guild’s comedy series ensemble award. He also gives some details about his upcoming big-screen movie “Respect,” a musical biopic starring Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin and his role as her manager brother Cecil that will open on Christmas Day.
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