Actors often embody people who are nothing like them — that's why it's called acting, after all. But it helps when you can identify with your character, which is exactly what Brennin Hunt, who plays Roger in Rent: Live can do. In the play, Roger is a struggling musician who wants to write one great song so he can leave some kind of legacy before he dies. And although Hunt can't relate to Roger's medical struggles in the play (Roger has HIV so his mortality is at the forefront of the character's mind), Hunt does know a thing or two about working to write a song great enough to leave his mark on the industry. Hunt's been in the industry for years, finding moderate success but never quite finding his way to the top. You may know Hunt from his short stint on the U.S. version of The X Factor in 2011 or from his 2015 guest role on an episode of Nashville. Of course, you'll be forgive if Rent: Live is the first time you've seen him.
Still, he does have that special something. When he competed on The X Factor, the judges were immediately drawn to him. The famously hard to impress Simon Cowell praised Hunt's charisma and told him, "You've got a brilliant voice."
But when he moved on in the competition to the judge's houses round, Hunt failed to win over guest judge Rihanna with his rendition of "Like a Star" by Corinne Bailey Rae. She called him "corny" and said he gave off a boy band vibe, which she wasn't feeling. Hunt didn't end up winning The X Factor, but he has persisted in the music industry. And, like Roger, he's still trying to just write that one song that really says it all.
"I can relate to his character so much because I've been there," Hunt said in a video posted to the Rent: Live Facebook page. "I've been in Nashville as a professional songwriter for many many years, and writing that one song that's going to change my career has been a struggle."
The stakes of Hunt and Roger's needs to write that song are obviously pretty different, but the musical commonality certainly helped Hunt connect to the role. The actor said in the same interview that he's now constantly asking himself What Would Roger Do? "I find myself throughout the day thinking about Roger in the back of my mind, 'How would he feel in this moment?' That's the best way for me to kind of merge my life with his," Hunt said.
A FOX 11 News anchor told Hunt during another interview that this show could be what finally puts him on the map, like he's been wanting for so long. Hunt responded, "That's what people keep saying, but I have zero expectations. I'm just here to do this job and do it well and do it justice."
Hunt knows that the pressure is high with a project like this. So many people have loved Rent for so long. To meet the expectations, Hunt is just trying to make sure he stays true to himself. He told Black Hollywood Live that he so respects Adam Pascal, who played Roger in the original play and the movie. But Hunt wants to do the live show as "Brennin Hunt's version" of Roger, rather than try to copy what's already been done by others.
Whether Rent: Live is that "song" Hunt's been looking for to be his big break remains to be seen. But he's just happy to be there. "If you would have told me in 2006 when I was watching that show that you're going to do a live version of Rent in 2019, I would have told you you're friggin' nuts," Hunt said in that Facebook video. "I never would have dreamed that I would get to be Roger in the show." But it certainly seems that Hunt is more than prepared to take Roger's role on.