Confession: I am a theater nerd. I grew up in the theater, trained as a theater actor, and have loved all things theater for most of my life. As such, when I heard the news that Fox's next live TV musical is Rent, I flipped my lid. This feels like literally a perfect choice for live TV, because it's a musical bursting with life and energy. There's passion, there's sex, there's drama, and there's real meaning — and yes, it's all contained in Rent. Just thinking about how great this musical could look on TV, coupled with the fact that no casting announcements have been made yet, got me to thinking. If I could fan-cast the Rent live TV musical, who would I choose?
The only concrete answer I can come up with is that Broadway's best and brightest deserve to star in this truly special show. For 20 years and counting, Rent has served as a beacon of light in the world of musical theater. Tackling the HIV/AIDS crisis in the late 1980s, as well as exploring what it means to be a struggling artist (for better or for worse), Rent remains a timely and necessary musical.
This means that the cast members should not only be able to carry a tune, but they should be skilled actors who know how to handle the demands of comedy and drama with equal grace. They should be able to knock it out of the park when they all harmonize for "Seasons of Love," but they should also be able to bring their individual panache to the very unique and singular characters that make up Rent's core cast.
So, with all that in mind, here's who I'd cast in the live TV version of Rent, if I actually had a say in the casting process.
Ben Platt As Mark Cohen
Platt enchanted audiences in Pitch Perfect as a nerdy magician, and he's now a Tony-nominated actor for his performance in Dear Evan Hansen. There's no doubt in my mind he'd be a perfect fit as Mark, voice of the core friendship group in Rent. Sweet, nerdy, and eternally lovable — am I the only one who is seeing this casting choice as genius?
Zachary Levi As Roger Davis
Roger is a lovable rogue and musician with his own personal demons to battle. He falls in love with Mimi, and the two connect on a deep level through their art and through their heartbreaking HIV diagnoses. To me, only Levi — who's not just a TV vet, but an accomplished musical actor too — could embody the moodiness and intensity of Roger with such skill.
Cynthia Erivo As Mimi Marquez
Power, grace, and emotional intensity: That's Mimi and that's most definitely Erivo. In last year's The Color Purple, Erivo absolutely blew audiences away. She's always had an amazing voice. In my opinion, that voice deserves a bigger spotlight and Mimi could be the perfect way to do that.
Daveed Diggs As Tom Collins
Tom Collins is a bit cheeky as Rent's own bon vivant, who frequently finds himself in charge of trying to find the silver lining when things get tough. He lives big, he dreams bigger, and he loves the hardest. While pondering who to cast, I'm kind of annoyed it took me a good five minutes to think of Diggs, because damn, he's perfect.
Javier Muñoz As Angel Dumott Schunard
Angel is not only Tom's partner in Rent, but he's a vibrant, optimistic, and sensitive soul who knows how to hustle to make it in this world. Angel would be perfect for Muñoz, whose talent deserves the chance to be experienced by a much wider audience than the Broadway set. Seriously, he's been in two of Lin-Manuel Miranda's epic musicals, In The Heights and Hamilton. He needs to branch out into a great role like this one.
Laura Benanti As Maureen Johnson
Benanti is an absolute gem of a musical performer. Thanks to her comedic chops, which have been honed in spaces like Twitter, you can only imagine how epic her version of Maureen's iconic "Over The Moon" would play out. Additionally, her previous work in musicals like She Loves Me and on TV shows, like Supergirl and The Playboy Club, shows that she can be tough and tender all at the same time. She would be such a fitting choice for Maureen.
Renée Elise Goldsberry As Joanne Jefferson
Post-Hamilton, Goldsberry has been on a hot-streak. She just appeared in an episode of Netflix's The Get Down, and she starred in HBO's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as the titular unsung hero of modern medicine. A role like the prickly yet sensitive Joanne would be an ideal outlet for her after showing similar qualities in her Hamilton performance. Goldsberry's voice is astounding, but just imagining her chemistry with Benanti playing Maureen's girlfriend is kind of exciting.
Andy Karl As Benjamin Coffin III
The Law & Order: SVU alum is currently whooping it up as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. In my opinion, Karl should go straight from playing one uptight yuppie to another, because he does it so, so well.
OK, so whose pockets do I have to line with my cold, hard-earned cabbage in order to make this cast actually happen?