Maryland native Chad Fornwalt is 39, but in some ways he’s just breaking into showbiz. He’s currently on his first national tour, playing Sam in the musical Mamma Mia!, coming to Jacksonville May 6-7.
How did you become an actor? I started doing community theatre when I was 13. I went to a dramatic academy in New York City, but it was overwhelming. I was homesick and walked away from it. I ended up getting a real job and having a normal life, and I spent years not being happy with those choices. So in 2009, I decided to put my life back on the path that I had originally wanted.
Were you a fan of ABBA before you got this role? Not at all! My family would listen to it growing up, and it just wasn’t my thing. [A friend] asked me to send my headshot and résumé but he didn’t tell me what he was going to submit me for. I would have told him he was crazy! I’m very grateful now because I’m a huge convert to ABBA and Mamma Mia! This show is all about energy.
How do you prepare for that every night? This is the easiest show I’ve ever gotten pumped up for. I feel like a rock star at the end of this show every time. People sit there all night with a smile on their faces. That is a driving force, just wanting more of that.
Do you relate to Sam? There are several characters in this show that when they’re introduced to the audience, you know they’re going to love them. Sam is a little different. He doesn’t come off as the friendliest person. There’s been some heartbreak along the way. He’s just trying to make sense of everything and how he ended up here, and I can connect with that.
Why do you think people love this show so much? The most important thing about this show is revolving around the difficulties of society these days and the stresses of the world. It’s an escape. People need to take two and a half hours out of their lives and get back to who they are. I hope Jacksonville enjoys the show as much as we do.