Call Answered: Martin Sarreal Interview: U.Me: The Complete Musical

actor broadway music musical theatre singer theatre Feb 19, 2024
Call Me Adam Title Page. Call Me Adam logo is on the left side. Martin Sarreal's headshot is on the right side. In the top center of the page is an orange circle with jagged edges that says Featured Interview. Between our photos it says U.Me The Complete Musical. Underneath the title is an amber bubble that says

When I received the press release for the animated musical, U.Me: The Complete Musical, I was very intrigued by the premise of the show & identified with some of the things one of the characters, Ryo, went through. Since I felt this personal connection to the character, I really wanted to speak to Martin Sarreal, the actor behind the role.

Thankfully, he was interested in being spotlighted.

In this interview, Martin answered my call to reveal:
  • Why he wanted to be part of U.Me: The Complete Musical
  • What's the wildest thing he has done for love
  • A time when his life took an unexpected turn
  • What it was like to work with & meet Sir Elton John during the musical Tammy Faye

Connect with Martin: Instagram

U.Me: The Complete Musical tells the story of Rose and Ryo, two young strangers who meet online and fall in love during the pandemic, resulting in Ryo flying across the world from Japan to London for Rose. In Part Two, we meet Rose and Ryo again – the relationship takes an unexpected turn and Rose has to take on the deepest challenge of her life.

U.Me: The Complete Musical will be available to watch starting on February 21, 2024 on BBC World Service's YouTube Page. An audio only version will be available here.

1. This February, U.Me: The Complete Musical is being released both on the BBC YouTube channel as an original film animation & as an audio only podcast. What initially made you want to audition for this musical? There were a lot of factors behind me wanting to be a part of this wonderful project. I first heard about the production in the beginning of January 2021. At that time, the UK had already gone through two national lockdowns and was entering its third. ‘Normality’ was still a very uncertain prospect and I think the collective mental and physical fatigue of the world at that point was definitely weighing on us all.

With all of that going on, when I first got word that this radio musical was being put together speaking on issues we were dealing with in real time, I was immediately drawn to its themes of connection and how it could speak to so many people. With the BBC World Service being broadcast internationally as well, I felt it was such a fantastic opportunity to reach an audience on a wider, global platform, and hopefully bring some joy to people in the world that needed it. Not to mention, the prospect of being in the company of such brilliant, renowned artists – including Theo who I first worked with about seven years prior to that point – was extremely enticing and I knew I had to get involved.

2. What do you relate to about your character of Ryo? Ryo is someone who has a deep level of care for both the people and things he loves. One of my favourite moments from part one of the production is when he first ‘e-meets’ Rose and asks her about her poster of ‘Phantom Holiday’ - this slightly obscure (fictional) band she also happens to be a fan of. This revelation is obviously quite thrilling for him and you can see how excitable he becomes with an almost childlike sense of enthusiasm. I myself can definitely get quite similarly carried away when I meet someone and discover that they also share very specific common interests, so that was very relatable. Ryo also goes through a specific journey where he has to overcome some very heavy obstacles in the fight for his own happiness. It’s a process that I feel is so innately human so it was very cathartic to be able to tap into his vulnerabilities.

3. What is one characteristic of his you are glad you yourself don't possess? I can understand Ryo’s elusiveness and I think there’s a healthy balance you can strike with taking some time to process things and being ‘off grid’ for the sake of your own mental health. But I can’t say I agree with Ryo’s choice to not communicate in certain parts of the story. I think there is such importance in transparency and there’s real value in being open about how you are feeling and what it is you may need from the people around you. We might not always be ready to do this, but I genuinely think life can get easier if we are more willing to have open dialogue about ourselves. 

4. What personal experience from the pandemic do you feel you brought to this role? What’s so brilliant about this production is that amongst the excitement and euphoria of some of the scenes, the underlying current of anxiety and loneliness from both Rose and Ryo are still very much present. I feel that the dichotomy of those experiences was definitely similar to my own. There were moments of much needed relief in the pandemic from some of the overwhelming hustle and bustle of daily life, but at the same time, I found being isolated and not being able to physically hold my loved ones extremely difficult. Those beginning months when we had no idea what we were confronted with, where life was headed and just seeing the devastation grow on a daily basis was horrific and I think that sense of restlessness was definitely present in both characters as well.

5. In the show, Ryo flies across the world from Japan to London for Rose. What is the wildest thing you've ever done for love, similar to Ryo? I can’t say I’ve done anything nearly as daring or exciting as Ryo when it comes to matters of the heart! I think it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there in general and to open yourself up to the possibility of meeting someone you get on with romantically. It’s definitely been a process, but I can say that in the last four years or so, I‘ve learned to embrace that part of my life, much more so than I have ever done before - which for me is pretty wild!

6. In the second half of the musical, Rose & Ryo's relationship has taken an unexpected turn. What is something in your life that you thought was going one way, but then took an unexpected turn? I think this is something that occurs quite consistently for a lot of actors, especially in these times! I definitely had moments in my career where I thought it was heading in a specific direction, but certain unexpected detours would pop up. I am continuing to learn how to take it all in stride though and I appreciate every single pitstop, whether they’re seemingly positive or not. I think it’s all necessary in terms of development and resilience, both professionally or personally.

Martin Sarreal and Sir Elton John

7. Prior to U.Me, you were in the musical Tammy Faye, in which you got to work with Sir Elton John as the composer.What was it like to meet him? We got to meet Elton twice, once in the rehearsal room and once after an evening show where we got to have a quick drink with him. There was definitely a lot of excitement in the air every time he was around because it’s not every day you’re in close proximity with a musical icon! He was very kind and gave a lovely speech after the show where he raved about every aspect of the production. He also took the time to speak to each of us in the cast individually which I really appreciated and he was very thankful to all of us for carrying out his vision. It was definitely a surreal moment for the books.

8. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Performing for me pretty much runs in the family as both my father and my grandfather were professional musicians, so it felt like a natural progression for me to be doing something similar. I’ve always liked the idea of inhabiting a character and growing up quite a shy and reserved child, I felt there was nothing more freeing than being able to embody someone or something completely different to myself. I’m fairly certain my Mum saw that I showed strong interests from an early age as well because for years she would sign me up to every type of weekend or Summer Drama club or class she could find, which I’m very grateful for. She probably did that to keep me occupied as well since I was an only child with quite the vivid imagination!

Martin Sarreal, Photo Credit: Harry Livingstone

More on Martin Sarreal:

Trained at the Drama Centre London, Martin's stage credits include Dumbledore is so Gay (Southwark Playhouse), Tammy Faye (Almeida Theatre), Corrina Corrina (Headlong Theatre & Liverpool Everyman), Sin (Rehearsed Reading) (Royal Court), Finding José (Arcola Theatre), Forty Years On (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Duke of Milan (Read not Dead) (Shakespeare’s Globe), Romeo and Juliet (Papergang Theatre), and Here Lies Love (National Theatre). 

TV: East Mode with Nigel Ng (Comedy Central UK), Bridgerton (Netflix). 

Film: Luther: The Fallen Sun (Netflix). 

Radio: U.Me, U.Me: Part 2 (BBC World Service)

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