Broadway and Beyond: “Little Shop of Horrors” star Conrad Ricamora on living his truth and his road to the spotlight

Despite some bumps on his road to leading man status, actor Conrad Ricamora says he got there by being completely authentic.

Ricamora sat down with CBS2’s Dave Carlin to talk about his return to the stage as Seymour Krelborn in the off-Broadway revival of the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Describing Seymour, Ricamora said, “Even though he’s shy, he’s still a fighter.”

Ricamora invited CBS2 up on the stage at the Westside Theatre, where the hit revival opened in 2019. A carnivorous puppet of a plant increasingly crowds the space and the story gets gory.

“What do you like most about playing Seymour?” Carlin asked.

“I love that he’s so innocent and sweet in such a dark world. He’s just the sweetest guy, until he’s not,” Ricamora said.

Before “Little Shop of Horrors,” Ricamora spent six seasons playing Oliver Hampton on ABC’s “How To Get Away With Murder.” His stage credits include “The King and I” at Lincoln Center and “Soft Power” at the Public Theater.

Also at the Public was the musical role that changed his life.

“What do you think was your big break?” Carlin asked.

“‘Here Lies Love’ was a huge break for me,” Ricamora said.

He played Ninoy Aquino in the story of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, set in a disco. He says his father, who was born in the Philippines, was proud and he learned more about his Filipino background.

“I loved to sing and dance when I was a little, little kid … and then I hit middle school and I grew up on Air Force bases. I just saw that guys were not allowed to do that and I would be bullied mercilessly, so I stopped completely,” Ricamora said.

Then he took an acting class in college.

“I felt empowered and I felt connected,” Ricamora said.

He shared with CBS2 some of the professional challenges he says come with being Asian American and openly gay.

“Anyone that’s in a minority population shouldn’t have to work twice as hard to get half as far,” Ricamora said. “I remember when I was first starting out, somebody told me, advised me to stay in the closet … If I had stayed in the closet, I don’t think that that would’ve had the same impact that living my truth in a public way has had, which was the great thing about ‘How To Get Away With Murder,’ not only playing that character but playing him as an openly gay man in my own life. I got letters from people all over the world. It shows that it doesn’t matter, the story still gets told. I’m playing Seymour eight times a week and the story gets told, and I feel like it gets told with different layers.”

“Let’s talk about the young people who want to be an actor and they look up to you,” Carlin said.

“There was a high school student that’s an Asian American boy. He came and saw the show, and he and his mom waited afterwards and he just was like, I just wanna say great job, and his mom was like, ‘He’s playing Seymour at his high school!’ That meant so much for me to see that he could come see someone on a New York stage that was doing it with confidence,” Ricamora said.

Ricamora continues as Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors” through May 15.

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