After all these years, Grease is still the word. At least that's what the producers of Fox's new live broadcast of the beloved 1950s-set musical are betting on. The network has recruited an all-star cast to portray Rydell High's senior class, with Broadway vet Aaron Tveit (Catch Me If You Can, Next to Normal) playing T-Bird heartthrob Danny Zuko.
"Before I even knew what a musical was, I knew Grease," says the 32-year-old New Yorker. "It's so woven into our culture." While his character has become synonymous with a young, doe-eyed John Travolta from the iconic 1978 movie version, Tveit seems unfazed by audience expectations. "We're telling the story in a different way," he says. "I do want to honor [the role], but I'm very much trying to make it my own."
His stage-to-screen pedigree should quell any doubts: He considers shooting the acclaimed (and live-sung) 2012 film adaptation of Les Miserables boot camp for this experience. "With Les Mis we had to sing one song 15 times for multiple takes," he says. "This time we only have to sing once."
While he attributes Grease's enduring appeal to our longing for "simpler times," Tveit's next TV project finds him tackling more pressing issues than summer lovin.' He describes his forthcoming series, BrainDead, as a "mix of The West Wing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; it's a thriller in which aliens bore their way into politicians' minds. "If you think about it," he says, pondering the current presidential race with a laugh, "it doesn't seem that far-fetched."