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GoNOLA Interview: Grand Marshals of New Orleans Pride Festival

Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly are both Broadway performers from New York and contestants from the most recent Survivor series – Survivor: San Juan del Sur – Blood vs. Water. Dubbed by their fans as the “Broadway Boyfriends,” these two became engaged in January and have now been chosen to lead the New Orleans Pride Festival in 2015.

Photo courtesy: Canfield and Kelly

Dustin Woehrmann recently spoke with the pair about their evolution as a couple, the ideal date night, and their new roles as Celebrity Grand Marshals in New Orleans. Read on for more insight into Canfield’s and Kelly’s roles as not only Broadway stars but also pride activists.

Congratulations on your engagement! The video proposal was amazingly sweet. Reed, did you have any idea? Were you completely surprised?

[Kelly] It was something we’d obviously talked about (eventually one day getting engaged), but Josh had me so focused on the cabaret that he completely blindsided me. He did a really good job.

How did you guys meet?

[Canfield] We actually met through my roommate at the time. She was playing Mary Jane in Spiderman on Broadway, and Reed was Spiderman. She told me about this guy in her cast that she wanted me to meet. I was not really into the “set-up” kind of thing, so I pushed it off. She told Reed about me, and he kind of said the same thing. One day, she asked me out for a drink and when I showed up, he was there with her.

[Kelly] Yeah, I didn’t know he was coming either. She completely manipulated the situation – and the rest is history!

It’s been a long time since either of you were in New Orleans. What are you most excited to see?

[Kelly] I can’t wait to see Bourbon Street! I’m excited to finally get to see that in person.

[Canfield] And the whole French Quarter. I mean… I’ve watched The Princess and the Frog so I feel like I kind of know (laughs).

[Kelly] And I LOVED Interview with a Vampire – really looking forward to the above-ground cemeteries. We also saw Coven last season (American Horror Story), so we’re gonna watch out for the witches down there.

Definitely go see the LaLaurie Mansion!

[Both] Yes! Totally!

New Orleans is known as a great romance destination, so I’d like to know how you would describe your perfect romantic date night or day?

[Kelly] Josh? (both laugh)

[Canfield] I’m very active and I like going out and going to places and seeing things, so I think for me it would be going around to a lot of different places and trying out all the different kinds of restaurants and hopping around – not staying set in one specific spot probably. Kind of doing a barrage of things. I like the change. I feel like Reed’s a little bit more historical – his idea of a date might be like, “I’m gonna read this entire thing, and I’m gonna stay here for 2 hours looking at this one cemetery!”

[Kelly] I am! Josh likes the breadth of the material and I kind of like the depth of it, so between the two of us I think we balance each other out. I think it’s about spending quality time together with the person you love, so I think as long as we’re together we’ll have a good time.

Check Out: 4 Romantic Date Ideas in New Orleans

How did Survivor test you as a couple? [Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Blood vs. Water]

[Canfield] I think the cool thing about being a couple on Survivor is that we’ve now seen each other at our worst (laughs). When you can’t take a shower, [Kelly] you can’t brush your teeth, [Canfield] and you’re starving or “hangry”- you’re at the worst point you would be in your life, physically and emotionally. It was nice to see each other at that point, be there for one another and realize that if this is the worst that it gets, we’re gonna be fine for whatever comes at us in the real world. It strengthened our relationship, everything else seems easy.

What has been your favorite Broadway show to be a part of?

[Kelly] That’s such a hard question! I think when you make your broadway debut, that [show] carries such a special feeling. I think I’ll always be very partial to my first broadway show, Wicked. It’s not unlike your first love – you always look back on it, and it encapsulates a time period of your life.

[Canfield] I’m currently in Dr. Zhivago – we’re opening April 21st on Broadway – and this experience has been great, since this is my Broadway debut. I’ve done off-broadway and London and a lot of shows in Europe and around the country recently, but this is my first Broadway show. But if we’re talking about my favorite show as of right now and a part I’ve played, I think it would be the off-Broadway show I did last year, called Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I played the role of Anatole and – as far as theater goes – it was really new and changing the face of theater. It really challenged me as an actor, and I absolutely loved doing it every single night.

I’m curious if being part of the same industry as a couple has been beneficial. What are the positives and negatives about that?

[Kelly] The thing that Josh and I enjoy is that we’re just different enough that, although we’re in the same industry, we’re not competing against each other. Which is awesome. So, we’re not going in for the same castings, and that means we can really understand what we are both going through. I know that auditions are hard and time-consuming. I can relate to Josh on that level and he to me. The cons of us both being in the same business is that it’s not a steady “9 to 5” job, so you have the good times and the bad times. And sometimes it’s “feast or famine.” Josh and I always joke that we know we’re not marrying for money. All-in-all, I think the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

How did you become Celebrity Grand Marshals of New Orleans Pride? Why did you decide to take that honor?

[Kelly] Pride New Orleans reached out to us and asked if this was something we’d be interested in doing. We were completely honored – Pride is so special and so important to the LGBT community. It’s our chance to get out there and remind ourselves and everyone else that we’re a vital part of the greater community. So, to be invited as celebrity Grand Marshals is such an honor.

So much is changing. Why is Pride still important today versus 10 or 15 years ago?

[Kelly] Pride is always important. It’s about being an authentic and proud individual. When you can stand up in society and say this is who I am and this is how I’ve been created, it sets up boundaries and leads to respect. Yes, we’ve had a lot of advances, as far as creating new laws and marriage being passed, but we still have a long way to go. In being proud of who you are, you show the rest of the country and the world “We exist, this is important, and you need to recognize us.”

With all of the exposure you received during Survivor as a gay couple, what kind of a response did you get and what surprised you the most?

[Canfield] We were met with overwhelming positivity. Every episode, we would get countless tweets and messages on Facebook, saying “Thank you so much for being real people on my TV screen.” A lot of youth and teenagers contacted us saying that seeing Survivor helped their family understand what a gay couple could look like. There were many times we would both be crying because of the responses and messages we were getting.

[Kelly] Yeah, we got several letters that said “You’ve completely changed my Dad’s opinion on what a gay relationship looks like” or “I’m speaking to my father again.” or “My family is talking to me because they were watching this happen on Survivor and they’re Christian. They didn’t realize Gays wanted to be Christian or could be Christian.” So, it’s interesting just watching the outpouring of support. Josh and I never wanted to be ambassadors for gay Christianity or gay anything on TV. We just wanted to go out there and be ourselves and have fun playing this game that we love.

What else do you want to let our readers know?

[Kelly] Something that is so important to me that I think goes hand-in-hand with Pride is an organization called Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I work closely with them, raising money for people who are still suffering to this day from the ravages of HIV/AIDS. People talk about how you can live with HIV now, and I don’t think people understand what living with HIV really looks and feels like. It’s thousands of dollars a month on medication and doctors. Just because there’s medicine out there doesn’t mean that you still don’t have to be safe.

[Canfield] And that’s something that all the Broadway shows support. There ends up being collections and things [during the show]. Dr. Zhivago is going to be raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as well.

We can’t wait to see you here for Pride! We’d love to follow up with you after your visit.

[Both] Yes! Totally!

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