Johnny Weir – “When I’m on the ice now, I still dream about having people clap for me”

Tatiana Edrenkina met with Johnny Weir in Moscow at the end of December, after the second performance of Snow King 2, a magical figure skating show based on the original fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. The first edition of the show was a huge success and even now, one year later, it’s difficult to find an empty seat in the stands of the huge Megasport Arena.
I remember how excited you were about the first Snow King. What do you think about the second part?

Because it’s only the second show I haven’t seen every number, but I’m really excited about the changes they’ve made for it to be different to the first Snow King. I love the new decorations, I love the new pieces, the music and Marie-Pierre Leray is fantastic. We tried to have her last year in the show, but she was unavailable. This year I’m so happy that she’s here.

Last year we were told it would be an absolutely different show. Why do you think they decided not to change the plot of the story?

Well, the base of the story is Snow Queen and we have to maintain the main story. So we can’t completely change the story and keep the name Snow King. My pieces with Irina (Slutskaya) are the same because it’s the central storyline. But everything that’s going on around us and the transition of the Snow King from being good and then being captured, it’s more about Snow King than it is about Kai and Gerda.

You said not once that the team of Snow King is a family. What is family for you?

Of course I have my mom and my dad and my family. But it’s very rare in figure skating to find people that you’re comfortable to share everything with – your life, your ups, your downs, your happiness, your failures. In figure skating, it’s very hard to trust anybody because it’s such a small world and if you say just one wrong word, everyone will hear about it. Already being a public person myself it’s hard to really trust anybody in my life and it’s one of my worst things that I have to live with, but I’m ok with it. But Zhenya (Evgeni Plushenko), even from when I was just starting to compete in senior, was always very nice to me. He’s one of the very few and we were always friends through the competitions and we would always shake hands and tour together of course. When he asked me last summer to be Kai, I was so touched because he could have asked Stephane (Lambiel), he could have asked Jeffrey Buttle, and he chose me to be his Kai. This is a very real friendship I have with Zhenya. And then when he started to put the team together… I mean, Slutskaya is my hero, Tomas and Brian and I have gotten along for years and we’ve competed and beaten each other and lost to one another, and when you go through this kind of thing, it can make you very close when you have to tour with them. This really from the producers, Yana (Radkovskaya), (Evgeni) Fingelstein to Zhenya, all the way through the show, even the people who set the stage. Everyone supports one another and everyone’s happy and everyone says “Good Morning”. There’s no drama in our team and that what makes it like a work family.

Do you know if there will be a tour of Snow King 2?

We’re still working on what’s going to happen afterwards because it’s such a big production. It’s difficult to always travel or to trust other countries to have the proper screen if we don’t bring our own. There’s a lot of moving parts, but I know that we also would support a big tour of this show because it’s great for the whole family. It’s great for us to explore different characters and do something different than we’re used to.

We’re happy here because we can see you and Zhenya and Brian and this show, but people in countries like the UK for example don’t have such kind of shows.

It’s so funny because in the UK the number one television show is about figure skating! They don’t have any top skaters themselves after Torvill and Dean really and you know we would love to travel to places that love figure skating, but don’t get to see it very often like the UK, like Germany, which I think would be a great place, and Scandinavia, of course. So there are definitely places that we would love to take the show to and the people wanted to bring us to. However, it’s a different league to have skating fans that want us to bring the show to them and having a Finnish or a British company that’s willing to have it. It’s two very different things.

That is why I was happy to see that you were in Romania, in Cluj.

It didn’t look like that I would be able to go there and then Edvin (Marton) called and said “Please, please, please come” so I got on the plane and went. There are a very few people I would do that for and Edvin is one and so is Zhenya.

Was it a happy coincidence that you could go to Norway after that or did you plan it beforehand?

Well, when I knew that I was going to Romania, I knew I would have some days off before we started the show here and of course I wanted to spend all of my time in Moscow. I haven’t been to Norway and it’s kind of my blood, so I wanted to go back for just a few days. The hotel treated me so nice and really Norway opened up so that I could come.

Were you only in Oslo? You didn’t go to see the fjords?

No, I didn’t go to see the fjords. It was just too short of a trip and I was Christmas shopping and doing all of that. I think it’s for my next trip.

We were really disappointed not to see you in Saint Petersburg in November, but I guess you chose touring across the USA with Halloween on Ice?

Well, it’s October. Sometimes because I live in America and I’m really the only American that tours internationally, logistics can get very difficult. How I’m going to fly, how I’m going to get from place to place. Plus in America I am very busy. So it can be difficult and I wouldn’t be here in time for the first show. I would miss the rehearsals in September, so it just didn’t seem right for me to rush the whole way across the world and miss something. So I chose to stay. Anyway, because I’m me, people are competing for my time and I’d already signed a contract in the U.S. and I had to do things. But if Halloween on Ice wouldn’t have been concurrent to Snow King, I would have gone straight from there to Saint Petersburg.

You said that you are busy in the USA and I know that you’re very busy with TV work. What does it give to you as a professional?

It definitely gives me experience and American pop culture is different than anywhere else. You always have to be on, you always have to be doing something, you always have to be going from place to place or it is very easy for people to forget you. And this is how I make my living. So working on television, skating in shows, supporting different things that I’ll talk about when they are ready, you know, it’s how I survive. And of course I enjoy doing all of this. I don’t have a job that I hate which I’m very lucky for. So every day, even if I have a day off, I work all day so that I can be better at my jobs, whether it’s talking on television, looking like a crazy person in my clothes or skating.

Can you please explain to me the situation with figure skating in the USA? Why is it not so popular as it used to be? Or maybe it is more popular now when you started commentating?

When Tara and I started commentating, for sure it was a definite boost for figure skating in the U.S., but really I think it’s because we don’t have a female star. Gracie Gold is popular and she has a lot of social media followers which is important nowadays in business, but you know she doesn’t win things. She doesn’t win the World Championships or Grand Prix Final. America was so used to having Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski win everything and then Sasha Cohen was a little bit up and down and then the judging scandal in Salt Lake City and the new scoring system… I think people just easily became tired of figure skating. In America everything is generated from the ladies. Even when I was competing with Evan and we had a very fierce sort of rivalry, people paid attention to who we were, but not in the same way as with the ladies. When there’s a girl that’s a star, everything’s possible. So I think America definitely follows the girls.

Just recently you remembered the time when you were a little boy and you were roller skating dreaming that you were on the Olympic ice with the audience applauding you. When you’re on the ice now, what do you dream about?

When I’m on the ice now, I still dream about having people clap for me. I never want to go to a performance and not make people happy or take people to the same journey that I’m going to be on. My whole existence as a skater has been going to the audience, grabbing them and make them watch me to take them with me. That’s my dream.

What does the audience give you? It’s not confidence, is it? You seem to be confident.

I am confident. The audience gives me a lot of pleasure, a lot of joy, but I’m the kind of person that gives. If I love something or if I love someone, I give everything. So every audience I perform for I love them and if they are happy, I can be happy. I don’t want to take anything from them because they want to come see me and see what I’m doing and that for me is all I can really take. I like applause, I like them to be happy, but if nothing else I just like that they are interested to see what I do.

And I hope that we’ll see you on the ice for many, many years to come.

Me too. I’ll continue to skate as long as possible, as long as it’s possible for me to show up and still do triple jumps and to be myself on the ice.

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