An Asian man and mixed-Asian woman stand back to back smiling, with a theater entrance in the background.

Broadway’s a family business for Jon Jon and Isa Briones

The two actors talk about their experience performing together in "Hadestown," growing together in their artistry, and their experiences as Asian performers

From left, father-daughter duo Jon Jon and Isa Briones are working on Broadway together for the first time in "Hadestown."

Brittany Anikka Liu

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!

It’s a Tuesday night at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The Hadestown ensemble trickles onto the stage. Jon Jon Briones, playing Hermes, checks in with the other performers, asking “You ready?” When he gets to Isa Briones, his daughter playing Euridicye, and asks the question again, she nods her head yes. They give each other a kiss on the cheek.

The father-daughter duo joined the cast of Hadestown together on March 19. This is Isa’s Broadway debut, while Jon Jon is a seasoned theater vet, famously known for his performance in the revival of Miss Saigon on Broadway and the West End. To celebrate their first time working together professionally, MAM spoke with the pair about this special moment.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

An Asian man and mixed-Asian woman stand together smiling on a sidewalk, with a theater in the background.

From left, Jon Jon and Isa Briones love and feel lucky to be working together on stage.

Brittany Anikka Liu

Bri Ng Schwartz: What is it like working together?
Jon Jon Briones: It's the coolest thing to work with someone you love. Being on stage with her, it's so magical. 

Isa Briones: I feel very lucky. I get to see him make the magic that I used to just watch on stage.

Jon Jon, what is the biggest piece of advice you gave Isa before her first performance?
JJB: If you want to do this, you're going to really have to want it. Not just for the glamor. That fades. What will remain is your passion in your heart and your drive. Ask yourself, “Do I want to do this or do I need to do this?”

A mixed Asian woman in a white t-shirt and orange and dark green jacket stands on a sidewalk and slightly smiles, with a theater in the background.

Isa Briones plays Euridicye in "Hadestown."

Brittany Anikka Liu

BNS: Isa, I want to talk about your role as Eurydice. You're following two predecessors who are both mixed-Asian women. Have you, Eva, and Lola talked about your shared identities? Have they given you any advice?
IB: Eva and I have had many conversations about the craziness that is being a mixed-Asian, female-identifying person in this business. But also how proud we are of each other.

With Lola, we only got to overlap just for a little second, but it was very beautiful in the brief conversations we had. There's that unspoken knowing [of] what it's like to always feel like you are not able to fit into the boxes people want you to fit in.

There's something very beautiful about a role like this, where you can have mixed-Asian women, and women of color in general, as this ingénue who is so strong. I’m honored to be a part of that lineage, and have such strong Asian women to look up to.

BNS: Was Isa’s mixed identity something that you all acknowledged growing up?
IB: I started auditioning when I was 9. That was weird because when you're a kid auditioning, you have to fit into a family, and there were no families I could really fit into. It was either the all-Asian family, or the blonde, blue-eyed family. 

My parents have been witness to that mental struggle and have always tried to be the rock there of like, “You are both, and you are all of it, and you are a whole person, not halves.”

An Asian man and mixed-Asian woman embrace and smile while standing on a sidewalk, with a theater in the background.

From left, father-daughter duo Jon Jon and Isa Briones have had conversations about Isa being mixed race since she was young.

Brittany Anikka Liu

JJB: I tell Isa that whatever's in your heart, that's who you are. She's been very vocal. She does the work of promoting her culture. I always tell her, you're a Filipina, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

IB: When people say to both of us that we have paved the way, my first thought is, “What are you talking about? I have nothing to do with this. My dad, for sure, but not me.”

But then there are people who say, “There are little girls out there who are thinking, ‘That's me.’” I didn't see myself represented in the media growing up, and so it's remembering that there is space for improvement.

BNS: Jon Jon, in your generation did you work with a lot of mixed-Asian artists?
JJB: I don't think I've worked with a lot of mixed-Asian actors. When I would audition, we would be clumped together with different kinds of Asian denominations. That's how it trickles down to someone being like, “You're not Asian enough.” It became survival; we needed to fight against each other for the job.

An Asian man in a navy blue sweater and glasses stands with his arms crossed on a sidewalk, with a theater in the background.

Jon Jon Briones plays Hermes in "Hadestown."

Brittany Anikka Liu

BNS: What advice would both of you give to other family members who are attempting to work together in this way?
JJB: Make sure you get along. 

IB: It depends on the type of relationship you already have. We speak the same language in that we come from the same family, and then on top of that is the professional relationship. It’s going to bleed into each other. We're at work, we go to kiss each other on the cheek and go have a good show. We're in the same field and we've also kind of hit certain successes around the same time in recent years.

JJB: I was going to say, it felt like we grew up together. 

IB: When I was doing Star Trek: Picard, he was filming Ratched, and we were both number two on the call sheet. So it's always felt like there has been an even playing field. That helps with the professional relationship where we work together every day. 

A mixed-Asian woman and Asian man stand together holding hands and smiling in front of a sign for the play "Hadestown."

From left, Isa and Jon Jon Briones play Euridicye and Hermes in "Hadestown."

Brittany Anikka Liu

BNS: What do the two of you do to unwind and bond as a family outside of your work?
IB: We’ve been going to get drinks and sit out in the sun. It feels like when my dad was doing Miss Saigon and would have a Monday off, but now I'm also working.

JJB: Even in the beginning when [the kids] were younger, [their mom] Megan and I would try to celebrate every victory, even small ones. We would open a bottle of bubbly. We'll get a bottle of Martinelli for the kids and have a toast.

BNS: I think a lot about the stereotype of Asian parents wanting a certain version of success for their child, so it's beautiful to hear stories like this, celebrating the small victories no matter what that looks like.
IB: I feel very proud of my dad. There are patterns he could have continued, but he didn't. I feel connected to my culture, and am so supported, seen, and held by my family. 

JJB: I feel lucky that I'm with Megan. She made me a better person. I give credit to her for raising beautiful humans. She's the hero.

An Asian man on a sidewalk holds his right arm out to lean on a building while a mixed-Asian woman leans on him.

Jon Jon Briones' (left) career advice for his daughter Isa Briones was to make sure she really loved acting and performing, beyond the glamor.

Brittany Anikka Liu

Published on June 10, 2024

Words by Bri Ng Schwartz

Bri (she/her/hers) is an artist and administrator based in Brooklyn. She is committed to the dismantling of gatekeeping in arts and culture and uses her experience in community engagement and education to develop meaningful partnerships. Her current roles include education and community outreach manager at Primary Stages and is a teaching artist at Girl Be Heard. Having received a double major in dramaturgy/dramatic criticism and women's and gender studies from DePaul University, her early credits come from her time in Chicago, notably at Free Street Theater in various titles. Since relocating to New York, she has served in various administrative capacities at Dance/NYC, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, National Queer Theater, JACK Arts, Theatre Communications Group and more. She has also written for publications such as HowlRound, American Theater Magazine and is a staff writer at Mixed Asian Media.