Why NBC's Grinch Musical Star Looked To Joaquin Phoenix's Joker For Inspiration

nbc grinch musical matthew morrison
(Image credit: nbc press)

Sure, you've seen Dr. Seuss' iconic character the Grinch in animated form on TV, in literary form on the page, and in theatrical form with Jim Carrey donning the green aesthetic. However, the world at large has yet to witness the misery-fueled character in full musical form, though NBC is here change all that with Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Musical! As the latest primetime TV musical, Grinch will make a few changes to the beloved and well-known story, with Glee and American Horror Story vet Matthew Morrison in the signature Christmas garments.

While A Christmas Carol's Ebenezer Scrooge might have seemingly been a more apt comparison for the Grinch, Matthew Morrison looked to quite a different form of inspiration when putting his performance together. Specifically, he cited Joaquin Phoenix's award-winning role in Joker as being a key influence for the Grinch musical. Here's how he explained it to EW:

I didn't want the Grinch to be a good dancer. I took a lot from Joaquin Phoenix's performance in Joker, just going down those steps, like loose and [reveling in] abandon and just carefree and raw. I really felt like that was how the Grinch would dance. At first, I was like 'I don't think the Grinch dances;' it didn't feel very Grinch-y, but then I came up with that and it felt right.

Seeing as how this is a full-blown musical, there wasn't much of a chance for The Grinch to just stand still or to yell out his dialogue from behind a closed door. No, this Grinch is going to be a mover and a shaker on top of being a Christmas-hating jerk. And while there are untold numbers of places to seek out how to dance legitimately, there aren't very many official lessons to learn how to just move your body without caring very much about what it's doing.

But that's precisely what it looked like Joaquin Phoenix was doing when he hot-footed it down those steps while in his clown makeup for Joker. That dance and its location inspired a lot of people to visit the New York area to mimic the movements, which did not sit so well with complaint-ready locals. Thankfully, Matthew Morrison didn't need to make any road trips to be inspired here.

To be sure, Joaquin Phoenix's "not really The Joker" character already shares a few key elements with The Grinch. For one, they're both very lonely characters with very strong opinions that they physically enforce. Second, they commit sins against others without really caring how the other people will be affected by their actions. Cindy Loo Who does manage to inspire Grinch to flip his frown upside down by the end of that tale, but Joker contained no such happy ending, with the Arkham-imprisoned Arthur still nowhere near his right mind. I can only hope the musical doesn't go this same way.

However, if The Grinch Musical wants to officially welcome Bruce Wayne's Batman into the mythos, I'm all for it. Now check out the big show preview below.

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Musical airs Wednesday night, December 9, on NBC at 8:00 p.m. ET. To see what other new and returning shows are on the way soon, head to our Fall 2020 premiere schedule and our Winter and Spring 2021 TV premieres.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.