Before ending our call, I ask the actor and singer Jordan Fisher a rather silly question: What's the worst thing about you? It's meant to be a joke, a lighthearted response to the fact that the internet has repeatedly dubbed him Hollywood's "wholesome new heartthrob" — a multitalented, bona fide nice guy. (He's even a self-proclaimed morning person.) But true to form, Fisher answers earnestly.
"The question that I'm posed often from fans, or even from colleagues, is 'How are you so good at everything?' Is that a compliment? Yes. And I do take that as one. But it's actually an insatiable habit and a bit of an addiction for me," he tells MTV News over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "Since I was a child, I've had this undying need to be really good at everything I do, and if I'm not good at it, I tend to beat myself up. It's perfectionism. I'm much more patient with others than I am with myself. That's with everything — arts, gaming, business, being a brother and friend, a godfather, a significant other. I just want to be the best all the time. That's probably the worst thing about me. It's been at the forefront of my mind lately. I need to figure out how to give myself as much grace as I would give other people."
"Some would say that it's probably a great thing about me, and some might say it can be my downfall," he adds. "I think it's a little bit of both."
This level of self-awareness makes Fisher such an alluring addition to the pantheon of internet boyfriends. He knows himself. More importantly, he's honest with himself. That charm manifests in his work: as the titular teen in turmoil in the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen; sweet, sensitive John Ambrose McClaren in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You; in his latest single, "Contact," and its intimate, self-directed visual; and even through his daily Twitch livestreams, where he plays video games and muses over controversial topics like adding milk before cereal.
It's that all-consuming pursuit of perfection that drives everything he does. As a child, he was encouraged to try everything — singing, dancing, acting, gymnastics, instruments, gaming, nothing was off limits — and now, the 25-year-old has a hard time doing nothing. "I have to be busy to be happy," he says.
So when New York theaters closed last month in response to the growing spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the city, Fisher got down to business. He booked a flight home to Los Angeles, called a meeting with his team and his gaming manager, and put a plan together. If he was going to practice safe social distancing, then he was going to maintain a full schedule. He's been gaming full-time. He streams on Twitch every day in four-hour blocks, twice on Wednesdays, where he's built a passionate community known as Fish Fam. "I've been a gamer my whole life," he says. "I had a job at GameStop when I was 16 years old. For as long as I've been living, I've held a controller."
When he's not thumbing his controllers, he's on Zoom conference calls, doing interviews (like this one), FaceTiming with friends and family, as well as "writing, building, creating other digital things." That includes taking to TikTok to play the piano, participating in viral dance challenges, and belting gut-wrenching songs from Dear Evan Hansen for his social media followers. He also joined the musical’s cast for a moving performance of "You Will Be Found" on The Late Late Show's #HomeFest. For a creative person in quarantine, finding a work-life balance is a struggle. Because every moment alone with your thoughts is a potential moment of inspiration. That’s especially true for Fisher, whose mind has a habit of keeping him occupied.
"I've been heftily reminded why I love [art] over the course of these last few weeks," he says. "It's been me and my piano and a lot of ideas that I, frankly, have not had the time to flesh out … It makes me less lonely. It makes me feel more energized. It brings me joy. It brings me peace. It's thought-provoking." Though, the actor admits, he's "yearning to get back on that stage, to get back to the Music Box theater and put that blue polo on again. I can't even tell you how much I miss it." Yes, he even misses wearing Evan Hansen’s iconic arm cast.
He's also been diving into his Netflix queue. At the time of our conversation, he and his fiancé Ellie Woods have seen three episodes of Tiger King. ("That's been a blast," he says.) And he's fallen into the habit of rewatching The Office every morning over a cup of coffee. ("It's a masterful piece of work," he says, adding that it's his fiancé's first time streaming the workplace comedy.) He recently finished High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Disney+. But he's mostly excited about the anime binge-night he and his little brother have scheduled next week. "He's going to come over, and we're going to start an anime series from the beginning and just binge," he says. "Anime has been my go-to," he adds. Some of his recent favorites include My Hero Academia, Seven Deadly Sins, and Demon Slayer.
"I have managed to stay very busy during this time, which is something I'm very grateful for because I have to be that way," he says. "I feel like there's going to be this beautiful sense of revitalization. It's our time to be in touch with ourselves. To just live and exist."
For the most part, Fisher has approached this time the way that he approaches most things: practically, candidly, and with relentless positive energy. That need to constantly do things and do them exceptionally well (he's a Taurus, after all) even applies to his own mental health. A particularly dark period of depression and anxiety a year ago led to an emotional and physical reset. He started yoga, began seeing a therapist, and came to a realization.
"People will say I'm an innately happy person, but I am human — I have tough days, I have frustrating days, I have days where I'm grumpy and very vocal about that," he says. "But choosing joy and choosing positivity and choosing happiness is actually one of the easier things [for me] to do. It informs a lot in terms of how I take certain things on and how I approach certain situations in times of trial." Of course, he also knows he's privileged to have a choice. "I recognize that I'm very fortunate to be able to have things in my life that keep me very busy," he adds. "A lot of my happiness and a lot of my joy rides on me being busy, and I know this about myself."
Looking at the year ahead, Fisher has plenty of projects to keep him busy. Eventually, he'll return to the stage as Evan Hansen, and he's excited to have "another opening night." He'll star in the Netflix dance movie Work It, which he wrapped last year. And he'll get his biggest break yet in Lin-Manuel Miranda's directorial debut: a film adaptation of Jonathan Larson's musical Tick, Tick… Boom starring Andrew Garfield. Fisher can barely contain his excitement. This is a chance for the world to meet the artist as he sees himself: a mindful singer, dancer, and performer who strives to be the best, to be good at everything, while maintaining a sense of true vulnerability.
"I'm just going to be Jordan, and Jordan is a sensitive and empathetic individual who loves to love people. Because I like people. I like dogs more, but I do like people for the most part," he says. "If my reputation is 'Jordan is super sweet,' then I think I'm doing OK. No one's ever lost a job for being too kind, or for being too positive. Or for being too good of a leader. If anyone has an issue with me because of the way I am, then it's not a person — or a network, or a studio, or an industry — that I want anything to do with."