The singer, who plays Rum Tum Tugger in the new movie, talks about his costume and whether or not he'll be adding Cats tunes to his set lists.

By Eliza Thompson
December 20, 2019 03:16 PM
Getty Images

This weekend marks the release of one of the year’s most highly anticipated, star-studded extravaganzas, full of CGI wizardry and references to science-y terms like “Heaviside layer.” No, not Star Wars Cats, the new film adaptation of the improbably beloved 1981 musical that is still the fourth-longest-running Broadway show of all time. Director Tom Hooper’s version features a huge cast of famous names, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba, and singer Jason Derulo in his first film role. Like the original musical, the movie is light on plot, but the elaborate choreography and catchy songs make up for it.

“I was a theater kid,” Derulo, who studied performing arts at NYC’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy, tells People CHICA. “I spent time studying Cats, so I knew the show very well.” He plays Rum Tum Tugger, perhaps best described as the cat who wants to steal your girl — basically Jason Derulo, but with fur. His signature song is “The Rum Tum Tugger,” which includes lines like “the Rum Tum Tugger doesn’t care for a cuddle” and “if you offer me fish, then I always want a feast.” He also wears a fur coat, which makes you wonder exactly which animals these cats are sourcing their materials from. “Baby kittens!” Derulo jokes. “They had to kill a bunch of baby kittens. Nah, I’m just playing. It’s faux.” Tugger’s other signature accessory is a giant necklace shaped like a fish skeleton, which Jason says he chose himself from an array of cat-themed items offered by the costume designers.

Like everyone else in the movie, Derulo participated in “Cat Camp,” which involved learning how to move and breathe like a cat. Based on his excellent performance, Derulo must have been a favorite of the Cat Camp counselors, but he says he “definitely” won’t be using his newfound feline abilities in any upcoming tours. “They’re standalone skills that I don’t think I’ll ever need again!” That said, he would consider adding “The Rum Tug Tugger” to his set list after he sees how audiences respond to it. “I really want to get people’s vibe on it and see exactly how far it goes,” he explains. “I actually asked Jennifer Hudson that, because obviously she was huge with Dreamgirls. So I was like, do you sing ‘And I Am Telling You’ and she was like, ‘Absolutely!’ I asked her if she thinks she’ll sing ‘Memory,’ and she said, ‘Yes, I think I’ll probably have to sing both songs for the rest of my life.'”

Even if “The Rum Tum Tugger” doesn’t end up as a Jason Derulo concert staple, Cats won’t be the last time you’ll see him on the big screen. He’s set to appear in the upcoming biopic Spinning Gold, also starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kenan Thompson, and has several other projects in development. The follow-up to his 2 Sides (Side 1) EP is also due out next year, so there’s more new music on the way. All great, but one last Cats question for the road: If Rum Tum Tugger were going to sing a Jason Derulo song, which one would he choose? “I think he would sing ‘Trumpets,'” says Jason. “It being a very falsetto-ish song, it would work really well.”

Advertisement