An insider’s look into the ‘Graceland’ party at SXSW

Hayley with Aaron Tveit.

Hayley with Aaron Tveit.

Graceland is a brand-new television series from USA Networks starring fan favorite Aaron Tveit as he trades in muskets and revolution for a handgun and badge. Tveit stars as a rookie FBI agent going undercover in steamy Southern California where he is forced to share a house with agents from the FBI, DEA and US Customs. Personal drama and drug-busting adventures ensue. And Tveit still looks dashing as ever.

The premiere party was held in Austin, TX on March 11, 2013 as part of the SXSW festival.I attended with my best friend–we both got tickets via the #GracelandTV promotion on twitter. The line stretched around the building and we waited for two exciting hours before the doors opened at 6:30. Once inside we received free snacks and drinks, sunglasses and promo booklets for the show.

The cast was hanging out in a private area just above and behind the screen. Tveit and Daniel Sunjata peeked over to photograph and film the crowd waving at them.  Then they came out to introduce the pilot. We were the first audience to see it besides pilot test-screenings.

A cast panel Q&A hosted by Cat Greenleaf followed the screening.

She led with questions about the show, addressed the cast and asked some personal questions about the experience of creating and filming Graceland. Then audience members asked questions and more than half of them began with “this is a question for Aaron.” Everyone was gracious and funny–they made an effort to tell stories the audience would appreciate and let us know what it was like on the set. Tveit especially enjoyed sharing what he learned (“That I would get shot on the subway if I carried a gun”) and thoughtfully compared his television experiences to his roles on Broadway and the Les Miserables film.

The whole cast seemed to get along really well and if nothing else they did a great job enjoying the premiere. When Tveit was asked what his favorite role was in his career so far (loaded question) he gave a detailed answer about how much he loved working on Graceland and enjoyed the experience of shooting a television show with such wonderful castmates. The last question was, “how did you guys celebrate wrapping the season?” to which they all replied “this is it!” They had very recently finished shooting and said they were all excited to be celebrating with us in Austin.

We headed up to the roof of the AMOA Arthouse for more drinks and music and chilling with the cast. They were all mingling, taking photos and chatting with fans. Even when they were being pulled in every different direction for interviews, meet-and-greets and “can I get a photo?” Tveit, Sunjata, Vanessa Ferlito, Serinda Swan, Brandon Jay McLaren and Manny Montana were very gracious and sweet. I had the opportunity to chat with Montana (who plays Johnny) several different times throughout the night and he was very fun and friendly.

I also got a chance to say hi to Tveit, Sunjata, Swan and McLaren. They were unbelievably lovely and accommodating when my friends and I introduced ourselves, complimented the show and asked for photos. My phone was being difficult when we tried to take a photo with Daniel, and it took three tries but he was very sweet and stood there while we fumbled with it. When I apologized he just grinned, again, said it was no problem at all and “did the last one turn out okay or do you need another?”

Montana was thrilled that we enjoyed the pilot, and eager to get restaurant recommendations from our friends from Austin. He even taught me how to mess around with the wall of Instagram photos being projected at the DJ’d party downstairs and we flailed around trying to get the photos to move when we waved at them. (And when I tweeted my photo with him, he replied and said it was nice chatting with me, too! What a sweetheart.)

When we asked McLaren if he had been in She’s the Man (we knew we recognized him from somewhere!), he chuckled and we tried to figure out how many years it had been. Swan was lovely (in appearance and attitude!), and double-checked all of our photos to make sure we were happy and even engaged us in small talk about how she hopes the pictures turn out well.

Tveit was in and out of the rooftop party, the press area and the DJ’d party downstairs chatting with fans, dancing and posing for pictures. We managed to catch him before he left and he was incredibly gracious about snapping a quick photo. He also thanked us for coming and complimenting the pilot.

Ferlito was busy with fans, photos and interviews so I wasn’t able to track her down before the end of the night. My friends who chatted with her assured me that she was as nice and friendly as the rest of the cast and more than happy to meet her fans.

All told, I don’t think I could ever hope to meet a lovelier cast and this is going to be one incredible show. I am so excited to start watching in June, so let’s all cross our fingers that the rest of the world will love Graceland as much as I do!

Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata in 'Graceland'

Aaron Tveit and Daniel Sunjata in ‘Graceland’

This story was written by Hayley Hendren who wanted to share her  exciting experience with If you have a story to tell and want to be featured as a guest contributor, send us an email at 

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