For Nick Cartell, being cast as Jean Valjean in the national tour of Les Miserables is a dream role.
"Dream role, yes. And one that I never thought I'd be playing now in my career, but one that now that I am playing it, I'm embracing it wholeheartedly," the Arizona native and Arizona State University alum told ABC15 in a Skype interview last week.
It is a dream that he credits his parents, especially his mom, with helping him achieve.
The week before his final callback, he learned that his mom's six-year battle with ovarian cancer was tragically coming to an end.
"I called [my parents] and said, "I'm coming home,'" he said.
"Both my parents were like, "No. This is your dream. This is life changing. You need to see this through and you know we support you no matter what, but this is where you need to be.'"
The day before his final callback audition, his mom passed away.
"So when I walked into that final audition room and I thought about the sacrifices my mom had made over the course of her treatment, you know, for the six years that she had been battling, she would do chemo treatments and then fly across the country to come and see me in shows.
That takes a toll on anybody. She never complained. She always did it," he said.
It’s a weird feeling knowing that I can’t call her and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. It’s the first time I won’t get to say these words to my mom in person. But everyday I still feel her love and presence in my life. Happy Mother’s Day to a woman who still inspires me. To a woman who taught me how to fight, forgive, be brave and most importantly...love. #happymothersday #proudson
This week, Cartell will perform at his hometown Broadway theater, ASU Gammage in Tempe, where Les Miserables runs May 15-20, 2018.
"This version of 'Les Mis' is very cinematic. If you saw the movie, you're going to feel that everything flows into the next thing. I think that is what is exciting about our show," he said.
Cartell is a graduate of Chapparal High School in Scottsdale and Arizona State University's theater school. He also received the Rising Star Award in 2014.
Growing up, he sang and performed in shows at Valley Youth Theater in downtown Phoenix, the Phoenix Boys Choir, Greasepaint Theater in Scottsdale; as well as at his church and school choir.
"The theater scene in Arizona is very much a family," he said.
"They're producing the highest-quality shows regionally you can find. That's a testament to the audiences that want to come back and see it, but also to the work that's being done by the professionals in the Valley," he said.