Considering my resume of a largely wide range of character roles, I wouldn't consider myself an "aspirational" model by any stretch of the imagination. So it was with some measure of surprise when my modelling agency GMT contacted me about a straight offer on a "lifestyle" shoot for an undisclosed innovative hi-tech firm based on my portfolio on file. Sure I was a little flattered, but more so perplexed and curious at what this opportunity would bring. I would be father to a child who is discovering the magic of said undisclosed hi-tech product. The photographer Mark Andrew had a distinct aesthetic and a fascinating portfolio that captured intimate private moments with a raw beauty achieved ironically by eschewing perfection. I was told not to shave prior to the shoot, and throughout the day, was told to mess up my hair, or pull only one sleeve up of my very ordinary-looking grey hoodie. I was immediately intrigued and felt privileged to be photographed in all my un-shaven tousled messy glory by an artist with such an interesting point of view - not to mention his ability to work as patiently and fluidly as he did with the spontaneous effervescence of my pretend six-year old son. Suddenly, it all made sense to me. I wasn't at all hired because of my "aspirational" model-good looks. In fact, quite the opposite. At the end of the shoot, I strolled down the brownstone tree-lined street, a smile on my face. It was a beautiful day in Brooklyn.
So about this time a year ago, I had the privilege of working on a show produced by the Donmar Warehouse in London, called "The Machine" at the Manchester International Festival and Park Ave Armory in NYC. The play, about Garry Kasparov's chess match against the team at IBM, and by extension of man vs machine, was written by then little-known English playwright Matt Charman (pictured R, with Hadley Fraser). I personally had a blast working with this man. Creating the role of Dr Hsu, the wunderkind inventor of Deep Blue, with Matt and director Josie Rourke was definitely a career highlight. Not only were they both such intelligent artists that challenged and inspired me on so many levels, Matt was also, in addition to being a brilliant scribe and new father, a kind, gentle, patient and generous soul. (He is also, somewhat ironic to the title of our show, an unapologetic Luddite ...but I digress...). So it was with such warmth and pleasure that I read this today of his success. I can't think of anyone who deserves it more and am genuinely thrilled to see what more is in store for his bright future. Congrats buddy!
Though it isn't necessarily my first time behind a television set, it never ceases to amaze me just how many people are involved behind the scenes in a sequence that wouldn't in the end amount to 5 mins on-screen time. An early morning call near Bryant Park would take me to a photographer on the 40th floor of a nearby building, who'd take pictures of me that'd feature me in a 'recall' sequence that the star of the show (who has photographic memory) played by Poppy Montgomery, will flashback to. Then it was off to my "honeywagon" for a costume change (John Varvatos for those interested), some waiting time, and then hair, makeup, costume check before being ushered once again to the 43rd floor of the building to rehearse. And there's a hive of activity. The director Nick Gomez, the 1st AD Jamie Sheridan, on-set writer Spencer Hudnut, dozens of background extras, still more dozens of stand-ins, producers, gaffers, boom operators, camera operators, props people, DP. At one point I was ushered in to a meeting room with stars Troy Garity and Dylan Walsh against a breathtaking Manhattan skyline. Both nodded kind acknowledgement, and then went back to their reading material. The room was palpably silent. I wanted to say how much I'd appreciated Garity's work in A Soldier's Girl but refrained from doing so. Didn't want to come across tacky in a work environment. And then it was rehearsal time and the bustle began again. Here's your spot, here's your mark, we're at rehearsal and action! And then Poppy Montgomery strolls casually up to me and flirts in our scene. I'll leave the details to the episode itself, but the sequence, with its many setups but relatively brisk takes, took almost 5 hours and alot of waiting in what would probably amount to less than 2 minutes of screen time. I am in awe of the people who do this on a daily basis. It is sheer collaboration and a trust that everyone will do their job on cue. I hope I delivered.
It has definitely been such a precious opportunity and certainly a rare luxury to work with as large a cast as this on an Off-Broadway show. Thanks definitely go out to Pat McCorkle who assembled this daring, diverse and dynamic cast, as well as director Will Pomerantz, writer Joan Beber and the producing team at Perry Street Theatricals. I am so grateful to get the chance to work in the city I so love and have lived in for the larger part of my adult life. Citi-biking to rehearsals and performances has certainly been a highlight; as is the sheer joy of creating an experience for an audience, and then stepping out of Theatre Row at the end of a fulfilling performance onto neon-lit Times Square. Today, as the lights dimmed on Ethel Sings, I stepped out of the theatre and onto the sidewalk, smiling as I exhaled, grateful to vanish once again into the crowd. What's there not to love?