I was first introduced to Bill Dawes in 2002 when I was doing stand-up comedy. I got to perform on the same showcase as Bill and I was so impressed with Bill's comedy that I knew he'd be entertaining audiences for years to come. Later that year he starred in the Off-Broadway show "Burning Blue" with Chad Lowe and fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Mike Doyle. It was great to see Bill perform in a different medium and capture the audience's attention just as much. Through the years, I followed Bill's career and now to have the opportunity to interview him is a real thrill!
Bill Dawes has had a career! He's flourished in every medium from theatre and comedy to television and film. He has appeared in several award-winning independent films, including "Adam," "Evehand," and "Fiona." He’s had starring roles in two MGM Studio children’s films "Just for Kicks" and "Recipe for Disaster" and an acting/writing role in the DVD cult hit "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell." On TV, Bill has been on such hit shows as "Sex and the City," "Oz," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" as well as recurring roles on "Damages," "All My Children," and "One Life To Live."
On stage, Bill made his Broadway debut with Sigourney Weaver and Christopher Durang in the play "Sex and Longing," which led to him originating the role of "Lord Alfred Douglas" in "Gross Indecency." Additionally, Bill has been seen in "The Exonerated," "A Devil Inside," "Hellhound on My Trail," "The Secret Narrative of the Phone Book," "Ears on a Beatle," "Hot Keys," and "My First Time."
As a comic, Bill has performed all over the U.S. and around the world, including Canada, Hong Kong, the Philippines and South Africa. As part of the USO, he has performed for coalition forces in Iraq and Kuwait in front of crowds of over 8,000 international troops at bases in Baghdad. As a writer, Bill has been published in several magazines and an hour comedy special he wrote with Jamie Kennedy, "Uncomfortable," which aired this past November on Showtime.
Bill has made a triumphant return to Broadway in "Lombardi" at Circle in the Square in NYC (1633 Broadway at 50th Street, between Broadway & 8th Ave) along with fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Keith Nobbs and Tony Nominee Judith Light! Be sure to catch them before May 22...For tickets, click here! For more on Bill Dawes be sure to visit http://www.billdawes.com!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Deep down, I think I missed a step or two during my Piaget cognitive development and it led me to have that bizarre need for validation/attention that performers have. The specifics of that need I'm working out in therapy. Anyone who thinks actors don't have emotional issues is sadly mistaken.
The cute answer is this: When I was choosing classes for freshman year at Princeton, I remember hearing a story about how John Malkovitch basically low-grade stalked this girl during class registration day. It turns out, as fate would have it, one of the classes the girl had signed up for was an acting class. Plus, I was majoring in aerospace engineering and my brother's girlfriend at the time told me that it would be nothing but Asian dudes, so acting class was my only shot to meet girls. So, in short, the opposite sex inspired me.
2. Who's the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Too many to mention just one! DeNiro, Malkovitch, Woody Allen, Scorsese, David Gordon Green. I just auditioned for a David Gordon Green pilot and I blew it. Oh well. In theatre, I lucked out getting Thomas Kail, but I'd love to be directed by Daniel Sullivan, Joe Mantello, and Trey Parker at some point!
3. What attracted you to "Lombardi" and what is your favorite part of the show? My part is the favorite part of the show. Duh. Actually, my favorite part changes quite a bit. I have a 10 second moment with Judith Light at the end of the play where she can tell my character, Paul Hornung, is very upset and trying to hide it. Judith, as Marie Lombardi, stops me and checks in with me emotionally, letting me know that I'll be okay. Since Judith and I are very close, she has been privy to some of my ups and downs, including a very painful breakup with my girlfriend that lasted for weeks. Every night as I limped off-stage, that moment of care and connection from Judith would heal my heart a little bit.
4. What do you get from performing in a Broadway show that you don't get from performing Stand-Up Comedy? First of all, by Broadway show, I will just assume you mean any play. The truth is, I don't really see a difference between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway. Those categories just represent different pay rates. I like to think I care as much about each category and would work as hard at any level. If 'LOMBARDI' was in a church basement in Wichita, I would still have put the same amount of effort into it.
Back to the question: the answer is sort of related to what I just mentioned about my moment with Judith. That type of connection, that "hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck" connection, that ability to feel and share true vulnerability is something stand-up comedy doesn't really provide. Not that you can't be honest and vulnerable as a stand-up--you can be and you SHOULD be--but ultimately comedy is a more about a personal point of view. And that usually means a little more fists and elbows. In acting, you often try to pretend there is an invisible fourth wall and the audience is a voyeur to your experience. In stand-up, the fourth wall isn't so much shattered as it is not in the equation. That means your relationship as a comic is 100 percent with your audience. That can be vulnerable and intimate, but you honestly can never achieve the intimacy with an audience member that you can with a cast mate. Even if you're Richard Pryor. Probably why actors always end up falling in love and banging each other---it's powerful magic.
5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process of a show and creative process of comedy? In this regard, there is a lot of similarity between the two crafts. And yes, I said "craft," so if that sounds pretentious to you: suck it. Let me start by saying what my favorite part of either process ISN'T. It isn't the applause, the curtain call, the laughter, or the cute co-eds waiting for me afterwards. It isn't the respect of my peers or standing ovations or applause breaks. My favorite part is the moment of discovery when you try something (in comedy or acting) purely out of an instinct or a creative impulse and you FEEL it working in perfect synchronicity with the choreography of the play or the set. There is no better moment in rehearsal where you say "Let me try this!" and you try it and something gels that didn't gel before. Or doing a routine and, on a whim, going on an improvisational riff about something close and personal to you that is hilarious and relatable. So, the indication that either of these has happened is the director saying "Nice! We're going to keep that!" or you as a comic saying "Fuck! I wish I had been filming that!"
6. Favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own for both a show and comedy? Hmmmm...Not sure what that means...I find life is the best rehearsal space. Meeting people, debating, parties, dating, reading, dinners, going to bars--that's the best way to cultivate a full emotional life and a strong point of view. And that's the most important thing in standup and acting. Everything is research. The comics that go home and watch Comedy Central Presents and other peoples' acts on TV every night end up having a very diluted and derivative point of view. Hell, go out, get drunk, try to pick up someone cute, and write a funny story about how miserably you failed. That's why notepads and Twitter are great for comics--you can instantaneously process your experience into 140 characters of comedy. This holds true for acting too. A full world is your rehearsal space. Every time I do jiu jitsu right before I do LOMBARDI (many Saturdays), I feel like I have connected to the visceral experience of being a professional athlete more than any script stuff can give me.
7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Speaking of segues, the answer is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Running, lifting, everything else is really boring to me. But getting cardio while choking someone out or putting them in a cross-over toe hold? What's better than that?
8. Boxers or Briefs? Trick question! The answer is clearly boxer briefs.
9. Favorite website? http://www.laughfactory.com/blog/billdawes/ for obvious reasons.
10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Superman on top of Wonder Woman.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Don't be competitive with your art. Comics who talk shit and backstab? Avoid them like the plague. The second you walk away, they're talking about you. Believe it. So it's best to just focus on your own shit. Comparing yourself to other people is a sure way to guarantee a shallow and miserable existence.
Look, it's inevitable that you will draw comparisons between yourself and your peers at times, and this can be a good motivating factor. But once it becomes the equivalent of you Facebook stalking your ex like a creep, or going to IMDB on a daily basis to see what your "starmeter" is compared to the guys you went to acting school with, then it's time to chiggity check yourself. There's enough to work on with yourself, both as an artist and as a human.
I can't tell you how gross it is being in LA hanging out with wealthy actors or comics complaining about how such and such is doing a movie or a tv show. Hey douchebag, you're smoking medical marijuana on a 15 thousand dollar designer couch--why don't you go write something yourself or take an acting class. The point is you have to stay creative and working. And YES, acting class is working. Back in the 40's and 50's, movie stars took classes throughout their entire career, no matter how big and famous you got. Now it seems like a pretty boy will take a class until he lands a series regular on some shitty CW show, and then he'll feel like he "made it." Which means, he won't take classes, he won't create his own work, and he won't invest in anything except the cultivation of his stardom. I've worked with people who are in it for "fame." To a person, they are miserable. My girlfriend (yes, we got back together) takes tons of classes, works sporadically, and has one of the best attitudes of anyone I know.
12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Well, first of all, my girlfriend. She's dope. And second of all, a gold guy named Oscar. I wouldn't mind falling asleep with him next to me one day....