Call Answered: The Shape of Something Squashed Conference Call with Grant James Varjas and Monique Vukovic

Grant James VarjasMonique Vukovic"Call Me Adam" chats with actors Grant James Varjas and Monique Vukovic about starring in the world-premiere of Tom Noonan's The Shape of Something Squashed at The Paradise Factory in NYC (64 East 4th Street) through March 16. Click here for tickets!

The Shape of Something Squashed is the story of an older "has-been" actor who is called to "fill-in" for a legendary star at a backer’s audition of a new play.

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1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer?

Grant James Varjas: I think the first actor I remember really responding to, and thinking "I want to do THAT," was Christopher Walken in the Dead Zone. But the real answer is the band KISS. I mean, rock stars AND superheroes?! Who wouldn't want to be that?

Monique Vukovic: After reading and loving Carson McCullers' The Member of the Wedding, I saw the film version with Julie Harris. Watching her I knew that's what I wanted/had to do. Being extremely shy, it took me awhile before I got the courage to pursue it. 

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to?

Grant James Varjas: Oh gosh. So many. Directors like Joe Mantello. Lars Von Trier. Actors like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Laurie Metcalf, Elizabeth Marvel, Vincent D'onofrio, and, of course, the members of KISS.

Monique Vukovic: That's a long list! But actor-wise, I wouldn't mind learning a thing or ten by having the honor of working with Dame Judi Dench. And I think Sam Rockwell is a genius. I'd also like to marry him.

3. What attracted you to The Paradise Factory? 

Grant James Varjas: I saw Tom Noonan's film of The Wife in a theater in NYC and my mind was blown. What was THAT? I need to see more. I then saw his play Wang Dang at the Paradise. It said in the program that he gave classes (which I found incredible). I nervously met with him, and, thankfully was accepted into his class.

Monique Vukovic: I was itching to take an acting class and after doing a little research I found out about Tom Noonan's classes. Luckily I muscled up the courage to meet with him and he invited me to join his class. His approach to acting really resonated with me and to have this opportunity to put it to work with him is amazing.

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Shape of Something Squashed?

Grant James Varjas: Oh, the usual things. That they laugh, cry, and tell everyone to come see it. Because I think it's pretty great. That's not asking too much, is it?:)

Monique Vukovic: I just hope they leave the theatre having experienced a visceral reaction.

Grant James Varjas and Monique Vukovic in "The Shape of Something Squashed," Photo Credit: Jim Chow5. You have worked together on several shows throughout your career. What do you enjoy most about working together?

Grant James Varjas: The best thing about working with Monique is that we laugh. Constantly. We both can be very serious "actors," get very emotional, and then say one word that sends both of us into hysterical laughter. She's also one of the best actresses working today. And that is the absolute truth.

Monique Vukovic: I feel a bit of a cheat here, but I have to agree with Grant on this one. I hope it's true about laughing being good for your ab muscles because "six-pack" here I come! 

6. How do you feel your working relationship has grown over the years?

Grant James Varjas: I think the most important thing is trust. We've always had it, but it's grown and grown.

Monique Vukovic: I think we've had great respect for each other from the get-go. And yes, trust. But getting to actually work with Grant has given me a deepened sense of ease and comfort. I know I am out there with the best. So it's safe to take chances and to play!

Grant James Varjas and Monique Vukovic in "The Shape of Something Squashed" rehearsal, Photo Credit: Jim Chow7. What's the best advice you've ever received?

Grant James Varjas: "Listen to the Beatles."

Monique Vukovic: During one period of self-doubt, should I still be trying to pursue this, blah, blah, blah, my two amazing sisters took me out for a beer (or three) and told me that if I had come to them to ask if I should pursue becoming an olympic gymnast they'd have to tell me to hang it up. But if I wanted to pursue acting, go for it! My whole family is unbelievably supportive.

8. If you could star in any show together, which one would you choose and who would you play?

Grant James Varjas: Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf would be a good sequel to this play! 

Monique Vukovic: Agreed. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf would be an awesome challenge.

9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

Grant James Varjas: The power to regrow hair.

Monique Vukovic: Omnilinguilism. (I admit I had to look it up!). But right now, I'd settle for being fluent in French.

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