Call Answered: Michael Urie: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum: Two River Theater
Along with millions of viewers, I too, adored Michael Urie on Ugly Betty as "Marc St. James," the assistant to Vanessa Williams' "Wilhelmina Slater." I couldn't wait to see what stunts "Marc" would try to pull week after week to bring "Betty" down. But, like every hit show before Betty, all good things must come to an end, except Michael Urie's career! After Ugly Betty ended, I had the honor of seeing Michael live on stage in some pretty remarkable performances: as iconic fashion designer Rudi Gernreich in The Temperamentals, in his Broadway debut in How To Succeed Without Really Trying as "Bud Frump," and my personal favorite, in Buyer & Cellar. I always knew Michael had talent, but this show, in my opinion, that really displayed the brilliant talent that is Michael Urie.
It's a real honor to get to interview this award winning actor as we discuss his latest role, "Hysterium" in Two River Theater's production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, which will run from November 14-December 13 (21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701). Click here for tickets!
1. After meeting you at Buyer and Cellar and again at Stage 17's launch party, it's a real honor to finally get the chance to interview you! You are getting ready to star in Two River Theater's production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. What made you want to audition for this show? Thank you, nice to re-e-meet!! I've always loved Forum, since I first found the cast album of the Nathan Lane production at Barnes and Noble in Plano, TX when I was 16 or 17. When I heard this production was happening in Williamstown five years ago, I ASKED to be in it, but was ultimately not invited (AHEM!). Then when there was a Broadway revival percolating with James Corden, I once again ASKED and was supposed to audition before the production fell a part. Then this production magically came back into my life and they asked ME! The lesson? Always ask for what you want!
2. What do you relate to most about your character "Hysterium"? Given that "Hysterium" is a slave in Roman times, who fears death at every mistake and sings and dances as a part of his normal life, we definitely don't share any real circumstances...That said, I've had bosses I was afraid of...And we both like sandals.
3. How are you going to make the roles of "Hysterium" your own? Jess Stone is brilliantly reinventing this show while still playing complete homage to the material, style and history of Forum, so she's encouraged me to make non traditional choices, and made sure I didn't stray away from who "Hysterium" has always been. Our "Hysterium" is good at what he does, but gullible, easily excitable and kind of dumb.
4. What is the funniest thing to happen so far in rehearsals? That's an impossible question, I'm reduced to hysterics every day. Probably a mime riff Chris did about poop.
5. Since A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is set in Rome, if you were in ancient Rome during the gladiator times and you had to have a gladiator fight inside the Colesseum, who would win, Michael Urie or "Marc St. James," your character from ABC's Ugly Betty? Michael Urie would win, he's way stronger and knows all of "Marc St. James'" moves.
6. Like the millions of viewers who watched, I adored you on Ugly Betty! What are some of your most cherished memories of being on the show? We were a family on that show, we cherished every episode and didn't take a single moment for granted. That was partly due to the amazing material we were working with, but also to the beautiful dynamic of our cast - folks getting big breaks mixed with seasoned veterans. Everyone knew how lucky we were and how fragile any television prospect is - and we were proud of our show.
7. In Buyer & Cellar, the main character you played went to work for Barbra Streisand, whom he secretly was star struck by. What celebrities have you been star struck by? I have found that I'm only really star struck when I meet people that I became a fan of when I was a kid and first discovering how much I loved movies/tv/theatre, so from like 11 years old to around 17. Tom Hanks, Martin Short, Bernadette Peters, Nathan Lane and thank god they were all super sweet.
8. You made your Broadway debut in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. What did it feel like when you found out this was happening? Did the reality of your Broadway debut live up to the mental picture you had painted? It was very special, I remember vividly the first moment I walked onstage during the opening number and looked out at the theatre. I said to myself, "Self, remember this."
9. You have an allegiance of fans all over the world. What one of your favorite fan encounters? What has been one of your weirder meetings? What has been the scariest? 1) I was in Chicago promoting Buyer & Cellar at a gay bar for their Musical Monday party, and a young guy approached me and said, "My dads and I watched every episode of Ugly Betty together!" 2) In line for the grocery store, a guy turns around with a TV guide opened to an article about me and says, "that's you!" 3) I guess being in a big crowd of people who all suddenly realize it's me and want to say hello - it's always nice, but can get claustrophobic. That is rare, though!
10. What is the biggest prank you've played on a cast mate, either on TV or stage, to break character? What is the biggest prank played on you? I'M A PROFESSIONAL!!!! :) In The Temperamentals, I was offstage during a scene where an actor had to run off stage and quickly grab a clarinet, then re-enter playing it...I liked to be waiting by his clarinet and make him laugh right before he had to play it. One time, I arranged for his wife to be waiting backstage with me.
11. What is the biggest misconception people have about you? That I'm into fashion...I've played fashion people in Ugly Betty, The Temperamentals and Modern Family, but I sometimes have to be reminded what the brown belt/black shoe rule is...
12. During The Golden Girls, the ladies would always solve their problems over cheesecake. If we were to sit down to Cheesecake, what problem of your own would you want to solve? And what kind of cheesecake would we solve this problem over? Holiday travel planning. Junior's, of course.
More on Michael:
Broadway: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Off-Broadway/National Tour/London: Buyer & Cellar (Drama Desk, Lortel, Clarence Derwent, LA Drama Critics Awards). Off-Broadway: Shows for Days, The Cherry Orchard, Angels in America, The Temperamentals (Drama Desk, Lortel, Theatre World Awards). Other New York Theater: Red Bull, Foundry, HERE. Regional: Old Globe, South Coast, Seattle Rep, PlayMakers Rep, Folger Shakespeare, Barrington Stage. Film: Beverly Hills Chihuahua, He’s Way More Famous Than You (also director), WTC View, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, The Decoy Bride, Petunia, Such Good People, Thank You for Judging (co-director/producer). TV: "Gavin Sinclair" on Modern Family, Workaholics, The Good Wife, Younger, Hot in Cleveland, Partners, "Marc St. James" on Ugly Betty. Web series: Stage17’s What’s Your Emergency (director). Training: Juilliard.