Barrett Foa first came on my radar when I saw him replace John Tartaglia as the lead in the Tony Award winning musical Avenue Q. Since then, I've had the joy of seeing Barrett in Broadway's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Buyer and Cellar at Barrow Street Theatre.
It's been great watching Barrett on NCIS: Los Angeles as "Eric Beale" for the past seven seasons on CBS! I'm so excited for Barrett's latest venture, during his hiatus from NCIS: Los Angeles, the New York City debut of his show Grin and Barrett, "an evening of pride, desperation, and show-offsmanship in a one-man cabaret that is sure to be…a little over an hour long!" It's a joy to get to hear Barrett Foa sing and I can't wait to see this new show!
1. This June you are going to be delighting audiences at Feinstien's/54 Below and Feinstein's Nikko with your brand new show Grin and Barrett. When was there a time in your life when you had to "Grin and Barrett" for something you didn't want to do? To be honest? Putting together this very show. There are these waves of "what are you doing, Barrett? A cabaret? That's a terrible idea. No one likes those. For God's sake, change your name, run away to Stockholm, and start your life over!" But life is about about going through the fear and living inside of something scary. That's the thrill. Grinning and bearing it out. It's the only way to grow. Eventually, you come to realize the wave of yuck is actually exactly where you want and need to be.
2. What made now the right time to bring this show to NYC? I'm a series regular on NCIS: Los Angeles and we shoot a whopping 24 episodes a season, making our hiatus only 2-3 months long. TV exercises different muscles than the stage, so instead of going on vacation, I love to get back to my theatrical roots. The problem is finding the right project that fits into that narrow time slot. This year, instead of waiting around for something to line up (the way Buyer & Cellar did when I stepped into that off-Broadway two summers ago), I decided to create my own evening. This way, I can book the show in other cities and stay creative throughout the year. Plus, NYC is my hometown so I get to see shows, have oodles of family dinners, and plenty of #nephewtime.
3. What are you looking forward to most about performing this show? I'm pumped to feel that connection with a live audience again - that thrill of hearing, seeing, knowing that family, friends, and fans are out there supporting you. That's another thing you miss with TV acting. I'm also proud of how Grin and Barrett is fun and silly one moment, and then digs down into something a little deeper while avoiding the dreaded "cabaret confessional" territory. One of my favorite songs in the show is a James Taylor folk version of "The Beauty Is" from THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA. It's insanely lovely and I can't wait to sing it.
4. Grin and Barrett is "an evening of pride, desperation, and show-offsmanship." What, in your life, brings you the most pride? What something you are desperate for? What is one skill you show-off that you believe no one else possesses? Right now I'm most proud of my Dad. He is going through a lot and he is really stepping up to the plate where others would run or crumble into a ball.
I'm desperate to get settled. I have been moving around a lot lately. I feel floaty, and that's no fun.
As for special skills, my dog, Scotch, has a circus trick that I can't even take credit for: When she pees, she lifts up both her hind legs and walks on her two front paws for about 8-10 steps. It must take insane core strength. (I'm working on this in yoga, but people are starting to look at me funny).
5. You have spent seven seasons on CBS' NCIS: Los Angeles. What was your favorite flub that happened to you while filming? What did you learn about your inner nerd from playing "Eric Beale"? Lately, whenever I trip over a word, I've taken to saying "5, 6, 7, 8" to get back on track. I guess it's a comfort and it brings me back to my musical theatre training. But it makes the rest of the cast laugh, especially LL Cool J. My character, "Eric Beale" is the resident tech geek. He's a bumbling underdog when he's nervous and yet has tons of confidence because he's so good at what he does. That dichotomy is fun to play and makes for some good laughs.
I'm learning that there is power in being the underdog. In not being cool. Funnily enough, I talk extensively about this phenomenon in Grin and Barrett. I'm telling you, we dive deep! This ain't your grandma's cabaret. (Sorry Nonnie - she'll be 99 in August, drinks scotch everyday - and yes, she's coming to the show).
6. Let's combine your worlds of television and theatre. If your character "Eric Beale" on NCIS: Los Angeles, were investigating "Princeton/Rod" from Avenue Q, "Leaf Coneybear" from Spelling Bee, and "Alex More" from Buyer and Cellar, what do you think their MO would be to carry out their crimes? Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.
7. What did you learn about acting from working on a TV series for so long? How do you feel this will strengthen your theatrical performances? I've learned TONS. Since we churn out so many episodes - 170 and counting - you get less precious about your work, which can be freeing. Your first instinct is usually best, and you learn to go with you gut. In theatre, there is time to rehearse and polish and finesse, which I love and miss terribly, but there is also something satisfying about doing it and letting it all go - the scene, the lines, the moment. Cut. We got it. Moving on!
8. What shows that are currently playing do you wish you could have auditioned for, but weren't able to because of NCIS: Los Angeles? The men that originated these roles were all perfection, but roles currently on Broadway that I'd like to take a crack at down the line include: "King George" in HAMILTON (opening in LA in 2017. Hmmm...), "Georg" in SHE LOVES ME, "William Shakespeare" in SOMETHING ROTTEN, "Rodolfo" in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, and "Richard" in THE HUMANS. I'm dying to do VENUS IN FUR somewhere. The female role in that play usually gets all the attention, but I think there is much to mine in the role of the playwright, "Thomas."
9. As an actor, what's it like to go watch a theatrical show? Can you just sit, watch, and enjoy it? Or do you always think, I'd love to do audition for this show or thank goodness, I'm on this side of the stage or I would play the role this way? The goal is to enjoy yourself and get lost in the show, and I'm proud to say that I still WANT to do that and still CAN do that. The moment that ends, I'll stop going to theatre, I'll stop being an actor, and maybe stop being a human being. How horrible to have to sit there with your arms crossed judging. A great example of this is Zachary Levi singing the title song from SHE LOVES ME. I used to sing that song for auditions all the time. I was over the moon not to be in my head thinking what I would have done better, because Zachary was so utterly charming and winsome. I was completely transported. Other transcendent moments from this season for me have been: the opening of SHE LOVES ME, that amazing new choreography in the current revival of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the end of Act 1 on DEAR EVAN HANSEN, and most of THE HUMANS.
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? My voice, my ability to seek connection, my ability to trust myself.
11. You have done my friend Billy Mitchell's Villain DeBlanks a few times now. I got to perform in it once here in NYC. What did you love about performing in this scripted-improvised show? How did something like this play to your strengths? How fun and silly is that show? I love that no one (the author, the actors, the audience) has any idea what insanity is coming next, which allows for a certain freedom and abandon, and yet it's not improv. That safety net (and some alcohol) allows the actors to make a huge bold choice and just sail with it. It's incredibly freeing. Thanks, Billy!
Prior to his role on NCIS: LOS ANGELES, Barrett Foa played the lead in Avenue Q and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on Broadway, and was featured in the original Broadway cast of Mamma Mia!. Barrett starred Off-Broadway in Buyer and Cellar at Barrow Street Theatre. He also played "Jesus" in the 30th anniversary production of Godspell and can be heard on the recording. Recently, Barrett tackled the role of "Harold Hill" in The Music Man at the Connecticut Repertory Theater. He was also the first official social media correspondent for The 2013 Tony Awards on CBS, giving fans a behind-the-scenes look during rehearsals and on show day. Barrett's television credits include guest starring roles on Numb3rs and NCIS, on the Network, Entourage and The Closer. Barrett's extensive theatre credits encompass both plays and musicals at venues such as Playwrights Horizons, The Public, New York Theatre Workshop, and Ars Nova in New York City. Regionally, he has starred in productions at Paper Mill Playhouse, Bay Street Theatre, Hartford Stage and The Shakespeare Theatre Company, D.C., TheatreWorks in CA, The St. Louis Muny, North Shore Music Theatre, Weston Playhouse, and seasons at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Maine State Music Theatre and Music Theatre of Wichita. Born and raised in New York City, Barrett graduated from The Dalton School in Manhattan. He attended Interlochen Arts Camp for four summers, studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater Performance from The University of Michigan. In addition to his role on NCIS: LOS ANGELES, Barrett is the co-writer, producer and star in For The Record: John Hughes, a unique, live musical event in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago featuring scenes and songs from the movies of legendary '80s film director, John Hughes. The show played multiple sold out runs in LA and NYC.