With the Tony Awards coming up, we sat down with one of its most popular actors of the season (just nominated for best actor) – Michael Cerveris – who stars in Fun Home. Cerveris let us in on pre and post show routines, acting inspiration and spots to eat and drink in Times Square that aren’t so square….
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
I’m going to assume this means without suffering the arterial and waistline repercussions…
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy, Cajun eggs, shrimp and grits, and of course, praline bacon and Bloody Marys.
Lunch: Crawfish boil down the bayou, plentiful Abita amber or LA-31 Bière Pâle.
Dinner: Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs and a nice Malbec.
Late night: Cherry pie and a Doctor Pepper.
What’s been your most memorable moment so far on Fun Home?
Our trip to the College of Charleston in South Carolina to stand with the community to oppose the South Carolina State Legislature’s withdrawing funding to the school over their objection to a program making Alison Bechdel’s book available to incoming freshmen, and the trip a few of us took with Alison to visit the town and house where she, her father and family were raised .
Why do you think it’s resonated so much with audiences?
I think there are probably as many reasons as there are people who come see it. For some people, it’s the revolutionary thing of seeing their personal experience onstage for the first time. And yet for all the specificity of Alison’s story, people find personal ways to connect from their own lives, even if their own story is vastly different. We have all thought our parents were a mystery at times and most of us grapple at some point with how we came to be the people we are either because of, or in spite of our families (And most often, probably both). I think it’s stunning to see a human-sized, underplayed, realistic musical, devoid of spectacle, on Broadway. It turns out people are hungry to be affected this deeply by musical theater.
Something you discovered about yourself through playing your character…
I might actually possess some good Dad skills, which are maybe more evident backstage than onstage. I certainly had a shining example growing up.
What are some spots to eat and drink in Times Square that aren’t so square?
Well, you do kind of have to get away from Times Square…but Añejo on 46th and 10th is great for tapas and spicy margaritas, and El Original on 10th ave and 50th has fruit pie and Mexican Margaritas. Delta Grill at 9th ave and 48th is a reasonable approximation of southern cooking and they do have Abita on tap, but my secret favorite is southern Donna Bell’s Bakery on 8th ave and 49th. It’s take out only and they are only open until they sell out of what they made that day, but the biscuits and turkey gravy will transport you straight below the Mason Dixon line.
Advice you’d give your younger self…
Most of what you’re worried about now just won’t matter when you’re older. Most of what you care about now will.
Advice you’d give theater actors starting out…
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett
Any idea what you’ll wear to the Tony Awards yet?
Working on that…though I’ve been getting lots of encouragement to revive the top hat and tutu ensemble I recently sported to sing Mack The Knife with my band (Loose Cattle) at the Obie Awards.
If you win, your speech will include…
All of my equally deserving fellow nominees names.
What are some of your pre and post show routines?
These are equally necessary with a show like ours.
Words to both eat and act by…
Small portions throughout the day. Don’t eat anything bigger than your head but don’t let your head be bigger than anything you act.
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ in fashion, what’s the new potato in theater?
More heart, more smart, less jazz hands.