Catching Up With Tony Nominee Billy Magnussen
Billy Magnussen is a busy guy. Upon meeting, he had just made his way from Hecksher Fields in Central Park where he plays softball every Thursday as a member of the Broadway Show League. When he’s not playing ball, he’s appearing on Broadway eight times a week in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike alongside some names you might recognize: Tony and Academy Award nominee Sigourney Weaver and Tony and Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce. He also currently stars alongside Alexander Skarsgård and Ellen Page in the Ridley Scott produced film, The East. As we mentioned, he is busy. Oh, and he’s nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play at this Sunday’s 67th Tony Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Needless to say, we weren’t short on questions for the former soap opera star.
Let’s first talk about The East. It is an intense thriller about the infiltration of an anarchist anti-government organization. What did you do at the end of the day to decompress from that?
We were in Shreveport, Louisiana just doing what we love. They had boats on the river that were designated for gambling… so we’d gamble.
Going back to the ‘beginning’: The Ritz, your Broadway debut. What was your fondest memory of working on that production, besides performing at Studio 54?
I remember the day they called me at ten AM on a Saturday to tell me I would be going on as the lead at two o’clock. And we hadn’t had understudy rehearsal yet. I got there early, we blocked the first act, started the show, and during a long intermission, we had to block the second act because there was this whole bed sequence, jumping on, going under, blah blah blah.
You’re the guitarist for Reserved For Rondee, which made me wonder, do you have any other secret talents?
I don’t know. What are your talents?
Um… I’m really good at watching reality television. Does that count?
Have you seen Off Pitch? I was cuddling with someone and we were flipping through the channels and landed on it. It’s like the unicorn of reality shows. I’ve only seen the tail end of it, like going away in the distance. Like it exists — the unicorn — but it’s running away. And I have no clue when this show comes on, but it’s unbelievable. But the majority of the time I don’t watch TV at all.
I know fitness and healthy eating are important to you. Are you into any of the current workout crazes?
I think they’re gimmicks. No offense to any of those programs. The gimmick is the communal aspect, giving you that drive to work-out. My drive is the show. I work-out by myself and push myself. I have my routines that I learned from high school, in college, from friends. And my father was a body builder.
An over-asked question, but for good reason: What do you like to splurge on food-wise on your days off?
I’ll start with bagels and lox in the morning, and then maybe a pizza here and there, every once in a while. Pasta, too. Italian food is great.
How would you describe this show, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, over drinks at a bar?
A comedy with so much heart.
Were you nervous at all when you found out you’d be working with Ellen Ripley and Niles Crane?
Honestly, no. Because they’re so humble, it’s humbling for me. They’re about the work and not about ego. I’m there every day with them. We make the play happen. Once the curtain goes up, there’s no more director, it’s just us on stage.
Being that you spend a great amount of time in your underwear on stage, what kind of underwear do you wear in your offstage life?
If you had to wear underwear…
Those Superman briefs.
I know you’re a hardcore traveller, where’s the most recent place you’ve traveled to?
I just got back from Thailand, though, and that was pretty cool. I was riding a motorcycle around the country. I was going to go to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls in July, but the show got extended, so that’s out.
That show, playwright Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, began its life at The McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey in the fall of 2012. After a sold-out run, the show transferred to Lincoln Center and then, with continued acclaim, transferred once again to Broadway’s Golden Theatre, where it currently sits (through July 28). Nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Play, the show has already collected Best Play prizes at the Outer Critics Circle Awards, Drama League Awards & Drama Desk Awards. Good luck this Sunday, Billy!