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In A Temperamental Mood

Michael Urie discusses starring in the acclaimed Off-Broadway play The Temperamentals, his upcoming cabaret show with Becki Newton, and the ending of Ugly Betty.

By New York City
Michael Urie
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Michael Urie
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
In the past four years, Michael Urie has become one of television's most popular actors, thanks to his hilarious turn as magazine assistant Marc St. James on ABC's Ugly Betty. This month, Urie comes to the Off-Broadway stage as real-life fashion designer and gay political activist Rudi Gernreich in Jon Marans' acclaimed play, The Temperamentals, at New World Stages. In addition, he and his Ugly Betty co-star Becki Newton are teaming up for a one-night-only gig at Feinstein's at Loews Regency on Sunday, February 21. TheaterMania recently spoke with Urie about these projects, and his hopes for the finale of Ugly Betty.

THEATERMANIA: You certainly have enough on your plate now with filming Ugly Betty. Why were you so determined to do The Temperarmentals again?
MICHAEL URIE: I did a reading of this play six years ago, and every time there's been an opportunity to come back to it -- from the production last year at The Barrow Group to this one at New World Stages -- I've jumped on it. It's a role I don't want to let go of; it's too good and too rich, and I love being able to constantly find new things with our director, Jon Silverstein, and this fabulous cast of actors. It's something you can really sink your teeth into and that doesn't happen all the time. And audiences loved the play and were moved by it, whether they're lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual, or straight. I think this play is like being on a rollercoaster. Your strap in, you start going, and before you know it, you're done.

TM Were you able to do a lot of research about Rudi?
MU: There's not a lot about his activism, because he left the world of activism before he got famous. But there are so many photos of his work as a designer and his stuff is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. Still, it's really hard to say what he was like in real life. It turns out that Patricia Field, who does the costumes for Ugly Betty, actually knew him. She is a woman of few words, so when I asked what he was like, all she said was "He was cool!" And then I asked her how thick his Austrian accent was, and she said "Pretty thick." So that's what I had to go on.

TM: What do you most remember about the production last year?
MU: I loved that we had a lot of audience interaction, which is much harder to do in a proscenium theater. There was this beautiful scene where we're wrapping up a meeting of the Mattachine Society and we all repeat this mantra while holding hands and looking in the eyes of the audience members. Every night was something fresh, something new, and something beautiful.

TM: You're also doing this show at Feinstein's with your good friend and co-star Becki Newton, who plays Amanda on Ugly Betty. Can you tell us more about that?
MU: It's called Becki and Michael IS Broadway, and it's going to be hilarious. Early in the first season of Ugly Betty, Becki and I were asked to sing a song at a benefit and so dressed up like Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond and we sang "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." And we loved it so much, that we became addicted to it, and since then, we've done so many appearances together that we finally decided, let's just do our own show. It's sort of a like a cabaret show that you might see at Feinstein's, but it's also off-the-wall funny. I don't want to give it away, but there are versions of songs from shows like Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line and Gypsy that you haven't heard before. We're shamelessly attacking everything and anything musical theater. Hopefully, it will move to Broadway. Actually, I think it would be fun to do Becki and Michael IS Broadway Off-Broadway.

Ugly Betty stars Vanessa Williams, America Ferrera, Daniel Eric Gold, Becki Newton, and Michael Urie
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Ugly Betty stars Vanessa Williams, America Ferrera,
Daniel Eric Gold, Becki Newton, and Michael Urie
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
TM: This is the last season of Ugly Betty, which is very sad. What do you think you're going to miss most?
MU: Oh, the free clothes. No, it's the people I work with and the material. I am really going to miss getting to come up with ways of doing the scenes that I get to do in that show every day. I'm never going to get a chance to do TV that is that good again.

TM: Have you thought about your dream ending for Marc?
MU: I have this great idea that Marc and Amanda have to get married for some reason and there's a big beautiful gay wedding. I would also love there to be some kind of reconciliation with his mom -- who was played by Patti LuPone in the first season -- because that never got reconciled. I think it would be sweet for the audiences to know that it's possible for things like that to happen. But mostly, I want to show how much Betty has changed Marc in four years, while at the same time, Marc is still the same guy and he's still on the same track that he was when we first met him -- but maybe a bit better for knowing Betty.


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