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Interview: Tony Nominee Micah Stock on The Right Stuff, Bonding, and Remembering Terrence McNally

The Broadway vet discusses his screen projects and the initial launch of his stage career.

Micah Stock is a scene-stealer. In his 2014 Broadway debut in Terrence McNally's It's Only a Play, he co-starred as a coat-check attendant at a fancy Broadway opening-night party and earned the production's sole Tony nomination — a major feat considering his fellow actors were comedic heavy hitters Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mullally, Stockard Channing, and Rupert Grint.

Stock has moved toward the screen of late, playing astronaut Deke Slayton in the Disney Plus series The Right Stuff (inspired by the novel and the film), and Doug, a grad student whose girlfriend moonlights as a dominatrix on the Netflix comedy Bonding. There was a learning curve in making the jump from stage to screen, but Stock was all in. Here, he discusses these two projects and fondly remembers McNally, the man who he says gave him a career and who died of Covid-19 last year.

Micah Stock
(© David Gordon)

I want to start with The Right Stuff because I'm a huge space nerd. Are you one too, and did you know The Right Stuff going in?
I'm a new space nerd. I wasn't not interested before, but The Right Stuff definitely spurred it. And I was surprised by that because I was always somebody who, when people were like, "I'd love to go to space," I was like, "I think I'm good here on the soil." And now I really would love to go.

I hope this isn't sacrilegious to say, but I really didn't know very much. I'm from Ohio, so I knew who John Glenn was. Everything is John Glenn. We have like John Glenn Way, John Glenn Street, John Glenn Elementary. And I was aware of The Right Stuff as a book and a film, but I'd never read it or seen it. When I got the audition, initially there wasn't time to read the whole book, so I did a real quick crash course. When I went in the second time, I read the book. I held off watching the film until I felt confident that I had my own take on things. And then, certainly, when I got the part, I did a deep dive into not just the early days of NASA, but who Deke Slayton was specifically.

It was really fun, because once we were all cast, the seven astronauts and the women who played the wives, we kind of built a Dropbox of information. It really was a cast full of people who were ready to nerd out, which was so great. It almost felt like we were doing a play in that way. We sort of became our own dramaturgs, sharing collective research. I'm no expert, but I am certainly much more primed to talk about space travel now than I was before.

Bonding seems like the polar opposite of The Right Stuff.
Yeah. I actually got to shoot the second season of Bonding right after we wrapped the first season of Right Stuff, and so it was sort of the perfect transition to go from this world of repression and toxic masculinity to a world that is about letting loose and letting your freak flag fly, and filled with theater people. I met Rightor Doyle [the creator of Bonding] at Williamstown Theatre Festival. He was a non-Equity actor and I was an apprentice, and over the years, we would run into each other. When it came time to do Bonding, it was this beautiful progression, because it was people who started off as theater kids suddenly being given the keys to do a TV show. The first time we did it, it was essentially an independent series. There was no distribution and very little money, and we all did it because we thought it was fun. It really was just a party, like, "OK, cool, I'm going to go hang out with some friends for a week and make this fun thing." And then it got picked up by Netflix and it was an even bigger party. It's really a gift of a job.

Was there much of a learning curve in going from your stage career to a series regular on The Right Stuff and Bonding?
There were multiple facets to it. Scared is maybe the wrong word, but I think I was scared of film and television. I've been doing theater since I was 6 years old. When I walk into a theater, I know what everybody's doing, so my job as an actor is very clear to me. This is the cog that I am in this giant piece of clockwork. I find that, as a work-a-day actor, very comforting. I feel freer and much more confident when I know what everyone else is doing.

To be on a set in a relaxed way as a regular, I could sit on the sidelines and not be a nuisance and learn [what everyone else was doing]. If they were shooting something interesting and I had the day off, I could go and sit in video village. And if there was a break, I would go and talk to someone and be like, "Hi, I know what you're called, but can you tell me everything about your job?" And if someone has they time, they'd talk about what they do. That was very valuable.

I want to end by talking a little bit about Terrence McNally, since we just passed the year-anniversary of his passing and you worked with him on a couple of his final plays. What's your favorite memory of working with him?
There are innumerable memories. He is, arguably, solely responsible for the career that I have. The one that, to me, is just evocative of who Terrence was, and especially who he was to young artists...When I did And Away We Go with the Pearl Theatre Company in 2013, that was a huge deal for me. I had not interacted with him directly through the interview process, and so we showed up on the first day, and he was there. We did our first read-through, and I'm sort of thinking, "I don't even know if he's seen me yet; I can get fired."

So we took a break, I'm sitting in the lobby and he just walked up and started talking shop immediately. I'm looking at him and he's talking to me like I'm a collaborator. He immediately brought me into the fold. And that meant a lot to me. It immediately made me feel confidant and welcome, and I'll always remember that he just started talking with me, like I'd been doing professional theater my entire life. The thing I'm most pissed about, on a a selfish level, is like...I'm a little jealous of the people like Nathan Lane who found him earlier and got years of great parts, where I only got two. But he went on to be a great friend and a great mentor, and I miss him a lot.


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