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Justin Kirk Comes to the Cities

The television and stage star discusses his new role in Broadway's Other Desert Cities. logo
Justin Kirk in Other Desert Cities
(© Joan Marcus)
Justin Kirk has graced the New York stage in such shows as Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Understudy, and Old Wicked Songs, and has gained fame through his work in HBO's Angels in America (for which he received an Emmy Award nomination) and Showtime's Weeds, in which he plays the smart-mouthed Andy Botwin. He has also just been cast in the leading role of NBC's comedy pilot Animal Kingdom.

He's currently giving a heartfelt performance as Trip Wyeth in Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities, now playing at Broadway's Booth Theatre. The ever-humorous actor recently spoke to TheaterMania about his return to Broadway, his burgeoning film career, and his dream stage roles.

THEATERMANIA: What was the hardest thing about taking over this role from Thomas Sadoski?
JUSTIN KIRK: I did have to learn to roll a joint. Believe it or not, it's like learning to drive a stick. That was my homework for this play. The sarcasm came easier. I have a little bit of that in me. But there are things about Trip that are slightly foreign to me as well. I know that sounds like an opening to tell you those things, but I think it will be better if I don't. Being a replacement is fun, but it is also a little scary. I feel very fortunate that this play is a success at this point because I know there's an audience there.

TM: Since you live in Los Angeles, were you anxious to come back to New York?
JK: I just pop in to do theater. I feel very fortunate to still sometimes be asked, and I don't take that for granted, which is why I try to do it occasionally. I was actually working in Europe on a movie and I had a week off, so I went to visit my dear friend Elizabeth Reaser where she was working in Oslo. While I was there Joe Mantello [the director of Other Desert Cities] texted me, "What's going on, what are you up to these days?" And here I am!

TM: When we last spoke a few years ago, you jokingly said that you were just around the corner from becoming Richard Burton, needing a little alcohol before getting on the stage. Has your time come for a sip before curtain?
JK: I still haven't quite gotten there. It's definitely the show for it though. It's what actors call sense memory. When having that "scotch" at the beginning of Act II, it's amazing how it immediately puts me into that frame of feeling that I have, in fact, had a scotch.

TM: Your co-star on Weeds, Hunter Parrish, is now playing Jesus on Broadway in Godspell. If you could take on the role of any religious figure on stage, who would it be?
JK: How about Joseph Smith? That would be fun. How about Moses? I would want it to be a musical, because I have never done one. I always enjoy them when I see them. I do worry about my chops, but I have a modicum of musical talent. I don't have a voice like Hunter's, but I guess people have done musicals that don't.

TM: You once told me that you would love to be the standby for Elphaba in Wicked. Are there any newer roles that you can see yourself in?
JK: I guess I had been drinking when we did that interview. I just went to see my friend Jenn Harris in Silence! The Musical. I would have fun being Clarice Starling. Have you noticed I keep going for the female roles? At this point, I like a challenge.

TM: You have a slew of films coming up this year, including one called Mr. Morgan's Last Love, in which you play Michael Caine's son. Was that cool?
JK: He once wrote a book which became a videotape called Michael Caine on Acting, which was a big deal for actors of my generation. When I was about 20 years old, I remember seeing it -- so I was thinking whether I was going to be applying any of his lessons while I was on set with him. The one I always remembered was, "Don't blink if you want to look strong. Don't blink." So I tried to blink just as much as I could so I would piss him off.

TM: And you're also in this movie called Vamps with Krysten Ritter. Did you get to play a vampire?
JK: Yes, I'm a lascivious vampire, which is what vampires are, for the most part. But I'm a good one in the end. I had good eyeliner and good clothes.

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