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Malcolm Gets Spreads A Little Sunshine

The popular actor takes on the role of Frank Ginsberg in the La Jolla Playhouse's new musical, Little Miss Sunshine. logo
Malcolm Gets
(©Tristan Fuge)
Malcolm Gets has made his mark in many entertainment arenas, including Steve in the gay cult movie Adam & Steve, sardonic cartoon artist Richard on NBC's hit ensemble comedy Caroline In the City, and, most notably, as the star of such musicals as The Story of My Life, Amour, A New Brain, and Falsettos. Now, Gets is taking on the role of Frank Ginsberg, a suicidal scholar, in William Finn and James Lapine's musical interpretation of the award-winning film Little Miss Sunshine, now in previews at the La Jolla Playhouse.

The show -- which also stars Hunter Foster, Georgi James, Dick Latessa, and Jennifer Laura Thomspon -- follows an unconventional family as they drive across the country to reach the youngest daughter's beauty competition.

Gets, who hasn't seen the film since it was released, decided to bring his own imprint to the role of Frank (which was played in the film by Steve Carrell). "When I went to audition, I didn't go back and watch the film," he notes. "It's a brilliant film, but we're doing our own thing and I wanted to bring my own sense of Frank to the part and not just mimic another great actor. Frank is his own very special human being, and William and James have done a great job of honoring the film but making it their own work. People who know the movie will get the same trajectory of the characters, but our show veers away just enough to be its own aesthetic."

Little Miss Sunshine is the sixth collaboration between Lapine and Finn, and Gets feels honored to be part of their latest work. "You've got this group of people who have years of dialogue together. To be around them while they're creating, it's such a privilege. The older I get the luckier I feel to be a part of this 'team,'" he notes. "To say they're a good balance is obvious and an understatement. Finn gets so inspired and stuff flies out of him, while James is very disciplined and organized. He's so good at guiding Finn's outpouring of inspiration. The show is really powerful. I think it has enormous potential."

Jennifer Laura Thompson, Malcolm Gets, Georgi James,
Hunter Foster, and Taylor Trensch in Little Miss Sunshine
(© Craig Schwartz)
Playing Frank, a character who at least in the film just happens to be gay as opposed to being defined by his homosexuality, has a deep connection with Gets. The actor officially came out to the national gay publication The Advocate some years ago -- and after his stardom on Caroline in the City. "I wouldn't change my decision to come out for anything," says Gets. "Years before the article, I would walk around the Castro, and feel that people were judging me for not being real, honest. I remember walking around there when the article hit the stands, and I felt free. So much lighter. I'm so grateful for the career I had, but when they write my tombstone, I'm proud that being gay is part of my story as much as being an actor."

What else goes on Gets' tombstone remains to be seen, but the actor admits he has spent a lot of time recently thinking about the future. "In the last couple years, life itself was challenging. I lost a number of friends all around my age, so I started this year in this mid-life crisis mode, wondering what I have accomplished, and what do I want to do," he says. "And what I've come up with is I want to live in the moment. Yes, I have dreams as an actor. I would like to write more. I would like to teach more. I would like to combine writing and teaching with my acting."

Gets does have one role he'd like to revisit -- Franklin Shepard, who he played in the 1994 Off-Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. "I was always interested in what would happen if they filmed the show, because it's less 'disruptive' to go backwards on film," he says of the work, which begins in the 1980s and regresses until the 1950s. "I think It's one of Sondheim's most accessible scores, and I would love to make it into a movie for Showtime or HBO."

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