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Interview with actor
Christopher McDonald of "Harry's Law", "Boardwalk
Empire", "Body of Proof" et al. 4/17/13
Christopher McDonald is a busy working character actor
and has been for many years! He is currently starring on
Broadway with Tom Hanks in "Lucky Guy". He recently
guest-starred on "Body of Proof" and has a regular role on
"Boardwalk Empire". For the past few years, he also starred
on the NBC show "Harry's Law".
We had a great interview. We discussed many things,
including his roles, Tom Hanks, Twitter, and the future of
television. He is such a smart and funny guy, so it's no
wonder he plays lawyers a lot.
Here is the audio of my interview with him.
If the audio is not streaming well, please right-click on
this link and save it to your computer. It should work
better that way!
Here is the transcribed version by
Gisele. - I will be
going through and adding more of it later.
1. So, how has it been returning to Broadway?
"I must say -- it's fantastic. The New York audiences are smart. They love a
good show. They are very verbal. They are very exuberant when they like
something, which is just thrilling. I mean, a standing ovation every night.
Every performance is great. It's a treat doing this kind of material about Mike McAlary, the beloved New York writer, played by the great Tom Hanks, with
brilliant direction by George C. Wolfe. And the cast, the cast is all veteran
stage people, so I learn something from them every day. It's great! I love a
live audience -- it changes every day, even from matinee to evening. They're a
living, breathing organism. Some people really listen, and some people go 'Yuk'
2. Can you tell us some stories about working with Tom Hanks?
"Well, Tom Hanks is just 'What you see is what you get.' He's brilliant. He
didn't want to screw this thing up. It's the first time he's been on stage in 30
years, so he basically came in and has been shooting with both barrels every
day. He's just killing it! And that's something that we adapt to, interestingly.
First of all, he's so funny, so quick, so nice. He's Tom Hanks. He's just being
Tom Hanks. He's a brand actually. One, I've admired him for many, many years. I
have a dressing room right next to his. Everybody in New York comes up to see
Tom after the show, and I'm meeting Bruce Springsteen and Robert DeNiro -- it's
just wild -- it goes on and on. So that's kind of great! But he's fantastic in
the show. I have all my scenes with him, and it's really fun. I play his lawyer,
and I try to teach him the ways of the big city -- the hierarchy world that I
run around in. It's very interesting, and he couldn't be nicer. I love his
talent. I love his generosity. I love his commitment to this project. I mean, he
was first choice to play it, and he didn't have to play it, but it's really kind
of wonderful, so people really respond to him, so that's great!"
3. I read that Peter Scolari is also in the play, and I used to watch him and
Tom Hanks on "Bosom Buddies" in the 80's.
"Bosom Buddies" -- yes! We're raising money right now for Equity Fights AIDS and
that's one of our big plugs. 'Get a picture with the 'Bosom Buddies' -- 30 years
Did you ever see that show?
"Absolutely, yeah! When I was starting out, they were a big hit. It's amazing,
people like Bruce Willis. Just some guy on a TV show becomes Bruce Willis, and
Tom became Tom. That's one of the concerns I had with meeting Peter. I thought,
'Wow.' Not what happened, but it must be odd. Because one took off, and one is
just sort of a working actor. And then you hear all the other stories involved
but you kind of figure it out, but -- different conversation."
5. I notice Michael Gaston is also in the cast. Between the two of you, I think
you've been on every show on TV.
"He's playing diverse parts. I'm sort of in my lawyer period right now, which
is, you know, nothing wrong with that, because lawyers are as colorful as the
day is long, so I'm having a lot of fun doing them; but at the same time, we
have to mix it up as much as we can. But as long as they typecast me as a lawyer
in this period of my life, I'm all for it. We're character actors -- we love to work, so it's all good!"
6. Is the play doing well?
"The play is a bona fide hit. It is standing ovations every night, every
performance. Fantastic! It's a wonderful love letter to journalism that has long
passed us by -- 15 years ago. It's a hard story to tell, because it takes place
over 15 years, and it is the rise and fall and rise again of this guy, Mike
McAlary that Tom plays -- who won a Pulitzer Prize for a story about Abner
Louima. A lot of people know the story in New York, so it's so fun to do it to a
New York audience. They know this guy -- he was on the side of the bus, and he
died tragically at 41 from colon cancer, so this was really a love letter to
that whole wonderful period when New York City was corrupt and crack fueled the
streets and graffiti was everywhere before Giuliani came in and sanitized it. It was
a great time to be in the tabloids. I was living here in the 80's, and even me,
and I'm 6'3", and I'm a big buy, and I was an athlete, and I worried there was
something in a dark corner. I was living not far from where I live now, Mid-town
West, but it was shady and the smell of urine. It was a hard city, and you had
to watch your wallet, put it in my front pocket, to keep from being pick pocketed. They were pretty wild times. You look at the pictures of it, and
you see the graffiti covered. I mean, that was a period of tagging?? and
everything -- all the gangs were going nuts. My God, it was... There's this
great documentary called 'The Central Park Five' on HBO right now about that
period. This woman was raped in Central Park and about all the writers who wrote
about that, and that is the exact period of what this play is about -- the meat
of what this play is about. It was a crazy time to be in New York."
7. How long does the play run?
"It was going to go until the 16th of June, but now it just got extended by
popular demand, and we'll be playing until July 3. It would make a very
captivating movie, actually. I don't even know if Tom would play the lead, to be
honest, but there's talk. There's always talk, so we'll see."
8. I saw you on Body of Proof on Monday. Is it fun playing such a horrible
"Well, yeah, absolutely -- it's a blast. It's just so foreign from my real life
that it's really what character actors do, because we find the freedom in
something that is so foreign to you. It's like playing cowboys and Indians. I
mean, I want to be the Indian. I want to be the character who is so crazy and
blood-thirsty. I don't want to be, like, The Lone Ranger. It's sort of like I've
always been attracted to that kind of stuff, and apparently they like the way I
do it, especially the dramatic roles that I've had. The character leads are the
best parts ever to play. My favorites like Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall --
people like that who are just... or Alec Guinness -- brilliant actors who also
have leading parts but not really your matinee idol. I am blessed, grateful for
a career that spans 30 years, and I'm glad that my family is doing very well,
and I'm following the dream. At the same time, I have the type of fame where I
can't leave my house, I can't enjoy life. That's what actors must do. They must
be able to, you know... They're curious souls, and they have to go out and see
life and be able to put that up on the screen. And then I get recognized,
and it sort of takes you out of the life around you. Instead of you looking out
at the world, the bright lights are on you. And that's not something that I
gravitate toward. I would much prefer to stay more anonymous, so that I can
really keep a watch on my favorite things. That's why I love New York. That's
why I love airports. I can really try to figure people out. Let me put it this
way, I leave there, and I feel it's my job as an actor, for the people who
support your show and come to the show, so I sign autographs for about 3... 5
minutes -- maybe I'll take a picture and make my way through the crowd. Then the
show 'Matilda' lets out, and there's another 1100 people, and then the show
'Phantom of the Opera' lets out, and there's another 1200 people. And at about
that moment, Tom Hanks comes out. The street gets shut down -- 34th Street.
People have taken shots of everyone with their phones, taken their own shots
with Tom Hanks. This is even when you can't get near the guy with the security
around. It is a sea of people, and I've watched it a couple of times from the
second story, and you look down on it. It is a phenomenon. But he's very
cool, signs some autographs, he takes some pictures, and then he says 'God bless
you all,' gets to his car and escapes. Very interesting. Yeah! You have to be
used to it or else you'd have no life. I talked to him about going on the
subway, and he said, "Hey, I love the subway. I get to work... it was
rehearsal period. I get to work now on time. It's no problem at all. ?? The
officer's very cool about that. So but it's got to be wild! I went to a
basketball game with Tom Hanks. He said they were nice seats. They were the
seats that I thought they were going to be. I was praying for them. They gave us
four seats, and there was Spike Lee and, you know, Ben Stiller and David ??, and
Olivia Wilde, and it was just wonderful to be there. Out of the blue comes,
'Wilson.' Doing Castaway, 'cause I guess it just went into archive. They all
went crazy, so it's an interesting life. It's a way to go through life. I think
I'd like it for, I don't know about... Oh, I don't know. If I could turn it off,
I guess it would be the best world. I think I'd like it for about 5 or 6 days,
and then you'd like to take your life back, 'cause it would be just too much for
9. And you're still on Boardwalk Empire, right? When does that return?
"I am still on it. They haven't come with the actual episodes for this season
yet. ?? already, so... I think they skipped a year. I think what happened was
that Warren Harding died, and they didn't really address it. Prohibition was
going on until like the early 30's, so they're jumping around. They're jumping
forward, I think, but there should be a way to tie it up, I would think. We're
kind of left with... it was very, very contentious between Nucky and Harry
Daugherty, so we'll see what happens. The play's the thing right now, so I
haven't... I hope I get a phone call, saying 'Hey, you know, Monday's your day
9. What else have you got coming up?
"Kirstie Alley's got a series that I play in, Broadway-themed 'Kirstie's
New Show.' It was called 'Giant Baby' -- it's for TVLand. I hear we're going to work at the end of
June, which will be great. The last couple of days I'll come in from finishing
the show, or else if my understudy wanted it, that would be great. It's really
kind of fun doing that old-school four-camera, like when I was doing 'Cheers.' I
did 'Cheers' in the first season, way before Kirstie got on it. So we were doing
four-camera with her again on 'Veronica's Closet' playing her husband. I played
her brother in 'Fat Actress.' He was a crackhead who tried to get her to smoke
crack to lose weight. That was hysterical, and now I'm playing her estranged
husband in this new show so... funny! I think they might show the pilot 'cause I
think the lead boy is Eric Peterson of 'Star Catchers' on Broadway, and he came
in and did a brilliant job. He plays the son of this actress who denied having
him and then gets shamed into saying, 'Oh, ?? I can't have a child.' It's very
funny. It's very diva-ish. They push the envelope, too. They get, you know, a
little ?? They've got to keep up with the other shows. But it's really fun doing
a four-camera show, because that's another thing -- it's a live audience right
there. It's just a gas to get immediate feedback. The state of television is
sort of depressing. I was on 'Harry's Law' which was the number 1 drama, but
the young people don't watch it. It's maybe too old, but what research is saying is
that all the money is with the baby-boomers right now. They have discretionary
income. Their kids are out of college. They have money. CBS is the only one that
gets it. That's why they've been number 1 for over 10 years. That's kind of
10. I saw that you were on Twitter briefly, but you haven't been on in almost a
year. What happened?
"Fear, basically. I'm a very spontaneous and fun guy and everything. I like
reading other people's stuff. I was advised to be a tweeter, and I just did not
want it to come bite me like a few of my colleagues, and look, you've got to be
careful. Once you put it out there, you can't take it back. Sometimes if I get
in one of my moods, or something, and if I say something that I'll end up
apologizing for... But then again, it's good for comedians who want to tell
jokes, or something like that. It takes energy to do that kind of stuff, and I
want to put my energy into my family right now until they all run away and leave
11. What else would you like to tell your fans?
"I've got a few movies coming out. I have a movie that's a remake of 'About Last
Night.' It's the African-American version. That'll be out on Valentine's Day
next year. Then I have a movie called 'Pretty Perfect' that's about the art
world. It's very cool, independent -- that'll be out this year. And another
movie called 'Being American' which is about a pilot who is retired from the
airline and wound up going to the countries where he used to fly at 30,000 feet.
He takes his wife, daughter and his grandson, and they get in trouble, and
they're in Syria and they get involved in terrorism. So hopefully, that'll wake
people up to the fact that we're not all -- that Americans aren't all the bad
guys of the world. Well, anyway, that's a little message from me. They're going
to make the sequel to 'The SLC Punk' which was a very funny cult little movie,
and had a lovely following. I'm going to play Matthew Lillard's father. So, it's
all good. Everything's good, and I hope you'll see the Broadway play and say
'Hey, it's great!'"
As you might already know, Christopher McDonald is making quite a splash on
Broadway these days playing opposite Tom Hanks in Nora Ephron's last play
A familiar face to TV and film, he still recurs on Boardwalk Empire and last
season had him as a regular on NBC's Harry's Law. I have attached his
resume, as its rather incredible and far reaching. Although it's hard to go
anywhere with people referring to him as the role he made famous, "Shooter McGavin".
Lucky Guy Official Site
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