CUE & A: You Can't Take It With You Star Fran Kranz on Early Inspirations, His Annie Baker Obsession and an Unforgettable Miss Saigon Experience

News   CUE & A: You Can't Take It With You Star Fran Kranz on Early Inspirations, His Annie Baker Obsession and an Unforgettable Miss Saigon Experience
 
Stage and screen actor Fran Kranz, who stars as the lovestruck Tony Kirby in the Broadway revival of You Can't Take It With You, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Fran Kranz
Fran Kranz

He has appeared on the New York stage in the recent revival of Death of a Salesman and Bachelorette at Second Stage.

Screen work includes "Dollhouse," "The Good Wife," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Frasier," "Mojave," "Last Weekend," "Murder of a Cat," "The Cabin in the Woods," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Donnie Darko" and "Training Day."

Full given name: Francis Elliott Kranz
Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born in Los Angeles. For the most part I grew up in Los Angeles. From the age of four to eleven I lived in McLean, Virginia, outside of Washington DC.
Zodiac Sign: Cancer
What your parents did/do for a living: My father worked in the State Department and the Pentagon while I was growing up. That's why we lived in DC. My father, mother, brother and I are all still "working for the government" and can't talk about it.
Special skills: I have a great sense of direction. I've saved myself and others from being lost in the wilderness.
Something you're REALLY bad at: I'm best known for playing one of Joss Whedon's genius programmers on "Dollhouse" so I guess it's ironic that I am completely incompetent when it comes to modern technology. I am currently struggling to figure out why my HDTV is not HD. Anyone?
First Broadway show you ever saw: Sadly I'm not sure. I do remember The Mousetrap in London was one of the first plays I ever saw. I saw Rent before it went to Broadway because my dad keeps up on good theater. I know that I wanted to be a professional actor by the time I saw Brian Dennehy in Death of a Salesman. But I had seen many shows before that.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? I think I would probably go back in time and see Richard Burbage play King Lear. Or I'd go back to Ancient Greece and just stay there.
Current or recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: This Is Our Youth. I love Kenneth Lonergan and the cast looks great. I've always wanted to play Dennis but I think I am officially too old. Other than that I encourage everyone to go the Met or the New York City Ballet. They need support.
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: "One Day More." Before every performance in high school all the guys in the school play would go to the faculty parking lot and blast "One Day More" from one of our cars and sing along with great feeling. That was the best warm up I've ever had.
Favorite musicals: The music in West Side Story kind of breaks my heart. And the story's okay too.
Some favorite modern plays:

Anything Annie Baker does. I'm afraid she already knows I'm obsessed with her so I might as well put it in print. Her plays move me in a unique and powerful way and I can't say enough about how excited I am she's a living breathing writer. I also loved Will Eno's Tragedy: A Tragedy. It made ME extremely anxious and full of nostalgic longing - an unnerving combination.

Finally, I love Adam Rapp's The Hallway Trilogy. I tried to see a marathon Sunday production but Logan Marshall Green had to go film a Ridley Scott movie and I couldn't see the last part that day. I had to fly back to L.A. shortly after but returned to NY later that week for about 15 hours just to finish it with the incredible Mr. Green.

Broadway or screen stars of the past you would have most loved to perform with: Peter Sellers. He's just the best. Toshiro Mifune. He was just terrifying and would make everything you do opposite him subtle. But who are we kidding, every actor should wish to have performed with The Lord Chamberlain's Men or The King's Men.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: I saw the ballet La Bayadere at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. I was with a friend and neither of us knew anything about the ballet, we just felt compelled to go being there. We couldn't even sit together. I cried uncontrollably during "The Kingdom of Shades" which in our production was performed in the third and final act. Most productions perform this piece during the second act.

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La Bayadere has never had the same effect on me in that other order. It was so moving and devastating. I've never been so emotional over any piece of art in my life. When I met my friend in the lobby (for needed vodka) I found out he had wept too. It was just a magical moment in theater.

Music that makes you cry, any genre: La Bayadere's "The Kingdom of Shades"
Your personal acting idols, living or dead: I have this triumvirate of Peter Sellers, Toshiro Mifune and Robert De Niro. Sellers does the character work. De Niro gives the gravity and realism. And Mifune just does raw primal "unadulterated man." I also have to throw in Alec Guinness because seeing him play Fagin after only knowing him as Obi Wan Kenobi was my biggest revelation as an actor.
MAC or PC? MAC, but I'm telling you I'm terrible with computers.
Most played song on your iPod: I don't want to know. It's probably the "Fargo" soundtrack these days. I do like that band Phantogram.
Most-visited websites: This girl I sat next to on a plane introduced me to the website www.geoguessr.com. I'm obsessed. I was 26 kilometers away from the location once. If you visit the site you'll understand how amazing that is. Otherwise I'm on ESPN a lot. Sports are my year-long reliable dramatic narrative.
Last book you read: I've been reading plays recently. I tend to read more plays when I'm living in New York. I just read "The Dazzle" by Richard Greenberg and was blown away. I also have a healthy obsession with Richard Greenberg. And I realized one of the three roles was written for my incredibly brilliant co-star Reg Rogers. I bought a book on Albrecht Dürer on the street in Williamsburg the other day. Hopefully that's good.
Must-see TV show(s): All actors should watch "Slings and Arrows." I also love "Twin Peaks." I doubt the best moments of "Twin Peaks" will ever be topped. I shouldn't have to say "The Wire" but I did.
Last good movie you saw: I finally saw "Once Upon a Time in the West." Wow. That movie is awesome.
Some films you consider classics: "2001: A Space Odyssey." "Singing in the Rain." "The Seven Samurai." Other than "Star Wars," which is the greatest of all time (I'm working with Vader), these three films are always up there for me.
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Mark Rylance
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "The Leftovers." Does that count? I think I do a good job of staying away from real Pop Culture. I couldn't tell you the name of any reality star other than a Kardashian and that's only because they just get in everyone's way.
Best gift you ever received: I remember getting "Willow" action figures one year. That sticks with me. I was really into those. Now I'd just like money.
Favorite Halloween costume you ever wore: I was Walter White from the first season of "Breaking Bad" last year. I wore tighty whiteys all around L.A. It was great but it had nothing on dressing as a Yellow Crayon along with my Red Crayon brother when I was 5. The Crayons? Get it?
Three favorite cities: New York. Los Angeles (sorry it's home). Rome.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: I remember thinking I had to hide Nirvana's "Nevermind" because Cobain was giving the camera the finger. But I think U2's "Achtung Baby" and KLF's "The White Room" were my first CD's. Weird.
First stage kiss: I think Emily Fox in a one act play I forget the name of. It was really intense though. The one act. The kiss was great. She's married now.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager:

I played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar in high school. I dyed my hair blue. I played The Engineer in this crazy adaptation of Miss Saigon in college. It took place 16 years later in a Veteran's meeting. My character was now homeless in the U.S.A but I carried around all the prostitutes' clothes in a shopping cart. I interrupt the Veteran's meeting where Chris is trying to reconcile his relationship with his wife and estranged son from Kim. I start pulling out the dresses and we relive the musical.

It was totally crazy but ended up being incredible. An electric hand-held fan was the helicopter. Kim was a ghost who entered through an emergency exit in the dead of winter in New Haven. She literally brought chills to everyone in THE theater (an apartment complex basement).

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: I was playing Shylock in high school and my theater director Ted Walch showed me Alec Guinness playing Fagin. As I said before it was the biggest revelation I've had as an actor.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: The steak tartare at Joe Allen's is really great. I also love the chicken club sandwich at Glass House Tavern. Pre-show I tend to eat and drink lightly. By drink I mean smoothies and juice and what not.
Favorite liquid refreshment: We are making a ginger, apple cider vinegar, lemon, cayenne pepper cocktail back stage these days. It's very cool and exciting.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:

I just like being on the stage. For You Can't Take It With You we have been doing vocal warmups but it's important to me to get on the stage with a copy of the script and just immerse yourself in the moment and the story ahead of you. Philip Seymour Hoffman was on the stage every night before Death of a Salesman studying the script like we still had so much to solve. I admired that. I try to emulate that constant search for more discovery.

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: When I was in 8th grade I "performed" the opening monologue of "Patton" for a class showcase. "I want you to remember that no dumb bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." Then I lost it. I froze and was terribly nervous. I had no idea what came next and I just ended it there with a brief, "Thank you."
Worst costume ever: For some reason when I opened my trailer door on the set of "Donnie Darko," my first movie, I was really disheartened to find a clown suit waiting for me. Somehow I thought life was trying to tell me something.
Best costume ever: The tuxedo I wear in You Can't Take It With You makes me look a lot better than I actually do.
Worst job you ever had: I have somehow, thankfully, managed to only work as an actor. Now the worst job I've ever had in this business is a whole different article.
Craziest audition story: Well 99% of my job is rejection so the craziest audition story would have to be actually getting the damn job. Thanks Scott Ellis!
What drew you to this project? My high school did a production of You Can't Take It With You while I was in middle school. I already had fantasies of being an actor and performing on that stage. Watching the older students do this was like watching the pros. It was so great. Doing this show on Broadway is definitely special and has the feeling of things coming full circle.
What has been the biggest challenge so far? It's all challenging. I'm continually surprised how theater and the repetition of performance is so profoundly not boring. As soon as a moment one night passes I am eager to reach that same moment again the following night. There is no contentment in theater. At least not for me. I find performance to be a string of failures or discoveries. I'm either coming back to improve or dig deeper.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of this show/character? I don't play leading men. At least not often. It's fun to put on the gorgeous tuxedo and kiss the beautiful Rose Byrne. Granted I've had to make Tony Kirby a bit of a scheming goof ball to make the leap accessible but it's a fun challenge. I think he's a closet weirdo or secret Sycamore which I can relate to or play from experience. The debonair suitor is something I have to believe Kaufman and Hart will take care of for me.
Most challenging role you have played onstage: They're all challenging. I find performances become harder and harder because you learn more and more during the run. By the end of a show you are bringing so much history and discovery on stage with you. It's a ton of knowledge and detail you're attempting to convey in a short time, in real time. That takes increasingly more focus and commitment.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: I want to play Edgar in King Lear. Anyone?
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Eponine always steals the show for me
Something about you that surprises people: I think I'm easy to get to know and so not necessarily surprising but I'll keep an ear out from now on.
Career you would want if not a performer: I'd have to go back to school to figure that out. I'd be in a lot of trouble.
Three things you can't live without: Food, water and oxygen. Or friends, family and art.
"I'll never understand why…” … many things are the way they are but for one, why people get on an elevator before you have gotten off.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: There's always next pilot season...
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