The star of television's Emmy Award-winning series "Six Feet Under" and "Sports Night" as well as the upcoming film release of "We Don't Live Here Anymore," spoke with Playbill On-Line about his return to the stage, his brooding characters and theatrical history with writer Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men) and actor Michael C. Hall (Cabaret).
Playbill On-Line: Your theatre career started out alongside playwright Aaron Sorkin, is that how you landed the job on "Sports Night"?
Peter Krause: Initially, he didn't remember me at the audition. But I reminded him that we had bartended together at the Palace Theatre when La Cage aux Folles was playing. He was the bar manager.
PBOL: What about the role of Quentin in After The Fall drew you back to the stage?
PK: For me, the action of the play is a man questioning whether he is worthy or able to love again. But, beyond that I was attracted to the role as a character searching for his own truth hidden in a world of broken definition, exploring the idea of all sorts of duality — the fact that while we are separate people, we are also a part of this big organism, the earth, the organism of all humanity. And how the personal and the political mirror one another, infractions in personal relationships are the same as big political infractions. Systems that we create as people end up oppressing others or in the case of the Holocaust, the attempting to annihilate an entire group. To explore human behavior on an individual basis as it mirrors human behavior on a whole, I found in this play to be quite profound.
PBOL: There are similarities between your roles on "Six Feet Under" and in After The Fall. Actors who have established characters on television tend to try to break out of that on other projects. Is that something you considered?
PK: I've done so many different things on television: I started my career doing sketch comedy with Carol Burnett and I did lots of half-hour situational comedy work, even did an hour series called "The Great Defender," loosely based on "My Cousin Vinny." So, in the television world I can't imagine a career that would have provided me with a more comprehensive view of life in television than the one that I've had. So for me, in terms of breaking out of character, again not a lot of people know a lot of that work — then there's "Sports Night." And the thread between "Sports Night" and "Six Feet Under" and After The Fall and the movie I have coming out in August, "We Don't Live Here Anymore," is that they're all conflicted modern men to a greater or lesser degree. I would say Quentin is the most expressive of the bunch, at least verbally. PBOL: You started doing stagework in college?
PK: College, graduate school then out in Los Angeles and San Diego, while I was in graduate school up at Woodstock [New York] at River Arts Repertory.
PBOL: When was the last time you were on stage?
PK: Actually, while I was doing the pilot for "Sports Night" I was doing a play in Santa Monica, so I guess six years. It's been a while. The year before that I had done a play down in San Diego at The Old Globe.
PBOL: What were some of your favorite stage roles?
PK: I greatly enjoyed Betty and Gerry in Cloud 9. I very much enjoy playing lots of characters, so we did this play 92 Days at The Powerhouse Theatre in Los Angeles and I played like eight different characters, that was fun. Thinking back to graduate school, I really enjoyed playing Sergius in Arms and the Man. I played Teach, believe it or not, in American Buffalo at a very young age, that was an exciting experience.
PBOL: Was it something you always wanted to come back to, the theatre?
PK: It has been. It's been increasingly difficult now that I'm a father and because of my other work schedule, but this just was able to work out by a matter of days in terms of "Six Feet Under" bending their schedule. They finished me early in the very end of May. Basically, the day after, I was on a plane.
PBOL: I hear you actually met your "Six Feet Under" co-star Michael C. Hall before you were cast as brothers...
PK: I was doing publicity for "Sports Night" and the space they were using was at Studio 54, and we were upstairs doing something for TV Guide and I lit a cigarette because there was not a "No Smoking" sign and there was an ashtray right there. So, it set off the fire alarm and Michael was onstage performing [as the Emcee in] Cabaret at that time. And I had never met him, he hadn't been cast yet in "Six Feet Under" nor had I and it was just a few short months later that "Sports Night" was over and I was called by Alan Ball about "Six Feet Under."
PBOL: So, you hadn't actually seen him, then?
PK: No, I didn't see him until the table read for "Six Feet Under" and I asked him if a fire alarm went off while he was onstage doing Cabaret. He looked at me strangely and said "Yes." I said "Well, I apologize, I set it off." He laughed and said "Oh, we blamed it on this actress who just started to play that week who was burning off incense in her dressing room."