PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: End of the Rainbow Tony Nominee Michael Cumpsty

By Matthew Blank
08 May 2012

Worst job you ever had: I worked on a farm once and had to slaughter some poultry. Yuck.
What drew you to this project? I really loved Anthony when I first read the play. I saw him as a real, ie not stereotypical, gay man who was devoted to Garland as a person more than as a Diva, and who put himself on the line to protect the human being at the center of her storm.

He's gone through his own hard times, and has had to fight to stay strong. He has great insight and compassion. I like him very much. I'd hope he would be MY friend! Also, I'd heard that Tracie was astonishing playing Garland, which she is.

How did you research for this performance? I looked at some old Judy Garland materials online. But mostly I studied the piano parts.
Your personal favorite Judy Garland performances/songs? I prefer her in "Easter Parade" to "The Wizard of Oz." But "Over the Rainbow" is hard to beat. Another favorite of her songs is "I Happen to Like New York."
Most challenging role you have played onstage: I'd say it's a dead heat between Hamlet and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen. Heisenberg is perhaps not as complex a character, but I had to wrap my head around some of the physics.
Favorite screen or commercial gigs: I very much enjoyed working on "Eat Pray Love" and playing a Russian cellist in the indie movie "Downtown Express" that just finished a run at the Quad.

I loved my character on "L.A. Law," a really decent lawyer who everyone assumed was unprincipled, and a part I played on "Nurse Jackie," a man who's lost his job and his insurance and is ashamed and ultimately suicidal, but who remains as sweet as he can be throughout.

And I enjoyed making a white supremacist I played on "Law & Order" as repellant as possible.

Leading man role you've been dying to play: Garry Essendine in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.
Lear. I’m starting to learn it while I still can. :)
Leading lady role you wish you could play: Shakespeare's Cleopatra
Something about you that surprises people: I'm really very shy and quite socially uncomfortable. Onstage, I'm fine. Strange, but not uncommon among actors, I think.
Career you would want if not a performer: Doctor. Possibly surgery of some kind, possibly pediatrics, maybe psychiatry. But I think you have to be crazier than me to be a shrink.
Three things you can't live without: Fruit, coffee and my partner of 15 years, John Dias.
"I'll never understand why…" ... it's so hard to remember to be courteous to tourists in Times Square, when I so appreciate courtesy from the locals wherever I travel.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Always keep up on something else you can do well. Even successful performers go through long periods without work, and if you can't be self-directed and productive during those times, you can get really very frustrated.
Where were you when you found out about your Tony nomination? I was still in bed, fast asleep, and there was a gentle nudge and a big smile and my agent was on the phone! I didn’t even have to go through a couple of minutes of anxiety. I woke up happy!