PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Jeff Hiller of Shakespeare in the Park's Love's Labour's Lost

By Matthew Blank
July 23, 2013

Jeff Hiller, who plays Nathaniel in the Public Theater's world-premiere musical Love's Labour's Lost at Shakespeare in the Park, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.



New York stage credits include Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (Broadway and Off-Broadway), Awesome '80s Prom and Silence! The Musical.

He has appeared on screen in "30 Rock," "Ugly Betty," "Starved," "Guiding Light," "Ghost Town," "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" and "Psych."





Full given name: Jeff Raymond Hiller (It’s just “Jeff,” no “rey.” But I will answer to anything cause I love attention.)
Where you were born/where you were raised: San Antonio, TX
Zodiac Sign:Sagittarius… unless that means something bad to you, and then fill in the sign you feel I best represent.
What your parents did/do for a living:They are retired now, but my dad was a mechanical engineer and my mom was a CPA, so obviously I’m an actor now.
Siblings:One sister, named Melissa, who is married with two great boys (they are the real comedians in my family).
Special skills:I can make it look like I am threading an invisible wire through my lips and controlling it with my hands. It has come in handy exactly zero times.
Something you're REALLY bad at:Trying to sing flat (humble brag in the HOUSE!)
First Broadway show you ever saw: I saw an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis starring Baryshnikov on a family trip to NYC when I was a kid. My mom got the tickets from TKTS. I’m sure it was a fascinating show, but let’s just say it was not what inspired me to become an actor.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls. Anyone who says different is a liar or a monster.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor? I watched a LOT of sitcoms, and I am pretty sure I developed comedic timing from Bea Arthur in “Golden Girls” reruns.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: I have been in L.A. for the last year, so I haven’t seen much, but I just saw Here Lies Love and I dug that a lot. Also, I tell people to see Matilda if they have kids and Kinky Boots if they don’t. I haven’t seen either, but that doesn’t stop me from pretending I know stuff.
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: “Change” from A New Brain. I’ve never met Mary Testa, but I wouldn’t mind being her best friend.
Favorite musicals: Follies, Godspell, Falsettoland, Spitfire Grill, Violet, The Last Five Years – I could go on for a really long time.
Some favorite modern plays: I know it doesn’t sound very unique, but I loved August: Osage County. Also Take Me Out, Wonder of the World and Ruined.
Some favorite modern playwrights: The Qwan Company
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Gilda Radner. I have a surprisingly specific fantasy about our two-person show on Broadway.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: I started out as an improviser at the UCB theatre and I saw a show by the improv team “Respecto Montalban” where Dannah Feinglass and Jackie Clarke played soft-spoken serial killers. It was the first improv show I saw and it BLEW. MY. MIND.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: "Music" by The Weepies (Oh! Is that why they’re called that?)
You personal acting idols: David Hyde Pierce. I love his timing.
MAC or PC? A MAC. I like the sleek silhouette.
Most played song on your iPod: Well, I just checked and it's Rihanna’s “Only Girls in the World,” but I swear to you it’s only because I did it at Our Hit Parade one time. Oh all RIGHT! I am obsessed with Rihanna! SUE ME!
Last book you read: “We Killed” which is a book about women in comedy. Did you know that Elayne Boosler was the first female stand-up to break from the “Clubs?"
Must-see TV show(s): “HGTV Star” (cause I love an accent wall)
Last good movie you saw: "The Heat" - that movie is FUNNY. You should totally see it!
Some films you consider classics: "Mean Girls," "9 to 5," "Showgirls" (they’re not all classics for the same reason)
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Angela Lansbury and Bernadette Peters. So yeah, I saw A Little Night Music twice. In my head that seemed like a cooler thing to brag about than what it looks like in print.
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Artistic competition shows. I might be the last person in New York still watching “Project Runway.”
Three favorite cities: New York City (forever!), Austin, TX (cause my family is there) and Los Angeles (cause they put avocado on everything).
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: It was either “Losing My Religion” by REM or “Joyride” by Roxette. So, I’m either really cool or really not cool.
First stage kiss: I have never had a stage kiss. The fool never gets the girl or the boy. But, he DOES get to eat carbohydrates.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When I saw "ET" at four years old and discovered there were child actors. I didn’t become a child actor, but God I wanted to be one SO bad.
How you got your Equity card: Look, I am gonna be honest here. I sometimes tell people I got it when I did The Awesome 80’s Prom, but that is a lie. And now it is on print and online.

Here is the truth. I got it by being a roaming character at the haunted-house-themed restaurant, The Jekyll and Hyde Club. It might not be the most prestigious beginning, but it’s the only performance of mine that Patti LuPone attended.

Favorite pre-/post- show meal: (note where) I just get a simple tossed salad at Lenny’s ('cause I’m a lady)
Favorite liquid refreshment: Makers Mark on the rocks ('cause sometimes I’m not a lady)
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Lots of stretching – you know, putting my legs behind my head and shoving my fist in my mouth and stuff that we dancers do.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: During Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson I accidentally threw a knife in to the audience.

You ever accidentally thrown a blunt object at a large group of people who are sitting in the dark? It is an unsettling feeling.

Worst costume ever: When I did Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas I wore a pod to mimic the body of the muskrat I was playing. It looked great for a muskrat, but way too pear-shaped from a human perspective.
Worst job you ever had: It’s a toss up between handing out condoms while wearing only a towel at a bath house during HIV prevention week and waiting tables at an Olive Garden.
Craziest audition story: In the Roundabout Space, the bathroom is INSIDE the audition room. I auditioned for a reading in that room while I was having some dietary issues.
What drew you to this project? What crazy person isn’t drawn to The Public’s Shakespeare in the Park? Or to working with Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman?

Plus, I’ve been in L.A. for the last year, and I am ready for a New York Summer – cause I look great when I am covered in my own sweat.

What has been the biggest challenge so far? I guess the language of Shakespeare poses a challenge, but it’s been really exciting to get back to it for the first time since college.

So, I guess the biggest challenge has been being in the rehearsal room with Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (he won’t read this, right?).

What do you most enjoy about working at The Public? When I first moved to New York, The Public Theater seemed like the classiest slash down-towniest place in the city, and I never even entertained the idea that I would ever get to work there (I mean, this is where Cassie first danced with the mirror!).

Now that I have done two shows there and lots of performances at the Pub, I feel very proud that I am a part of the place. A HUGE part of that place. I would say I am third after Joe Papp and Meryl Streep.

Most challenging role you have played onstage: I did a fringe show called Air Guitar: The Musical. I was… not good.
If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be? I would go back to Silence! The Musical and play my track one last week. Not just because I love that role, but also because the theatre is really close to my apartment.
Some favorite screen or commercial appearances: I played a naked ghost in "Ghost Town" which I enjoyed because I got to show off all of the work I have done on my body.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: This sounds like I am making a joke, but I really want to play Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie. I think I would bring something to that role that would be unique.
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: Mame!!
Something about you that surprises people: I used to be a social worker.
Career you would want if not a performer: I’d either go back to social work, or maybe be an interior designer. Maybe I could do it for low income housing and do both! Holy cow. Did I just create a new path for myself?
Three things you can't live without: My partner Neil, love of family and friends and Chipotle burritos.
"I'll never understand why…" … those people on “Catfish” are surprised.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s cause that will drive you crazy. Also, floss every day. Toothlessness really limits your options.