Assassin: John Hinckley
(aka John Warnock Hinckley, Jr.)
Born: May 29, 1955, in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Father: John W. Hinckley, Sr., Vanderbilt Energy Corporation Chairman and President
Before he was an assassin: Songwriter
Other jobs: Busboy, College Student
Assassination Attempt: President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, outside the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C.
Found: Not guilty by reason of insanity on June 21, 1982, and sent to live in St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Famous Words: [Throwing a pen, during his trial, at a videotaped testimony in which Jodie Foster denied any relationship with him] "I'll get you, Foster!"
Actor: Alexander Gemignani
Born: July 3, 1979, in Manhattan, New York (grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey)
Father: Paul Gemignani, Musical Director of Assassins
Before he was in Assassins: Off-Broadway: Avenue Q; Other: The Trapped Family Singers (FringeNYC), world premiere of Marty
Other jobs: UPS Store, TCBY, Waiter at TGI Friday's
Why he became an actor: "I went to college to be a trumpet major and it was great. I had a fantastic trumpet teacher and I did very well. Then after the first semester, I [began] losing my love for playing my horn and I didn't want to do that. It was more about [how] I couldn't see myself in a pit, I couldn't see myself doing that. I always loved to do theatre and I did it in high school and I guess I can kinda sing, so I thought 'I'll audition for the department.' Well, it turns out I was at a great department and didn't know it. I loved the school so much and had such a great freshman year that I didn't want to leave."
On his casting for Assassins:
"[My school] had just done the show my senior year and I was called back for Byck. The teacher and I have a running gag about it, 'I'm going to go down in history as the guy who didn't cast you in Assassins.' I did my senior showcase after graduating. A guy who worked for [casting agent] Jim Carnahan came up to me after and said 'Hey, I'd love for you to come in for John Hinckley on Monday.' I said 'Okay' and went in. My dad was in the room. He actually was a little too nervous to handle it, so he got up and left the room for my first audition. I thought, 'That was fun, I got to audition for a Broadway show right out of college.' Then, the next day I got a call that said 'Come back tomorrow.' And it was very surprising, but great."
On being a political person:
"I have nothing but the utmost respect for people who follow politics and make a stand on an issue. If there's something I feel very strongly about, sure, but I've never been a very political person."
Assassin: Samuel Byck
(aka Samuel Joseph Byck)
Before he was an assassin: Salesman
Other jobs: Army Soldier
Next featured as a character in: "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" film starring Sean Penn
Assassination attempt: President Richard M. Nixon on February 22, 1974, at Baltimore-Washington International Airport
Why he became an assassin: In recorded tapes he sent to celebrities, including West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein, Byck blamed the government for his woes and revealed his plan to hijack a commercial plane and crash it into the White House. Recently divorced, unemployed and turning 44, his plan "Pandora's Box" went into effect as he entered the airport with a gun and gasoline bomb, forced his way through a security checkpoint by killing a guard and made it onto an airplane headed to Atlanta.
Died: February 22, 1974, onboard Delta Flight 523. After being shot twice by police outside the still-parked plane, Byck turned his gun on himself.
Famous Words: [Protesting in a Santa Claus suit after a previous failed attempt to picket without a permit] "I want to see if they have the guts to arrest Santa Claus."
Actor: Mario Cantone
Born: December 9, 1959, in Boston, Massachusetts (grew up in Stoneham, MA)
Before he was in Assassins: Broadway: The Violet Hour, Love! Valour! Compassion!; Other: The Crumple Zone, "Sex and the City"
Other jobs: Jewelry Salesman, Stand-up Comedian
Next featured in: Laugh Whore, slated for Broadway this fall
Why he became an actor: "It was the only thing I knew how to do. I was short and Italian and odd. That's why I got into stand-up [comedy] cause I thought if I'm just an actor, I'm screwed. And it only took me 90 years to get anyplace and I'm still only semi-famous."
On his casting for Assassins:
"I called Joe [Mantello, his director for Assassins and Love! Valour! Compassion!] and said 'I never say to you: "You're doing this play, I wanna do it."' He goes 'What? You want to be in Assassins? I already cast you.' I'm like 'Wha...? What [role] is it?' And I'm thinking Guiteau because it's the flamboyant role and everybody thought that. And he said 'No, Sam Byck.' And it was a stroke because when I did it at the workshop, [original Assassins cast member] Victor Garber came up to me and said 'You're the only person who could stop a Sondheim show with a monologue and not a song.' I saw it three times Off-Broadway and I liked the part. I just didn't see myself in it."
On most interesting discovery in research for playing Byck:
"He hugged this girl before he went off to the airport. It seemed like it was just a very saddened moment for him; an innocent, sad moment that was pure for him."
On being a political person:
"No, I'm really not. I think the older I get, the more I'm aware of it and the more I pay attention to it. I don't talk about politics too much in my act [either], I have a little bit in my standup, but I'd rather rip apart Nicole Kidman or the Hilton sisters."
On whether he'll be putting on weight for the role:
"No. There will be no weight put on, I am not Marlon Brando or Robert De Niro. I'm in a schlumpy Santa Claus outfit, so I'll look slobby but underneath there will be a fine-ass body with six-pack abs." [Laughs.]