PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER: Cory Michael Smith, Cock's Lover and Fighter

By Brandon Voss
16 Jun 2012

Smith in Cock.
photo by Joan Marcus


What was the rehearsal process like? Cock seems like an instance where those collegiate trust- and chemistry-building exercises might have come in handy.
CMS: I totally know what you mean, but we didn't do any falling backward into each others' arms. James just made us all feel so comfortable with each other. James is incredibly economical in his direction; he's not someone who speaks often or a lot, so when he said something it was incredibly purposeful, efficient and personal. Because of that, there were a lot of moments where we were reading the script together, thinking independently, sharing when we wanted to, and just looking into each others' eyes. I know this sounds ridiculous, but there were so many times when we were just sitting in silence together. A group of people that can sit together quietly, comfortably, and only speak when necessary is like heaven to me.

What kind of work went into nailing your British accent?
CMS: We had a lovely voice coach come in, Kate Wilson, and she's wonderful. I also listened to a lot of different people from London. I just love dialects; they're really fun. One of the coolest ways to start building a character is the way he moves his mouth, what part of the mouth he puts his words into, how he expresses himself, and there's a certain flavor you get with a dialect. It's nice, because the play doesn't dictate exactly where the characters are from, so there's some leniency in that.

The play features no costume changes, no props, and no pantomime of stage business. What are the benefits of that?
CMS: That was actually Mike Bartlett's choice, because it's written in the play that there are no sets, no props and no miming. I don't believe it says anything about costumes, but I'm sure that was his intention as well. Put simply, it makes the people important. It's incredibly difficult and exciting, because there's nothing to hide behind and nothing to distract ourselves from the human being in front of us. It makes that person the most important thing at that moment.



Back to John, the play makes it clear that he is not your typical heartthrob or stud.
CM: [Laughs.] Nor am I.

So what makes him so darn attractive to two wildly disparate characters like M and W?
CMS: I don't know. God bless them. Clearly it's nothing physical. I think it goes back to his honesty, which is really endearing. At least that's why I love him. When someone's up-front with you, telling you who they are, telling you how they feel, not hiding their behavior, putting it all out on the table for you, saying what they do know and what they don't yet know… how can you not trust that person? There's something very attractive about that.

Considering the play's controversial title, is it fair to assume that John's endowment and bedroom skills are also worth fighting over?
CMS: Yeah! [Laughs.] Yeah. He's a passionate person, a lover, so I would imagine that John would be a good time in the bedroom.

Regardless of their reasons, two people are ostensibly fighting over you every night. Does that go your head a little bit?
CMS: Oh, God, no. If anything, it makes me feel guilty. No, the play exhausts me, so I don't have time to let it go to my head.

W says to John, "Some people might think you were scrawny, but I think you're like a picture drawn with a pencil." That's a terrific backhanded compliment, isn't it?
CMS: Right? That's one of my favorite lines in the play. The first time I read that, I thought, 'If someone said that to me, I'd probably marry that person.' But the first time we did it in front of an audience, and then every time thereafter, it gets one of the biggest laughs in the show. I didn't expect people to laugh at that, because I think it's so lovely and beautiful. It's actually the best compliment I've ever gotten, except it's in a play and not in real life.