PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Michael Cristofer, "Smash" Star and Pulitzer Winner

By Robert Simonson
08 Aug 2012

Cristofer in Tony Kushner's Intelligent Homosexual's Guide...
Photo by Joan Marcus

I assume, with Judd Hirsch in the cast, you hope for further productions.
MC: I do now, because last night, the first preview, was a rather wonderful evening. The play really works and I'm really happy with it.

Is this your first new play in a while?
MC: Yeah. Well, I kind of moved away from the movie world a few years ago.

And you've been very prominent as an actor on the New York stage lately, with roles in A View From the Bridge on Broadway and Tony Kushner's Intelligent Homosexual's Guide...
MC: What happened was Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman asked me to act in a play in Westport about four years ago. I thought, well, maybe this is the time to look into that again and see if I can still do it. So I went and did it. It was a two-character play [Old Wicked Songs] and it was very difficult. I had to do a Viennese accent, play the piano and sing German lieder. I thought, well, if I could do this, I can still hold my own on stage. That led to doing Shakespeare in the Park, I did the Romeo and Juliet that Michael Greif directed. Suddenly, I was back in the theatre again, feeling like a kid. And then I've been doing some TV, too. I did a wonderful series that didn't succeed, "Rubicon."

But you're in another series, "Smash," that got picked up for a second season.
MC: [Laughs.] Yeah. Theresa's series.

Is that how you got involved? Series creator Theresa Rebeck thought of you for the part?
MC: Yes. And [casting director] Bernie Telsey knew my work. It was a character they didn't have in the pilot. I went and shot one scene and they decided to expand it. I've started now with the second season.

Cristofer and Erin Wyatt on "Smash."
photo by Will Hart/NBC

Do you know how many episodes you'll be in?
MC: No. I'm not a regular character. I'm a recurring character. I have spoken to the new showrunner who's taken over from Theresa. He's very involved in what happens this season. I hope it works out. I also hope [that I don't] have too many episodes, because I'm going to do the new Stephen Belber play Don't Go Gentle at MCC Theater in the fall.

Will the tone of "Smash" change much this coming season?
MC: I've only read one script so I can't really tell. The story that's going to drive this season is pretty interesting. It's similar to last year.

You mean it's built around the creation of a show?
MC: Yes. I guess there are things I'm not supposed to say.

Is your character going to have some more drinks thrown in his face?
MC: I hope so! I really am hoping. We got so much mileage out of that. People would come up to me in restaurants. There's also a thing I want to do with it, if we do it again. I'm hoping the drink-throwing happens again, because I have a bit I want to do if I get the opportunity.

Did you pattern your character on any particular Broadway producer?
MC: Well, everyone thinks of the Weisslers. I guess the writers had that in mind. And I know them. But my favorite all-time producer was Alex Cohen, whom I knew pretty well. Alex was not the kind of guy I play in "Smash," but what I'm talking about is the kind of slightly pompous way he carried himself. He was terribly upper class, and acted that way, but you always sort of knew that he wasn't, that he was really lower class.