Paul From Grace: Actor Paul Rudd, in a New Light, On Broadway

By Marc Acito
10 Sep 2012

Rudd already has stellar dinner companions. Grace stars Steppenwolf veteran Kate Arrington; seven-time Emmy winner Edward Asner, who is making his first Broadway appearance in nearly a quarter century; and "Boardwalk Empire" regular Michael Shannon, an Oscar nominee for his role as the psychologically disturbed neighbor in "Revolutionary Road."

Rudd is particularly happy to be working with Shannon, a longtime friend. It's not just because of the after-show drink, he says: "Michael Shannon is one of the greatest stage actors I've ever seen."

So is Rudd prepared to greet fans at the stage door, a ritual that can be so time-consuming it amounts to a de facto third act?

"I've never had to deal with it," he says. His last Broadway outing was Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain, starring Julia Roberts. "When she came out the stage door, traffic patterns changed. Bradley Cooper and I were off the hook. We were just 'the guys in the Julia Roberts play.'"

Having lived in New York for 17 years, Rudd is used to walking the streets unrecognized. "People in New York just want to get where they're going," he says. "They might be like, 'Oh look, there's Brad Pitt, but we've got an 8 PM dinner reservation.'"

That said, Rudd admits, "I can see them sticking around for Ed Asner."

Once he's inside the theatre, however, Rudd feels certain of the connection with the audience. "Actors can tell by degrees what the audience is like," he says, "even a quiet house. If there's a lot of coughers, it doesn't mean they're not listening. You feel the energy. So there's a charge in hearing the announcement that curtain goes up in half an hour. It's a thrill."

With Rudd returning to the theatre a bigger star than he's ever been and showing sides of his range he's never shown before, the thrill is mutual.

(This feature appears in the September 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)