PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: James Van Der Beek, Star of Screen and Geffen Playhouse's The Gift

By Matthew Blank
19 Feb 2013

Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Nothing beats a good, pre-show Alexander lie-down.
What continues to draw you to the stage in general even while busy with screen work? It's where I started... where I first fell in love with this crazy occupation. Being onstage feels like touching home base for me.
Any desire to one day play Broadway? It was the first career goal I ever had and one of the few I haven't gotten around to, yet. So yes!
What drew you to this project in particular? It was such a provocative piece, with humor and truth laced into an argument that's tricky to pull off... but there's so much support from the script, I thought it'd be a fascinating challenge to undertake in front of an audience every night. And it is...
What can audiences expect to see in this character/performance that is perhaps different from what you've done before? It's a very adult role... the kind of thing I simply wasn't old enough to have pulled off 5 years ago.
Out of so many, do you have any favorite screen or commercial roles? I have very warm memories about the experience of making "Varsity Blues," and I remember loving what Roger Avary had done with "The Rules of Attraction" when I first saw it.
Who have you played on "Law & Order"? What edition? I've done several "Law & Orders" actually... always playing someone creepy and/or smarmy. It's a rite of passage for any actor to do some time on a "Law & Order."
Any other upcoming or side projects you can talk about? I'll be in Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: I actually love it when mishaps occur... I find it can infuse an energy of truth that positively effects everything after it... at least most of the time.

I once realized I had forgotten my watch while doing a Lanford Wilson play at the Signature - a watch I referred to constantly throughout the show - so I casually left my poor co-star on stage while I sprinted up to my dressing room and grabbed it. Poor guy had no idea what was going on.

Worst costume ever: In hindsight, just about everything I wore on the first few season's of "Dawson's Creek" could probably be considered my worst wardrobe ever.
Most challenging role you have played: I played a guy with multiple personality disorder on an episode of "Criminal Minds" a few years back... that was pretty crazy.
You've played funny, dramatic, nice guys, psychopaths... Is there one type that is most fun or easiest for you to play? I've found it's pretty easy to make an audience hate you or be scared of you... and while that can be a lot of fun, I love the challenge of playing characters who are unmistakably flawed - without losing the empathy of the audience.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: I've wanted to be in a "Star Wars" movie since I knew what movies were.
Something about you that surprises people: I can sing a little.
Career you would want if not a performer: A teacher.
Three things you can't live without: My wife and two kids.
"I'll never understand why…" … some Americans, of all people, feel they can take pride in their lack of tolerance.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: The most interesting thing you can be is authentic. And don't despair - you're one audition away from changing your life!