PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Christopher Abbott on The Hill Town Plays, "Girls" and More

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07 Sep 2013

Abbott and Betty Gilpin in The Hill Town Plays.
photo by Sandra Coudert

Do you gravitate more towards stage or film work?
CA: I think I kind of go through moods of both. Sometimes I feel like doing a play, and sometimes I feel like working on a film — just because they're different animals. The fun part about being in a play is that you get to go through the full journey nonstop, and the fun parts about doing a film is that you can be ultra, ultra-specific, and you, obviously, don't have to emote as much to get an idea across. You can get an idea across with just a glance at somebody — a knowing glance. And, I'm a big fan of camera, and I love visuals, so that means I like to work on films just because I love looking at a picture. I definitely go through mood swings with both.

What was your first brush with theatre? Were you always into theatre growing up? Did you do stage work as a child?
CA: No. I didn't start until… I took my first class at a community college in Connecticut about a year-and-a-half into college.

Did you do any shows at college?
CA: No. I didn't do any shows there. I took a theatre class there among the other classes that I was taking, and then I audited… I forgot which paper I read it in, but it was HB Studio that had a free audit week, so I went to audit some classes there, which was down in the West Village [in New York]. I really liked the classes, and then after about six months of kind of going back and forth to Connecticut — because I was still working a few jobs in Connecticut [and] commuting to New York to take a few classes — I eventually stopped working in Connecticut and started going to classes full time there.

And then you made your Broadway debut two seasons ago in The House of Blue Leaves
CA: My Broadway — not theatre, but Broadway [debut].

Tell me about getting to work on that show. I love that play.
CA: Yeah, I do, too. That was, on multiple levels, a really awesome experience because I had never really done… Blue Leaves is essentially a contemporary piece, but it has history to it. It's been done before, and I only — up to that point and still — have done new plays. Just the fact [of getting] to work on something that is a classic piece, and people knew it already, was something new. And then to do it on Broadway for the first time was just as fun. [Playwright] John Guare was there all the time, so to work with someone who has been around for a while and has so much history… And then having David Cromer, too, who is one of my favorite directors ever, was a treat because I loved his approach to the play. He didn't do the typical… I don't think he [envisioned] the stereotype, I guess, of what people think that play should be. He went for the truth in it, and I loved that about him in making that choice.

What was it like working with Ben Stiller and having him in the room? Did you have any conversations about your role, since he played the same part over 20 years ago? It was a full-circle moment for him to revisit Blue Leaves.
CA: He was incredibly hard working and super fun to be around. I think that play meant a lot for him because he had history with it when he played Ronnie back in '86. I think it was kind of a sentimental project for him, and it showed. He enjoyed doing every show. In a way, if you do a small play downtown, you go and have drinks after with the cast — it felt like that. It didn't feel like I was doing a play with a bunch of movie stars… There was a kinship there that was very comfortable.


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