PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: "Boardwalk Empire" and Bad Jews Star Michael Zegen
By Matthew Blank
October 15, 2013
Michael Zegen, who plays the role of Liam in Roundabout's Off-Broadway staging of Bad Jews, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Zegen previously appeared Off-Broadway in Liz Meriwether’s Oliver Parker! (dir. Evan Cabnet) and Greg Moss’ punkplay (dir. Davis McCallum).
TV credits include recurring roles on “The Walking Dead,” “Boardwalk Empire” (Bugsy Siegel), “How to Make It in America” and “Rescue Me.”
Full given name:
Michael Jonathan Zegen
Where you were born/where you were raised:
Originally from Glen Rock, NJ… then moved one town over to Ridgewood in the 5th grade.
What your parents did/do for a living:
Mom was an elementary school teacher who now teaches nursery school. Dad is a lawyer.
One older brother, Josh, and one younger, Marc. Both in real estate. Yep, there’s gotta be some truth to that “middle-child syndrome.”
First Broadway show you ever saw:
I grew up close to the city, so my parents took me to lots of shows. Not sure what the first was, but I do remember seeing an early preview of the original Into The Woods… and it BLEW MY MIND!!!
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be?
Brando in Streetcar would be the obvious answer, but I’d also be really curious to see some old-timey, turn-of-the-century Vaudeville.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor?
Growing up, my favorite actors were Michael J. Fox, Matthew Broderick and River Phoenix. Oh, and Kirk Cameron!
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends:
Pippin was amazing! I performed it in high school, and it brought back some great memories (though I don’t remember my show having as many acrobats or fire-jugglers).
Oliver!, Into The Woods, Assassins, Les Miz, Sweeney Todd, Spring Awakening, Rent, In The Heights, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc. The list goes on. What can I say? I like a good musical now and again.
Some favorite modern plays:
Annie Baker’s The Flick; Amy Herzog’s 4,000 Miles; Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors; David Lindsay Abaire’s Good People and Joshua Harmon’s Bad Jews (duh).
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with:
John Wilkes Booth. Maybe I coulda talked some sense into him.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget:
During my college semester abroad in London, I saw a production of a play called Cloudstreet, performed by Australia’s Sydney Theater Company. It was 4.5 hours of pure magic that I will never, ever forget.
You personal acting idols:
Steve Buscemi. I’d like to have his career.
MAC or PC?
MAC, of course. What am I, a communist?
Yahoo Fantasy Baseball, ESPN, Facebook (sadly) and Playbill!
Must-see TV show(s):
"Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "Girls," "Boardwalk Empire," "Walking Dead," "Game of Thrones" and MTV’s "Catfish."
Last good movie you saw:
I’m in it so perhaps I’m biased, but I thought Noah Baumbach’s "Frances Ha" was really terrific.
Some films you consider classics:
"Back To The Future"
"Pee Wee’s Big Adventure"
"Ferris Bueller’s Day Off"
"Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves"
Performer you would drop everything to go see:
Pop culture guilty pleasure:
Three favorite cities:
New York, London, San Francisco
First CD/Tape/LP you owned:
I believe it was a cassette single of MC Hammer’s "Addams Family Groove"
First stage kiss:
My buddy Alex Anfanger in Greg Moss’ punkplay. So very awkward.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:
I played the title character in my kindergarten production of The Gingerbread Man and never looked back!
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: (note where)
It’s tough to eat beforehand, but the Bad Jews can usually be found post-show at St. Andrews Pub on 46th St. Mad shout-outs to Surly Scottish Sarah!
Favorite liquid refreshment:
I’m into juicing (as those who know me can attest), so I usually start the day with a refreshing green juice!
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:
As soon as “places” are called, I pound fists with my brotha Phil Ettinger, strut a jig with Tracee and have a dance party with Molly Ranson and Joe Heaton, our production assistant. Never a dull moment backstage at the Laura Pels.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:
I had a full-blown panic attack during my Bar Mitzvah. I think that trumps any forgotten line or theatrical mishap.
Worst costume ever:
It was a skin-tight skeleton unitard for Liz Meriwether’s Oliver Parker! Wait, maybe that was the best costume ever.
Worst job you ever had:
After college, I worked at my dad’s law firm, and he has since told me that I was “the worst employee he’s ever had.”
Craziest audition story:
I auditioned for Woody Allen last year. It wasn’t necessarily crazy. In fact, it was pretty standard, as far as auditions go. But yeah… Woody Allen. Crazy, right?
What drew you to this project?
Josh Harmon’s brilliant dialogue. See the play, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Keeping a straight face on stage. We like to have fun.
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of this show?
Hearing those laughs from the audience. In my opinion, there’s nuthin’ better.
Most challenging role you have played onstage:
This would be it. For sure.
Favorite screen/commercial gigs:
"The Walking Dead" is probably the most fun you can have as an actor. It’s not everyday you get to stab a zombie in the face!
Leading man role you've been dying to play:
It’s not technically a “leading man,” and I’m definitely too old for it now, but it was always my dream to play The Artful Dodger.
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at:
I think I’d make for a very precocious Annie.
Something about you that surprises people:
I’m not 12.
Career you would want if not a performer:
Treasure Hunter. Not an archaeologist, per se. Just a dude with a metal detector searching for buried relics.
Three things you can't live without:
Pomegranates, baseball hats and eBay.
"I'll never understand why…"
… people don’t turn off their cell phones when they go to the theatre. Do they think the rules don’t apply to them? TURN THEM OFF!!!! Jerks.
Words of advice for aspiring performers:
Make things happen for yourself. Shoot for the stars!