As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Nathan Lee Graham, seen on Broadway in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Wild Party and Off-Broadway in The View UpStairs (Lucille Lortel and AUDELCO Award nominations), Hit the Wall, and Wig Out! (Drama League Award nomination). His numerous screen credits include Zoolander, Katy Keene, Indoor Boys, Broad City, LA to Vegas, Zoolander 2, Hug-O-Gram, Connection Unavailable, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Migraine, Trophy Kids, Bad Actress, Scrubs, The Comeback, and more. Graham will also be part of the eighth annual Night of A Thousand Judys, honoring Judy Garland and benefiting the Ali Forney Center, July 14.
What is your typical day like now?
Well, I’ve attempted to structure my days as if nothing has really changed so that when we do return to a new normal, my body will not be in complete shock! So that consists of maintaining a regular sleep regime. When I am in great health, I am a person who only needs five to six hours of sleep. I get up straight away, turn on the classical music station on the radio WQXR 105.9, wash my face, brush my teeth, and begin my stretches and calisthenics—which include 600 jumping jacks (I won a contest in the fourth grade for the most jumping jacks)! Shower time and fresh indoor clothing! I have an entire wardrobe dedicated to being worn specifically indoors. I feel so much better if I can physically manifest an outward change if I have to be indoors all day. I’ve also discovered that I certainly have no excuse when it comes to having a sustainable clothing ethic. I could literally survive without purchasing one more stitch of clothing for the rest of my days. Then a breakfast bar along with my vitamins and health “dolls” for the day. I check my phone for all of the social media madness and my emails, and I put my phone in a separate room until mid-day for self-care purposes. Then it’s NY1 for the latest COVID-19 updates and the weather. The day unfolds. I’m accepting some things, turning down others. I’m only out twice a week for provisions and essential business. Rinse and repeat.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I’m currently starting to read Jeffrey C. Stewart’s book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, who was considered the father of the Harlem Renaissance. She’s a very thick read, and I’m sure it will be fascinating! Now my TV game is on point right now because I have never had this much time to devote to it! So here are just a few off the top of my head. First of all, everyone should be watching my show Katy Keene on the CW app or HBO Max. It’s delightful! Now on Netflix: Marcella, Luther, The Bodyguard, Peaky Blinders, The Last Kingdom, Grace and Frankie, The Witcher, Dear White People, Giri(Duty)/Haji(Shame), Medici: The Magnificent, Queen Sono, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Two Popes, Self-Made, Wanda Sykes Not Normal, Black AF, Altered Carbon, Genetified, and my guilty pleasure The Vampire Diaries. Now on PBS: Call The Midwife, Grantchester, Endeavour, Nature, American Masters. Now on Showtime: Billions, Shameless, Homeland. On HBO: The Watchmen, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Suspicion, My Brilliant Friend, The Plot Against America. On Hulu: Love Victor, Rami, Better Things. On Amazon: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Man in the High Castle, Knives Out. On Epix: Pennyworth, Belgravia. HBO Max: Katy Keene, I May Destroy You. News: MSNBC—All In with Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, AM Joy Reid, The Last Word Lawrence O’Donnell. The Met.org in HD. And last but not least The Barefoot Contessa, Martha Stewart Bakes. Just to name a few….
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
I’m always very cautious when giving out general advice by saying that it’s from my perspective and my point of reference. And now with that caveat. I’ve got two words for you. Moderation and reality. Moderate your guilty habits like food and alcohol and even trash TV. Limit your exposure to the negative, which is not to say limit your exposure to the truth. The truth may be painful at times, but it will set you free. And anything that sets you free cannot be negative. Deal with the reality of situations. Trust me, you will not be disappointed as much in the long run. And you will make better decisions. And once you make a decision based upon the information you gathered at the time, be at peace with it. No second guessing and coulda shoulda woulda. It’s all about self-care right now so that you can be there for others when needed. Self-care is not about being selfish. Selfishness in large part is why we’re in the predicaments we are currently facing. Self-care is about fortifying yourself to show up, listen, and take care of you and your loved ones and the human race at large. So reach out to people, platforms, and/or performances that can help you get through a day, which turns into a week, a month, and so on! And, in general, doing something nice for someone, no matter how small, as long as it’s sincere, always makes you feel better.
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
Now I’m about to contradict myself dagnabbit! The truth is I have really taken well to this forced time off. I have never in my career had any substantive time off! Even on an occasional vacation I always have it in the back of my mind: Nathan you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Because when you return you have to do this, you have to do that! I mean seriously, all of the vacations I’ve had to cut short or cancel and modify my behavior. So as far as creative juices are concerned, I have not felt the need and/or the inclination to be performative in any way. Realizing of course the fortunate privilege of always having my image and work somewhere out there in the ether on someone’s TV or device on a regular basis. Now what I have felt the need to do is be extremely observant and listen and soak up everything! So that when it’s time to 5,6,7,8, I’ll be channeling all of the awareness and goings on that have been happening! The long haul for some real transformative stuff. Mind you, I’m always trying to improve my schtick, it’s just that this time I hope others will be, too!
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
The day Broadway shut off the lights March 12, 2020, I was in the midst of a developmental reading of a new play Due to circumstances beyond our control…NAT QUEEN COLE! Conceived by me, written by Stan Zimmerman and Christian McLaughlin, and produced by Justin Weatherby and myself. Believe you me, we will continue with the project and the current state of affairs will be reflected in the play. I’m genuinely happy to say that the only way that I have used my mug over this isolation period is to lift up others. Either through PSA’s about properly washing ones hands, supporting our health care workers, and supporting the LGBTQAI+ community. So in that spirit I’m looking forward to support one of my favorite organizations, the @AliForneyCenter, in a special online event the 8th annual Night of A Thousand Judys! A lovely pride event hosted by the bon vivant Justin Sayre with a parade of singular sensational talent to benefit homeless LGBTQAI+ youth.
What organization(s) would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Do some good if you will and/or can by donating, informing, and following some of these organizations: @aliforneycenter, @colorofchange, @changedotorg, @8cantwait_org, @glsen, @obamafoundation, @translawcenter.