Actor Steven Pasquale welcomed Playbill into Dressing Room 11 (“the Kelli O’Hara suite,” he joked) backstage at Lincoln Center Theater as he prepared for another night leading Ayad Akhtar’s newest play Junk, currently running at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
Pulitzer Prize winner Akhtar structured the mammoth production—in cast, scale, and scope—as a war play. Set in the 1980s, the height of the changing economy and capitalization of junk bonds, the story follows financial kingpin Robert Merkin as he orchestrates a corporate takeover. But the play, like much of Akhtar’s other work, also addresses the immigrant experience and themes of discrimination and assimilation of American Jewry. Pasquale has a lot to sink his teeth into with a rich character like Merkin. “I like that he’s ethically challenged. He lives entirely in the gray. His system of beliefs ... I find captivating.
His brilliance really drew people to him,” Pasquale says in the video above.
But it was Akhtar’s name that first intrigued Pasquale. “I’m a huge fan of Disgraced, which won him the Pulitzer Prize two seasons ago. That really established him as one of our important new voices in the theatre. Doug Hughes is our esteemed brilliant director, and I’ve had a long, friendly, collaborative relationship with him, and I knew he was directing, so those two people in the same room made me feel excited about it,” Pasquale says.
“What's beautiful and brilliant about the writing is the audience's ambivalence towards this central character. You really feel them wanting to applaud him and sometimes they do and in other moments being intimidated by his bullying.”
Pasquale also discussed one of his favorite moments in the show: his epic speech at the top of Act 2. “People are receiving that speech in Donald Trump’s American in a way that makes them feel so confused, complicated, angry, motivated. It’s extraordinary to feel that in that particular moment.”
The actor shared which of his co-stars he most enjoys sparring with, digging into Judaism to play this Jewish mastermind, and the things he can’t live without in his dressing room. Watch the full video interview above to find out.