"Dude, trust me," assures 19-year-old newcomer Jake Cannavale. "You're going to see the play, and you're going to be so happy I didn't tell you anything."
We're completely left in the dark when it comes to Fish in the Dark, the new Broadway comedy by and starring "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator Larry David that officially bows March 5 at the Cort. Cannavale couldn't describe the set pieces that surrounded him at the rehearsal studio on 42nd Street, nor talk much about his character — except that he's playing Rosie Perez's son.
He was more than happy to discuss heavy metal, however.
"I sing in a band," he says, although the hair flip, studded belt and name-dropping of bands like Pig Destroyer and Dying Fetus pretty much says it for him. "We're sort of based all over the place because it's a duo, and the other dude travels a lot. He lives in Philadelphia right now, so we don't really play any live shows yet, but we've been recording a lot of music in our own respective spaces. He sends me instrumentals, I add vocals, and then we produce it and mix it. It's awesome really. We're stock piling a lot so that when we finally play shows, we'll have a lot of material."
He met his collaborator, Gene Meyer, at Emerson College, where he is currently taking a leave of absence from his sophomore year to make his Broadway debut. He's studying writing in Boston; he knew that he didn't want to major in acting, and crafting poetry or short stories had always been a passion.
"He was a senior, I was a freshman," he says of his band mate. "I was at a student-run, stand-up night, and he did some comedy that was all about metal...and I went up to him and talked to him after, and we just started talking about metal, and I asked if he played an instrument. He said he played guitar, and I told him, 'I scream loudly into microphones.' He sent me some instrumentals, and I just screamed loudly over them, and we had a few songs."
Aside from penmanship and Piss (the name of his band), Cannavale also has a passion for acting and the arts. It is the family profession, after all. His father is two-time Tony nominee and two-time Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale, and his grandfather is famed "Dog Day Afternoon" director Sidney Lumet, who got his start acting on Broadway as a child in the 1930s. Cannavale's mother, Jenny Lumet (she and Bobby divorced in 2003), is a screenwriter and the granddaughter of Lena Horne.
"Growing up with who I grew up with, I always thought it was expected — like you just did what you were surrounded by," Cannavale explains. "I just thought that's how life worked, and then when I was around ten, my dad said, 'You can grow up and do whatever you want to do,' and I thought, 'I'm going to be anything but an actor' because, you know, what I heard was: I can totally rebel and do my own thing, so I just tried to find other stuff...other stuff that I love."
But, he adds, "When I was like 15 or 16, my dad was reading lines for 'Nurse Jackie.' I'm so used to him asking me to help run lines with him, and I was reading lines for his character's kid, and I liked it. I just said, 'Can I audition? It would be kind of funny if I was playing your son on a TV show.' I auditioned, and I shot 'Nurse Jackie' with him."
Although the Cannavales were on set together, Jake takes pride in the fact that his father let him do his "own thing" (including the decision to dye his hair bright green before the "Nurse Jackie" audition).
On set, he recalls, "I had my own perspectives, my own instincts, and yeah, [my father] was great at valuing that, great at respecting that."
Bobby Cannavale says, "I am as proud as any father could be and look forward to seeing Jake make his Broadway debut."
Although it's Jake's big break on Broadway, he feels the pressure is off. He's hitting the big time for the first time alongside Larry David.
"I think it's great because me and him are the only ones who are making our Broadway debut right now. The dude hasn't done theatre since he was like in eighth grade or something, so it's cool that I'm sort of on the same page as Larry David," he says with a laugh. "It's very reassuring to know that I'm not the only rookie.
"What's also comforting is that I'm taking a leave of absence [from college], so it's implied that I'm going to go back, and I'll have that opportunity. The opposite wouldn't be a thing — I couldn't take a leave of absence from a Broadway show and be like, 'Oh, I'll do the next one. It's fine.' I think this is an opportunity that I'm extremely lucky and grateful to have gotten, so I took it."
No green hair this time around, though. "I was just bored," he admits. "Your hair is not going to remain as malleable and versatile when you're older, so I thought, 'Do everything now. Find out what looks cool.'"
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)