"Bryce Pinkham, you have a guest," a stagehand announced through the speaker system at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where Pinkham stars as Monty Navarro in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.
A casual Pinkham, still riding the Tony Awards wave — nominated opposite his Gent's Guide co-star Jefferson Mays for Best Leading Actor in a Musical — walked down from his third-floor dressing room to greet me.
In his dressing room is a picture (accompanying a newspaper clipping) of him and his father, David, in a California production of To Kill a Mockingbird, in which a much-younger Pinkham played Jem with his father as Bob Ewell, the town drunk and bad guy of the classic Harper Lee story. Pinkham went on to follow in his father's footsteps.
While in the first grade, he explained, "My parents were brought into a parent-teacher conference… I think the words the teacher used were, 'You might want to find Bryce an outlet for his reckless creativity.'" His parents enrolled him in acting programs and summer camp, where he was cast in the ensemble of The Music Man and given the opportunity to share the stage with his father, who joined the production by happenstance.
"I had to miss a few days of tech because of a family vacation," Pinkham explained. "My dad did some acting in high school and knew that tech rehearsal was an important thing, so he came in to the talk to the director, and the director [asked], 'Will you read this for me?' Turns out he had lost an actor that day, so my dad ended up getting cast in the first show that I was ever in.
"I was saying to him recently, 'I'm so glad that I never felt pressure to do it in a professional-minded way when I was a kid.' It was always about doing it for fun. It was where the girls were during the summer. It was always the creative and social outlet for me, along with many other things. I played a lot of sports, I was in Boy Scouts — I was a very busy kid, so it was just one of the things I did."
Performing ignited passion, and now Pinkham finds himself entangled between two girls, Phoebe D'Ysquith (Tony nominee Lauren Worsham) and Sibella Hallward (Lisa O'Hare), in Gentleman's Guide. Although he's pegged as the serial-killing lady killer — also a dashing villain in his last Broadway endeavor, Ghost The Musical — Pinkham feels far from the type.
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Personally Pinkham is more low key. He spent the morning of Tony nominations with his girlfriend, Emily Young (whom he met in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) in Washington, D.C., where she was performing. He said, "It was nice to have a moment… to just look at ourselves and say, 'This is a special moment, but once it's all over, there will be a return to what's gotten me and us to this moment, here.'"
Prior to his time in the Tony spotlight, Pinkham admired current co-star Mays. The I Am My Own Wife Tony winner was on a list of "Admired Actors" that he made during graduate school at the Yale School of Drama, and his Gent's Guide casting felt somewhat serendipitous.
"My callback was with Jefferson, and I actually was at my sister's wedding in California on the day before the callback, and the callback could only be on one day because Jefferson was doing a play in Los Angeles… so Jefferson and I both took red-eye flights from the West Coast to New York to audition together."
After a series of unfortunate events, including a wedding reception cut short and a traffic jam on the way to the airport, Pinkham's flight had luckily been delayed. "I made the flight," he recalled. "I got on the plane, I sat down, opened the script, and the first words that Monty Navarro, my character, says are, 'Pentonville Prison. Nineteenth of October. 1909.' The 19th of October is my birthday, so I saw that and I had little goose bumps because my birthday was in the script. I just closed the script and [thought], 'I'm gonna be okay. I've done the work. I'm just going to sleep now.'" He landed the role, landed the Tony nomination and, most recently, even got to live out a childhood dream at Yankee Stadium, where he played with the Broadway Show League.
"Working with Jefferson is like that moment when the rookie takes the court and is suddenly teammates with the superstar that he looked up to growing up," he said. As for Pinkham's other hero, his dad, "He likens it to playing farm league ball and getting to sit in the stands and watch [his] son play the World Series."
(This feature will appear in the August issue of Playbill magazine. Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)