Interview with Junk star Steven Pasquale

NYTG talks to the Broadway favorite about Lincoln Center Theater's latest collaboration with Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar.

Steven Pasquale in Junk

We recently caught up with the star of Lincoln Center Theater's latest Broadway production - Steven Pasquale. He takes the lead as the fictional character Robert Merkin in Tony Award nominee and Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar's latest offering Junk, which continues at the Vivian Beaumont Theater through to January 7, 2018. Merkin shares some striking similarities with a certain financier and philanthropist of the 1980s by the name of Michael Milken and Junk uses those events that shook the financial world thirty years ago to tell a story of greed, corruption, misogyny and racial prejudice that is today as timely as ever.


Steven Pasquale with co-star Miriam Silverman
(Photo by Tom Millward)

What’s the significance of the title Junk?

Junk refers to Junk bonds – high-yield junk bonds. It’s how a lot of these deals were made in the ‘80s. Companies were purchased with debt instead of cash. The play is a shockingly thrilling evening of getting into how that all worked.

How do you personally feel about your character of Robert Merkin?

Well, what’s important about this play is that it’s loosely based on a real guy named Mike Milken, who was the debt bond king in the 1980s, but it is not a biography. It uses his success and the practices that he put into place in the 1980s and it really examines that. But it is, in fact, not a biography. Financial workers come and they say: “I knew Mike Milken!” But I say that it’s loosely based on him. It’s similar, but it’s not exactly his story.

Is it a relief as an actor not to have to perform an exact impersonation and to be able to put your own spin on it?

Oh yeah! I make him a whole lot cooler than he actually is! (Laughs)

You’re a very versatile performer, Steven, and many theatre fans have loved your roles in musicals such as The Robber Bridegroom and The Bridges of Madison County. Do you enjoy starring in straight plays as much as musical theatre?

I think the grass is always greener. The first few months you’re working on a musical, it is the greatest thing in the world. Then, by month 4 or 5, you’d rather be doing a play. It’s the same if the tables are turned. The first few months doing a play are incredible and then you really start to miss the music. This play is a different example though, in terms of my life, because being around this calibre of a writer, of a director and of a theatre – which is the closest thing we have to a National Theatre in this country – is a great moment, where I pinch myself. I wish I could talk to my 17-year old actor self, who moved to this town with dreams of being in a Broadway show.


Steven Pasquale in Junk
(Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Junk Tickets are available now for performances through to January 7, 2018.