Christopher McCann starred as 'Robert Wilson' in Charles Smith's Freed which played Off-Broadway at 59E59's Theater A from 11 Jun 2010 - 3 Jul 2010
Place of birth?
Nyc – Leroy Sanitorium or maybe Sanitarium?? (I think what is now Lenox Hill)
You now live in?
Queens – the fabulous Jackson Heights.
Did you go to training school, if so which one?
NYU School of the Arts, prior to the studios, the experimental wing, the graduate division…all students, grad and undergrad were together with the same fabulous faculty: Peter Kass, Lloyd Richards, Olympia Dukakis, Omar Shapli, Nora Dunfee, Kristen Linklater, Beverly Wideman, Robbie McCauley.
As an actor, do you have a preference for stage, TV or film?
One has more control/influence over choices when working on stage, where you are part of a collaboration; little collaboration happens in film or tv unless you are a star, which my wife takes care to remind me, I’m not. However, when those movie/tv gigs do happen, I’m a very happy puppy $$ .
Your first stage performance was?
Norman Krasna’s “DEAR RUTH” a WW II romantic comedy in which I played a doofus, totally in love with “the girl“ and he never has a chance. I was a junior in an all-boys high school (St Francis Prep) and we did it in tandem with the all-girls school down the block… (isn’t that why every one wants to be in a play?)
Career highlight to date?
I’ve had many wonderful experiences and would be loathe to call any paticular one the highlight but when I played Michael Corleone in the Godfather trilogy has to be up there. Ok, not really true… how about - getting to work wth the following great theater directors; Lucien Pintilie, Richard Foreman, Joe Chaikin, Robert Woodruff and to have been in such terrific companies in productions of Caryl Churchill’s MAD FOREST, Tim Blake Nelson’s THE GRAY ZONE, Howard Korder’s THE LIGHTS, Sam Shepard’s BURIED CHILD
What roles would you most like to play?
That ones that give articulation to the playwright’ theme…not always the lead. Try as I might I’ve never been one of those actors who has roles that he has locked in his “sights”…
What is the best advice you have ever received?
No method/technique is foolproof….every play demands it’s own technique …and… it’s not the directors job to understand what you need, it’s your job to understand what the play needs.
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
Doing Richard III for a student (young) matinee – I was wearing a leather belt/jockstrap thingie (outside the pant) that had a leather strap hooked to it and to my right leg which I would use to pull my leg along with the rest of me… during the intermission I had some business to take care of which I did in the appropriate location but having finished my business I failed to hook certain hooks in their proper places and later when during Richard’s speech after all the ghosts appear and when, as directed, during the
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree
Murder, stern murder, in the direst degree;
All several sins, all used in each degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, Guilty! guilty!
I strode toward the lip of the stage pulling my leg by the strap – with great fervor mind you - and my leather jock strap came a tumbling down, a tumbliing down to my ankles! Which was certainly the funniest thing that these young children, watching probably their 1st Shakespeare, HAD EVER SEEN.
The rest of the play fight scenes and all, were up for grabs. There was no getting them back.
What is the most annoying part about your job?
The time between the matinee and evening performances… and also having to actually memorize. When I was younger I didn’t have to do that the lines just kind of came as we rehearsed, that’s a gift long since lost.
Briefly tell us how you become involved with Freed
Got a call from my agent to audition. I teach now and it’s very hard to find time to actually do plays and the timeing of this was perfect, and though I didn’t think I was ideal for the part our director Joe Brancato thought differently and here I am.
Briefly tell us about the character you play Freed
It’s 1824… he’s a Presbyterian minister who is the president of Ohio University, which at the time is on the frontier of the country. He has taken under his wing a freed slave who has, in the minister’s view, the potential to become the 1st Governor of Liberia, which many thought was an answer to the “dilemma” of the Free Men of Color.
They weren’t slaves but they would ’never be able to live in harmony with the white race in America”
If you had not become a performer, what might you have done instead?
I was kind of hell bent on being an actor but now, in hindsight, a couple of things that catch my eye I would have liked to have done include the Law (to match wits with Antonio Scalia and win), Tree Conservancy (an arborist, swinging from the highest branches, saving the world from Dutch Elm disease et al).
Who are your favorite actors/actresses?
Charles Laughton… watch him read from the bible when broke and estranged from his family he returns home in “Rembrandt”; or as the titular Henry VIII when he 1st sees his newborn son…
Gary Oldman, Johnny Depp.
Simone Signoret, Jeanne Moreau, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Geraldine Fitzgerald.
My NY faves include Lois Smith, David Marguiles, Rocco Sisto, Didi O’Connell, Betsy Aidem, Jefferson Mays, Christine Nielsen, Steve Mellor, Dennis O’hare.
Favorite after-show haunts?
Anyplace my wife wants to go. I love good food and it’s the worst thing for me to do after a show.
What was the last book you read, and name some of your favorite authors?
My wife turned me on to the mystery writers Magdelen Nabb, Donna Leon who both write with Italian locales and we love Italy. The last book I read however was: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro, which for any one with an interest in the Bard I highly recommend.
What was the last film you saw, and name some of your favorite movies?
The last film I saw will remain nameless to protect the guilty
Blasts form the past include:
Ermanno Olmi’s Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
Volker Schlöndorff’s adaptation of Gunter Grass’s “The Tin Drum” (1979)
It’s a Wonderful Life (I cry every year and our three cats are named Zu Zu, Clarence & George Bailey)
Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 Cinema Paradiso
Favorite TV programs?
PBS’ THE NEWS HOUR – love to watch Jim Lehrer host David Brooks and Mark Shields in civil poitical analysis every Friday --- conservative and liberal who never yell at each other – AMAZING!
Radio: – “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”; and “Cartalk”
Favorite holiday destinations?
Tuscany; Adirondacks; New Orleans
Do you have any hobbies?
Used to play a LOT of bridge, not so much anymore – I wasn’t good enough to take up as much time as it did. Now I help with the gardening, and seem to be learning how to care for trees which may begin to take up more of my time so if you see me in a green baseball cap beware I’m an official “Citizen Pruner” you had better bind up your locks!
Do you have any superstitions?
I’m superstitious of people with superstitions, but I love that they have them!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
Fresh pasta, garlic, red wine.
What are your future plans?
Live long, die happy and hope the world can do the same. Keep your fingers crossed!