Clare Sidoti Staff Writer
He’s helped uncover national treasures, survived the odd buck’s party or two, and is getting ready for impending parenthood, but could Justin Bartha handle the questions thrown at him by his fans? Having confessed he doesn’t have a twitter account (so if you think you’re following him, you’re not really), this was one of the first opportunities for fans to grill Justin on his life and loves. It appeared that the amazingly humble man (he still considers himself an amateur actor) enjoyed himself as well as he stuck around for over an hour longer than was scheduled. The no holds bar Q&A had Justin discussing The New Normal, the Hangover franchise, Nicolas Cage, pay packets, and acting among other things.
Posting this adorable photo of himself with his mum and telling fans a little about this week’s New Normal episode (it deals with Boys Scouts of America attitudes towards homosexuality and we get to see “how my legs remind you of the movie Cocoon”), Justin jumped into the fray.
Before his turn as David Sawyer in Ryan Murphy’s The New Normal, Justin was probably best known for his role as Doug in the Hangover films. As the third film of the franchise is set for a summer release, a number of fans wanted to get the low-down on the third film and his experiences in making the films.
With a cast that includes Bradley Cooper (who is apparently even more dreamy in real life) and Zach Galifianakis (who is very weird), the atmosphere on set must have been wild. He likens the experience to being at a big dysfunctional family reunion, but only if “your family happened to include some of the most talented people alive”. His audition for the role of Doug would appear to set the tone for what he was in for - it consisted of the movie’s first scene where Zach Galifianakis is in the jockstrap. While he didn’t share any funny stories from the set (they’re all in the movies), the weirdest thing he experienced during shooting was “Ken’s [Jeong] penis”.
Given his character spent much of the first film passed out on the roof of a Vegas hotel and was on the periphery in Hangover II, fans were eager to know how much we can expect to see of him in the third film. He explained his absence from a lot of the mayhem because “Doug is the only character with his feet firmly planted on the ground. He has too much common sense to always be there”. But we can confirm that he will be conscious in the third film (yay!!!) and does a lot of work with the great John Goodman. What an amazing team that will be.
He confided that they never expected the films to be as big as they are (I don’t know why… what’s not to love about them?) and that he was paid “not enough” for the first film, “way too much” for the second and the money was part of the reason he came back for thirds (and it might have had a bit to do with the fact that he loves being a part of these films and it had a hilarious script, but only slightly). Unfortunately he did confirm that this will be the last film in the franchise but that he’s had a great ride and was so pleased to have gone through “a rare experience with such a great group of people”.
With the current debate in the US and other countries on legalising same-sex marriage, his work on The New Normal is timely and of great importance. Seeing a gay couple in a stable, loving relationship on prime time commercial television illustrates how far we’ve come in terms of LGBT rights. However, this has not been without controversy from certain sectors of the community including the banning of the show from airing on Utah-based station, KSL, and the public outcry from One Million Moms. His character and that of his partner, Bryan (played by Andrew Rannells), have often been compared and seen as a ‘grown up’ version of Ryan Murphy’s other fan favourite gay couple, Glee’s ‘Klaine’ (Kurt – Chris Colfer and Blaine – Darren Criss). In addressing the comparison, Justin believes that the two shows are alike but “only in tone”, which is not surprising since they both come from Ryan Murphy.
Like Glee’s Darren Criss, Justin is a straight man playing a gay character, and like Darren, he is constantly asked about how he feels playing a gay man. He, rightly, commented that “playing a gay man feels the same as playing every other role. David isn’t defined by his sexuality, he is defined by his morality. I am not a visionary. Just doing my job as truthfully as possible”. He feels that we are all “born and equal because we should all be born equal”. He said that he wasn’t nervous about accepting the role of David. In fact, it was he who approached Ryan Murphy about being involved in the project. He also said that he hasn’t received any hate personally for being on the show and that he doesn’t “believe in negative backlash”.
This week’s episode (which he admitted was his favourite so far) addressed the current controversy on the Scouts stance on homosexuality. His hopes for the episode (and New Normal in general) is not that viewers learn anything from it but that people are entertained and that maybe what they see on screen will spark discussion about the issues and that people will “learn from the people around them”. The message that he would like viewers to take away from the show is to accept everyone, no matter what they look like, believe in, love, etc.
Being surrounded by an amazing group of people on the show, fans wanted to know what they were like in real life. Justin described Andrew as a “very nice man” who is “fun” and “great” to work with. He doesn’t believe that fans would ever be disappointed in him. On being asked the obvious question on what it was like to kiss his co-star, he diplomatically said he was a good kisser and joked that depending on what Andrew eats for lunch influences how much enjoyment he gets from the kissing scenes. He also confirmed that Andrew’s hair “for sure” takes longer to do than his. While Broadway alum Andrew has already had a few chances to show off his singing chops on the show (we’re still chuckling over his leaked ‘wedding’ video to David that went viral), Justin said that while he would love to also have a chance to sing on the show, that the viewers definitely wouldn’t.
He had lots of love for his fellow co-star NeNe Leakes (Rocky) saying that she is the “finest, funniest woman in the world” and that every day with her is a funny day. He also described Ryan Murphy as “very sharp… passionate… talented”.
At this stage, NBC has not confirmed that The New Normal will be returning for a second series, but Justin hopes that they’ll all be back. If they don’t return, he is just thankful that he has got to work everyday on something he believes in.
Another movie franchise that Justin has been closely associated with is National Treasures and there was a lot of gushing about his co-star from that series, Nicolas Cage. Asked repeatedly over the chat about Nic and what he thought of him, Justin, with his usual laconic sense of humour, came out as a Nicolite till the day he dies. He described the experience of working with him as “heavenly” and let slip that Nic is a “God amongst men”. Meanwhile his other co-star, Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) he described as “the ultimate badass”. For fans of the franchise, you’ll be pleased to know that for some time they’ve tried to get it together for a third outing. But don’t hold out hopes that it will be in a cinema soon as he could only say that “it might happen one day”.
As seems to be the case with a number of people who ‘make it’ in the industry, Justin never set out to be an actor and it was only a sporting injury that lead to where he is today. As a kid, he wanted to be a professional baseball player but it was another sport that led to him joining the high school drama department. In trying out for the tennis team, he broke his wrist, which left him at a bit of a loose end. Seeing that there were “a bunch of cute girls” he tried out for the drama department’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The acting bug obviously bit and he hasn’t looked back since.
As is often the case with celebrity Q&As, a number of questions were asked about getting into the industry and if Justin had any advice for aspiring actors. Being brutally honest, he at no stage glorified his job. In fact he feels that in a perfect world it would be the teachers, soldiers and charity workers that receive the pay packets actors get. His best piece of advice is to only go into the business if “you can’t live without it”. Acting must be the only thing for you. If you will be happy in another job, definitely do that one. He also said that you need to make sure you’re in the career for the right reasons; you need to make sure that “you are doing it for the love of the craft”. And with his typical self-deprecation he confessed that he still thinks “I am a failure”.
Have performed on stage, film and television, he was well-placed to answer questions about the difference in mediums. He succinctly compared the three describing them in the following way: “Stage acting is immediate and you get to play a character from beginning to end. TV is faster paced than film.” He also shared his favourite stage memory from his time in Lend Me A Tenor: He was doing a scene with Tony Shaloub (Monk) when a mouse ran out and scurried across the stage. Tony and he then improvised a bit about calling housekeeping. Another vital skill to acquire for the stage where anything can happen.
For all his success with his recent ventures, his first feature film was the critically and audience panned, Gigli with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. One brave fan asked whether, in making the film, did the cast and crew feel that it was awful. Justin stated that no one sets out to make a bad movie. He did confess that there was no hint that it was bad “until there were studio forced reshoots and the original cut was taken away from its brilliant director”. However, no matter how bad the film was, it was still his first foray onto the big screen and for that reason alone he doesn’t regret it and that it still counts as one of the most amazing experiences of his life.
Following The Hangover III Justin’s next project is CBGB, a film exploring the New York punk-rock scene and the nightclub from which the film takes its title. It features an all star cast including Ashley Greene (Twilight), Malin Akerman (Rock of Ages), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) and Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint and Alan Rickman. He plays punk rocker Stiv Bators (The Dead Boys and The Lords of the New Church), a role he described as “surreal to play”. There were a lot of nerves in portraying the character as he wanted to do justice to the man plus, like a kid, he was excited at getting to play “rock star”.
After well over two hours, Justin left with a call to watch that evening’s episode of The New Normal and, because he doesn’t have twitter, for everyone to “TWEET EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO WATCH THE NEW NORMAL TONIGHT!!!! WE NEED PEOPLE TO WATCH LIVE”.
We’ll leave you with the low down on Justin:
His original goal was to be the “best tee ball player ever”.
If he could have any super power, he’d love to be the “smartest person alive so that I could figure out world peace or to fly of course”.
His guilty pleasure is peanut butter.
He gets about town in a Prius.
He’s a massive lover of music, with his current favourite artists Kendrick Lamar, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.
Speaking of Kendrick Lamar, his favourite song to sing at the moment is anything by him and he has been singing a lot lately in his car.
Plus he’d love to play Bob Marley at some stage.
He would prefer to live in the world of Harry Potter rather than The Hobbit because he feels that he’s “short enough already”.
He’s interested in pursuing Ice Road Trucking.
While he loves all the films he’s worked on in different ways, his favourite film has been Gigli (really Justin????) because it was his first and he “learnt many a thing”.
Likewise he loves all the different roles he has gotten to play but feels that the play Asuncion is up there as one of his favourites.
His most challenging role was probably Max in Lend Me a Tenor.
The craziest/most absurd thing he has done for a role is that he recently lost 25 pounds for one and he ate bologna off of a dirty floor.
His favourite actor to work with is Jesse Eisenberg who he played opposite in the film, Holy Rollers and on stage in Asuncion.
The most interesting director he has worked with was Sidney Lumet. It was a “dream come true” to work with him, though the HBO movie they did together never aired. He also thinks that Martin Brest (Gigli) is amazing.
His favourite stage actors to work with are Tony Shaloub, Stanley Tucci. Actually the whole cast of Tenor really.
He would have loved to have been a part of the cast of Il Sopasso (The Easy Life), a 1962 Italian film. And what’s not to love about it – it’s in Italy, set in the 1950s and stars Vittorio Gassman.
While there are way too many actors to name that he’d like to work with, when pressed, he mentioned Robert de Niro, Robert Duvall, and Shirley Maclaine. He also really likes Adam Driver (Adam in Girls).
You can check out Justin Bartha Tuesday nights on NBC’s The New Normal and in cinemas in Hangover III (May 24) and CBGB (later in 2013).
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