DEBUT OF THE MONTH: Justin Bartha
Each month, BroadwayWorld is shining the spotlight on a stage actor making their Broadway debut as part of our "Debut of the Month" series.
This month, BroadwayWorld showcases Justin Bartha who made his Broadway debut as Max, a timid assistant to opera company manager Saunders (played by Tony Shalhoub), in Broadway's Lend Me A Tenor.
Bartha starred as Doug Billings in the 2009 blockbuster "The Hangover" alongside Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis and will be seen in the upcoming sequel, "The Hangover 2." Bartha studied acting at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and began his acting career working behind-the-scenes.
Entertainment Reporter Nick Orlando sat down with Bartha to discuss the role, his background, and what we can expect from "The Hangover 2."
Congratulations on making your Broadway debut this season.
Thank you so much.
I saw the production when it opened and you were fantastic. What interested you in this show?
What didn't interest me should be the question. I heard Stanley Tucci was directing a play. I read the script and thought it was funny. The cast is brilliant. It was great to do a play, which I haven't done in a while.
The plot really focuses around Max. He is an aspiring opera singer. Can you relate to this character with your own acting career and waiting for your break?
I grew up in the midwest and started with community theatre. I moved to New York to study. I was interested in film making and the process of making movies. I knew nobody in the industry. So, after going on cold auditions, I was also learning behind the scenes.
How have you changed from rehearsals to now?
There has been an immense change. In rehearsals, I sat back and watched. I was uncomfortable at first. I was rusty. I sat back and watched this talented cast - Jan Maxwell, Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shalhoub. Everyone was so fearless. Nobody was scared of trying something new. By the end of rehearsals, I became really comfortable.
What will you miss most about this play?
The actors. We formed quite a bond. Each part is impossible without the other person. We have a close relationship, both the cast and crew.
Have you seen any celebrities in the audience?
How do you prepare for each show?
I do a vocal warm-up and stretching. The show is physical. It takes a while to get dressed. I like a quiet environment before the chaos.
And what do you do post-show?
Drink alcohol! It's hard to wind down after the show, so a few drinks help.
Which Broadway shows have you seen this season?
A View From The Bridge and A Little Night Music. I also saw a couple of off-Broadway shows that were great.
Did your parents approve of your decision to be an actor?
I don't know if they took me seriously. I knew I wanted to do this at 15 or 16 years old. When they knew I wanted to go to college for this, they didn't understand paying the money for this type of career, which I understood, but I begged them. They didn't quite accept it until I started making money years later.
You started your career working behind the scenes in film. Can you tell us about that?
I love movies. I was interested in finding everything out about how movies are made. After theatre school, I went to film school and was working various jobs.
Who inspired you growing up?
From Rickey Henderson, the baseball player, to my father to Woody Allen.
What is the most challenging part of being an actor?
Patience and confidence. You have to believe in yourself and your talent; the techniques and the method you have learned. Every actor has a crisis of confidence. It is a very competitive industry. Patience is hard to work with especially if you don't know what you are waiting for.
I heard that you will be back for "The Hangover 2."
Yes, I will be.
When do you start shooting and where?
We start shooting October 1st in LA.
What are you looking forward to from the sequel?
It is funnier than the first movie. It will not let fans down. The script is fantastic.
Does the cast have that same tight bond off-set?
Yes. Everyone is close. The main guys are pretty close friends.
Can you tell us what we can expect from your character, Doug Billings?
It's the same guy with a similar setup, but a lot more crazy things going on. The setting is quite amazing - I can't speak about it yet though.
How did you originally meet "The Hangover" director Todd Phillips?
I met Todd at NYU when I was 20 years old. I did this show with a friend, it was a comedy interview show at NYU. Through a mutual friend, we got it over to Todd and he got it to MTV. He gave me my first break and then my biggest break with "The Hangover."
What are your thoughts on social media?
I don't use any of it. I don't mind it, but I just haven't gotten into it. I don't keep in touch with as many people as I should.
Zodiac Sign / Birthday:
Cancer. My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, July 21.
Happy Birthday! Did you do anything special?
Two shows! I am always working on my birthday. It is a nice reminder of what I have accomplished.
West Bloomfield, Michigan
Most listened to song on your iPod:
The easy questions are always harder to answer! I don't know. I lost my iPod a few weeks ago. I am depressed!
What are your favorite sights to visit in NY?
I spend a lot of time at Murray's Bagels. I go to Cafe Cluny a lot. I love museums and art, so you can find me at MoMA and the Whitney Museum. My favorite thing is riding my bike around the city, especially downtown.
Lend Me A Tenor is currently playing at the Music Box Theatre (239 West 45th Street) and will conclude its limited Broadway engagement on Sunday, August 15. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.lendmeatenoronbroadway.com or www.telecharge.com.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus