Spencer Garrett [Interview]

Spencer Garrett is one of the hardest working people in the world of acting today. As versatile as he can be hilarious, he currently has re-occuring roles in no less than 4 of today’s hottest television shows including HBO’s Insecure and the Amazon Original Show, Bosch. More specifically catered to avid Trainwreck’d Society readers, you will love him in HBO’s stand up comedy vehicle Dice, as well as Room 104 from the beloved Duplass Brothers.

And for over 30 years, this has been Spencer Garrett’s life. He was born into the world of acting, and he has been making it his passion since he began. If you have only managed to turn on a TV or pop into a cinema over the last few decades, it is extremely possible that you have caught Mr. Garrett in action. And his career is showing no sign of slowing down, it’s quite the opposite, really. He has some pretty great irons in the fire right now that I am very excited to see come to live, including some work with the great Kevin Pollack, who we have fawned over numerous time over the years. And because of that and more, we are so fortunate that he was able to stop and share a few words with us here. So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some words from the brilliant Spencer Garrett!

I understand you grew up around the world of entertainment, so it almost seems inevitable that you would join the ranks as well. But, when did YOU personally realize that you also wanted to play pretend for a living? When did you make the decision that this was what you wanted to do as a career?

I’m pretty sure I was a bit of a ham coming right out of the gate. Being an only child  – and the son and grandson of performers – I imagine the acting gene was ingrained in me at birth.That desire to be noticed, to stand out somehow. I grew up being taken to the theatre and musicals in New York City from a very early age.Seeing Sir Peter Hall’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with The Royal Shakespeare Company at around age 8 or so was a mind boggling and eye opening experience for a little kid and I remember being entranced by it. Heavy drama or the most frothy musical, it didn’t matter. I just loved being a part of that experience. I was always keen to do plays for as long as I can recall from elementary school all the way through high school in Maine, which had a very strong performing arts curriculum. And at holiday parties I was the kid who organized all the other kids to put on an impromptu ‘Christmas sketch’. At The Hyde School in tiny Bath, Maine, whether it was fighting for the solo number in a particular song or being the first one to raise my hand to audition for the lead in the play, performing and expressing myself onstage was where I found a kind of comfort zone. Whether I was any good or not remained to be seen. But I was always game. When I got to Duke University I auditioned for a role in Peter Shaffer’s Equus, amongst other shows. I was a horse. Small parts, larger roles, didn’t matter. I just wanted to know if I was any good. But I was hooked. From that point on I was off to the races. My ‘Aha!’ moment probably came when I was out of university and living in NYC in the early 80’s. Seeing, in the course of a few years, John Malkovich and Gary Sinise in Sam Shepard’s True West, ‘Lanford Wilson’s Balm in Gilead by The Steppenwolf Company with Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits blaring over the loudspeakers as I entered the theatre, and Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson and Derek Jacobi doing Much Ado Handout Nothing one day then Cyrano de Bergerac the next, blew my mind. It was probably around that time, along with my deep and abiding love of the movies, that I said ‘alright’ let’s give this a shot. Here I am, some thirty years in, still grinding away.

I have learned that you will be appearing the upcoming film The Front Runner, in which you will be portraying the legendary journalist Bob Woodward. I am always curious as to what type of preparation goes into a portrayal of a real person who also happens to still be alive. So how has that process been for you? Did you meet with Bob to learn a thing or to?

I’ve had the experience of playing a few real life characters while they were still alive, so it’s tricky ground. You want to put your own stamp on it while honoring the director’s vision. A fine balance. Tom DeLay, In Casino Jack comes to mind. That was a straight up satire so I had a little wiggle room to make it mine, but DeLay was such an outsized character that I didn’t have to work for it too hard. That was just delicious to play. I remember going to see him on ‘Dancing with the Stars’,watching him flail around the dance floor in brown spandex. Sometimes the characters just do the work for you. With Bob Woodward in Jason Reitman’s The Frontrunner I wanted to get the accent right. It’s VERY specific. The world didn’t know Woodward, really, or what he sounded like when All the President’s Men came out but he’s been a huge media presence in the last decades so I wanted to try to capture his essence as best I could. I had the opportunity to meet him before I started filming but was working on another project and couldn’t get the timing right. Jason had actually preferred that I just ‘come in clean’ with no preconceptions about him, so it actually worked out. It’s not a Woodward impersonation. It’s me, trying to channel a bit of him from 1984 if that makes any sense. I’ll meet him after I wrap. And of course I hope he likes the film and my work, as his career has had a great impact on me.

You have also been appearing regularly on the brilliant new HBO series Insecure. Can you tell us a bit about your experience working on this project? What has been unique about this experience?

I wasn’t hip to Insecure when I was offered the role, to be honest. Theres just SO much television out there – GREAT television – it just hadn’t crossed my radar yet. I watched the entire first season in one day. Not just as research – but because it was so f*****g good. Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji are a great comic duo and the writing and editing is kind of amazing. I had a blast working on that show. It taps into the zeitgeist in a very unique way and, being a native Angeleno, films in places familiar to me but not necessarily to the audience outside LA. It captures another side of my city in ways other ‘urban’ shows based in L.A never have.  Probably the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how diverse the crew was. All of my directors were women of color and the crew, for the most part, are largely women and minorities. It was refreshing to see and a blast to walk onto that set each time they asked me to come back and play.

On credits alone, it appears as though you may be one of the hardest working people in Hollywood! You’ve appeared in just so many of the finest television programs out there right now, and that isn’t all you’ve done! So what keeps you motivated to work so much? Where does this drive to succeed stem from for you?

Something like 200 credits on IMDB. Bananas, right? Where has the time gone? I still LOVE what I do (flying to Kuala Lumpur with Viola Davis to work on a Michael Mann film, a Lynn Nottage play at The Geffen, a week with Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan in Chiangmai, Thailand – this can be a hell of a fun job, sometimes) and, more importantly, I feel like I’m just hitting my sweet spot as an actor. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. And I’m not kidding.

From an actor’s perspective, and someone who has been in the game for a quite a while, what are your thoughts on the modern world of film and television? With digital platforms making their way into the industry, as well as more and more cable options, is world becoming over saturated? Or is simply just more opportunities? Your thoughts?

I think we really are in a golden age of television. For the movies, not so much, alas. It’s tentpoles and action figures and occasionally something wonderful will break through.But I have hope that audiences will tire of the explosions and drivel and faint their way back to embracing more character driven stories. I’m finding the most interesting work as an actor  – and a viewer – on the small screen. Yes, there seem to be more and more opportunities for actors on multiple platforms, meaning more competition. But that doesn’t mean the glut of work has made it any easier to sustain oneself as an actor. You are always struggling to make a living, to stay ahead of the curve when the guy who’s #1 on the call sheet is getting all the dough and the supporting cast has to negotiate for the privilege of working for union scale. It’s always a battle.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

The most exciting thing I’m working on these days is a podcast called “America 2.0″ by a wonderful young writer with an amazing voice named J.S Mayank. Several months ago I was asked to do a table read of his pilot script and just fell in love with the writing. Frustrated by Hollywood’s insistence that ‘political dramas are kind of radioactive right now” given our current, um, situation – J.S decided to split the pilot up into six segments as a narrative arc. We have put together a dream cast: Laurence Fishburne, Mary Louise Parker, Patrick Adams, Ming-Na, Jack Coleman, Katherine Castro, Steven Weber, Iqbal Theba, Shanola Hampton, and CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash. We started recording this dream cast about two weeks ago and are already blown away by the work. We are hoping to get it out there by January.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was watching my girlfriend receive a prestigious award from her George Washington U. Alumni association in D.C. last night for her outstanding achievements in political journalism. Nobody works harder than she does at sifting the spin and fiction from the cold facts. She does ‘real news’ like nobody’s business and is the best in the biz. I’m very proud of her and she inspires me every day to get off my ass and do something good.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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