No Boundaries for Busy Actor

Source: Toronto Star
Date: 2009 December 24
By: Richard Ouzounian

For the answer to the question “How in-demand can one young actor be?” you need look no further than Aaron Tveit.

The magnetic young man with the killer good looks is wrapping up a successful run as the son, Gabe, in the Tony Award-winning musical, Next to Normal.

After he leaves the show on Jan. 3, putting to rest his portrayal of the tightly wired teenager, he’ll be resuming shooting on the popular series “Gossip Girl,” where he plays the smarmy but irresistible prepster, Trip van der Bilt.

Then he’ll be heading off to the Sundance Film Festival, where he’s one of the cast of Howl, the Allen Ginsberg biopic that everyone is anticipating.

Tveit appears with James Franco, Mary Louise Parker, Jon Hamm and Jeff Daniels, and he’ll be portraying Ginsberg’s longtime lover, Peter Orlovsky.

After that, it’s back to the Broadway-bound musical, Catch Me If You Can, starring in the role of the kid-faced con-man that Leonardo DiCaprio made so memorable in the movie.

It tried out to great acclaim in Seattle last summer and the buzz is that it will be making its next stop in Toronto, on the way to New York.

Any one of those projects would be enough to turn a young actor’s head, but how does Tveit manage to juggle them all with such aplomb?

“I approach all the work from the same place, that’s the way I do it!” is his simple response. “I treat everything with the same kind of respect for the material and I don’t go into any project judging it. I just try to see what’s there and what I can bring to it myself.”

It’s after a Saturday matinee of Next to Normal and Tveit has three more performances to deliver in the next 24 hours.

If you’ve seen him hurl himself around the shining metal set, plunge unafraid into the challenging rock riffs of the score and dive deep into the saga of his mother being torn apart by bipolar disorder, you’ll know that this is an actor who doesn’t do anything half way.

“Make sure you love what you’re doing and that you work your ass off,” is his motto and he sticks to it.

Tveit seems energized, rather than exhausted, by the performance he’s just given and he’s anxious to talk about the experience of taking difficult material and making it work as a Broadway musical.

“I think everybody in America finally realized that things weren’t so great, so people were ready to deal with a story that said the average American family isn’t as average as they thought.”

Tveit jokes that, “I get to deal with my mommy issues in (Next to Normal) and my daddy stuff in Catch Me If You Can, but in real life I have amazing parents so I’m not working out anything onstage.”

In fact, Tveit led a kind of charmed life in picture-perfect Middletown, “just an hour from New York,” as he recalls with a smile.

The multi-tasking Tveit started playing the violin at age four, then added the French horn, began singing in Grade 5, joined school plays and was also a victorious high-school jock in basketball, soccer and golf.

He was headed to Cornell University on a scholarship to study applied economics when he realized he couldn’t be happy doing that and pursued a career in theatre, studying at Ithaca College.

He was spotted in theatre class by one of director Michael Greif’s assistants, who plucked him out of school to play Roger in the touring company of Rent. He then switched to Broadway stints in Hairspray and Wicked before breaking out in the first off-Broadway production of Next to Normal in 2008.

And nothing has ever stopped him for one minute. Sitting next to him, you can feel the drive and you know why.

“Put me in a room with a bunch of people who are all going for the same thing and then just watch out,” says Tveit.

“I have a dream that I can live the rest of my life with no boundaries and the last year has proven to me it can be done.

“I know this sounds so cheesy, but wherever the good work is, that’s where I’m going to be.”