Runaway Talents

Source: Backstage
Date: 2010 October 13
By: Simi Horwitz

Where you’ve seen him before: In theater circles, Aaron Tveit is undoubtedly best known for originating the role of the spectral son, Gabe, in the Tony Award–winning musical Next to Normal (book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, music by Tom Kitt), for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award. He also won a Helen Hayes Award for his performance in the show at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Previously on Broadway, he played Link Larkin in Hairspray and Fiyero in Wicked. His first major stage role came at the age of 19 in the national tour of Rent. Tveit made his feature film debut in 2008 in Ghost Town, with Ricky Gervais, and his TV debut in the recurring role of Trip van der Bilt on the popular series “Gossip Girl.” He can currently be seen as Peter Orlovsky, the lover of poet Allen Ginsberg (James Franco), in the film Howl.

Upcoming projects: The film Girl Walks Into a Bar, which will be released only on YouTube and Hulu, Tveit says, is “a series of 10 interconnected vignettes set in L.A. bars.” He also has a featured part in David Koepp’s Premium Rush, an action thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tveit will continue his role on “Gossip Girl.” In 2009, he starred in the musical version of Catch Me If You Can (with book by Terrence McNally, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman) in Seattle. He played real-life conman Frank Abagnale Jr., the role tackled by Leonardo DiCaprio in Steven Speilberg’s 2002 film version. The show has just been announced for Broadway. Previews begin March 7, 2011, at the Neil Simon Theatre with an April 11 opening. At press time, Tveit’s participation in the Broadway production had not been confirmed.

Getting into character: Whatever the role or project, Tveit has a consistent approach, which starts with reading and re-reading the script. Each time, he takes away different impressions and jots them down. “At the end, it’s nice to see how my perspective has changed, and that helps me find the character’s point of view,” he says. “I try to connect that point of view to me, which helps me get me into the character’s body. From there I explore his motivations and relationships. Once I start rehearsing, I try to remain open to the writers, directors, and other actors, who also have valid takes on what’s happening. And I try to meld all of it.” Tveit loves coming back to a project after being away from it for a while. He says a fresh look at a role is revelatory, adding dimension to his understanding and performance.

Advice to newcomers: Though Tveit had very little formal training and experience when he began (Rent was his first professional audition), he has made up for it with a vengeance, taking advantage of the wide range of classes—from scene study to on-camera acting to commercials—available in New York. Now that he has taken some of them, he feels more strongly than ever that actors should never stop studying. He warns against the dangers of complacency, especially when an actor is employed.