good grief, charlie
Charlie Brown is alive and well and singing on Broadway. Anthony Rapp, the sweet, openly-gay actor, steps into the shell of the sweet, openly-neurotic peanut.
Inteview by Ben Golden
You'd be hard pressed to find a more un-actorly actor than Anthony Rapp. For someone who's been working for 17 of his 26 years, including some high-profile projects with the reigning hotties of his generation, he comes across as a celebrity trapped in the body of a nice, sweet kid. Which is exactly what he is. Ask him a question and it seems impossible for him to give a flip, show-bizzy answer. When he talks about "integrity in the work," you get the sense that he actually understands what he's saying because he's thought it through. Not in a brooding, dark way but with his own sunny, upbeat approach. He is so earnestly appealing, in fact, that you feel like shoving a crack pipe in his mouth and forcing him to turn tricks. In other words, a real Charlie Brown.
"Charlie Brown is very hopeful," says the actor who will be wearing the orange and black zig-zag shirt in this season's Broadway musical revival of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. "He always tried again. Every day he's hoping that it will be better than the last. He always gives it another chance. There's something very sweet about that."
If you thought your childhood was fucked up, it was never as bad as Charlie Brown's. Considered a failure, he never got a Christmas or Valentine's Card, sucked at sports, worried about everything and couldn't dance. "The simple things sometimes make him happy," Rapp says. "Just waking up in the mrning and watching the sunrise. It's beautiful to him."
Before they were a holiday staple (the one with the music everyone uses on their answering machines around Christmas time), the Charles Schulz-drawn Peanuts gang found themselves brought to life on the Off-Broadway stage in 1967. A tiny, quirky show using late 60s stylings and the original comics as its inspiration, the tinker-toy musical became a hit. Director Michael Mayer, fresh from his last season's creative wallop of Triumph of Love and A View from the Bridge, will be juicing up this first Broadway revivial to play in a bigger house with a reinvisioned design and updated material. So Peppermint Patty will finally be coming out? "They never dealt with contemporary issues so much as personal issues," Rapp says. "Those are timeless. You know, Charlie Brown waiting for the little red-haired girl. Everyone has a little red-haired girl that they are trying to get up the courage to go over and talk to."
Rapp's first big thing since finishing up his three-year journey on a rocket ship called Rent, he finds himself in a curious place. If you were breathing during 1996, you knew about Rent. The galvanizing talents of the people involved produced an evening of theatre so in-your-face that, at times, it became difficult to separate the audience members from the cast onstage. Added to that was the shocking sudden death of the show's creator, Jonathan Larson, days before its opening. It became national copy and fans were rabid in their attachment. Rapp, an out actor since thanking his at-the-time boyfriend in his bio while appearing Off-Broadway in The Destiny of Me in 1992, became one of their role models. "I decided that if I was going to have any degree of fame that I would want to do something with it to make some kind of difference and Rent was such a perfect vehicle for that." The whole experience was explosive. "It certainly changed my life. But it was for something that always meant so much to me. It all felt rooted in a place that mattered."
Although he's been featured in a good handful of films (from the strangely watchable Adventures in Babysitting to the big-budget blowjob Twister), Rapp has the distinction of appearing in two films from the early 90s often mentioned for its [sic] foresight casting of the New Hollywood Royalty. Alongside young bucks Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris O'Donnell and Brendan Fraser, Rapp played a bigoted preppy in School Ties, a 50s throwback film about getting good grades, standing up for what's right, playing football and tussling in the showers. "I wasn't there on the set taht day so I don't know any stories," he says about the barebutted fisticuff filming. then with a laugh he adds, "But, yeah, they were fighting naked in the showers." Thank God for that. And in Dazed and Confused, the retro cult stoner's delight celebrating high school slackerdom in 1976 Texas, Rapp was subtle perfection as the level-headed kid amidst the all-night kegger. "That's my favorite movie I've done. It's a different style from most other films. And there's just great acting in it, too." So is Parker Posey as insane as we think? "I love Parker. She's just this delicate, sweet little girl who's able to freak out and do all this crazy shit."
The question remains though: Will
Charlie Brown have something to say to a hipper-than-thou 90s crowd that's
already seen it all on stage? "These characters ar compicated and
idiosyncratic people. There's truth in everything that happens,"
Rapp admits. A slowly-forming mischevous grin says it all.
"But it's definitely a weird universe. The more I read the material,
the more I see how weird it is."
[editor's notes: the article
is accompanied by a cute graphic featuring anthony's head superimposed
on cb's cartoon body. thanks to whoever on the NY boards brought
this article to my attention. i forgot who it was! if you haven't
seen school ties or dazed and confused, they are definitely
worth a rent. also, tangentially, check out parker posey in party
girl, one of my very favorite movies.]
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