His wholesome Hamptons-boy exterior and wide welcoming grin are notably true assets for Aaron Tveit to easily step into his blue-blooded character, Tripp van der Bilt in “Gossip Girl.” Yet, as the interview progresses, little gesture and subtle mannerisms allow glimmers of complexities that lay underneath the affable façade to reveal depth in the amiable actor.
Sweater by Dolce & Gabbana
A furrowed brow and contemplative glances between crisp laughs, like two opposing forces, produce a magnetic effect that makes Tveit so intriguing to anyone that comes his way.
Growing up in upstate New York, the enigmatic thespian had what it takes to be a great actor: curiosity. He pursued everything that interested him, from theater to sports to business. His inquisitiveness, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, landed him business scholarships right out of high school. Just when
it seemed his path was leading him to the world of business, he turned around and dove right into music—a decision that he never regretted.
The inquisitive actor’s curiosity did not stop there. Feeling like music was half of a whole, Tveit searched for the missing link and decided to bring music and acting together. The combination proved to be a lethal one, as role after role in Broadway came pouring in. True to his unstoppable nature, Tveit ventured off to film and television, and made a reputation for himself as a true chameleonic thespian. As he contemplates the decision that led him to a rich and diverse professional life, he chats about his coveted part in “Les Misérables,” his complex role in TV’s “Graceland” and how music could be just the thing to heighten the plot of a story.
Vintage Saks Fifth Avenue shirt by What Goes Around Comes Around, trousers by Valentino
DA MAN: Hi Aaron, how’s it going? Let’s talk “Graceland.” How did this project come about and what made you want to do this project?
Aaron Tveit: The script for “Graceland” was sent to me a month or so after a show I was doing on Broadway had closed. And that was the first time in about five years I hadn’t been attached to a new musical in New York and was completely available. Not knowing what my next project would be, I would simply follow whatever
I read that moved me. I was immediately struck by the way the story of “Graceland” was being told and how clearly these characters were defined in the pilot. Also, I felt I could relate to Mike and saw the potential for my character and this story could evolve in a great way.
Jacket and shirt by Bally
DA: You play an FBI agent, Mike Warren. How do you prepare for the role of an FBI agent? Did you get to consult with a real- life FBI agent?
AT: First thing I did was an extensive amount of research. With the description of Mike being “top of his class” at Quantico, the FBI academy was a huge part of this character. So, I wanted to find out what that meant in real terms. Basically what was confirmed was that the FBI academy gets the cream of the crop of the academic world. So to be the best of the best, this character is basically a genius. And that encompasses physical activity, brainpower and psychological ability. We, as a cast, met with the former DEA agent who ran the real “Graceland” house. And we also went through extensive gun and tactical training.
DA: What makes it interesting is that the show has a “role within a role” structure where you play an undercover agent who has to pretend to be other people for undercover missions. Is this more challenging for an actor?
AT: I think a role structured this way is a dream for an actor. It certainly is for me. I am the type of actor that always wants more, asks more questions and digs into things deeper. That’s what layers a performance and hopefully allows that complication to come out from within on screen. I have an acting teacher who says that an actor’s best asset is curiosity. And these roles are so open to that.
“Listen to your gut, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough”
DA: Aside from that, you were also involved with the award- winning musical film, “Les Misérables.” How did you land the role of Enjolras?
AT: “Les Misérables” was an unbelievable experience! [Initially] I heard they were making the film. Tom Hooper was set to direct, and Hugh Jackman was attached. That’s about all I knew. My manager got the script from my agents. We read it and decided, without anyone asking, to put myself on tape for the movie. We sent the tape to the casting director in London. A couple of months later, they called for me to go in for a session with Tom in New York! A few days later, I received news that I had been cast in “Graceland” and I had also been cast for the role of Enjolras in “Les Misérables.” Certainly the most incredible 48 hours of my professional life!
DA: What about “Howl” where you played Peter Orlovsky, poet Allen Ginsberg’s partner, opposite James Franco?
AT: That was also a great experience. Rob [Epstein] and Jeffrey [Friedman], the directors, were so great, helpful and welcoming. I was familiar with the poem and the beat poets from college, and I revisited that material. The directors had an interview footage with the real Peter, who I played, and shared that with me. That was extremely helpful for my part!
Outfit by Prada
DA: Let’s step back in time a bit. When did you first know that you wanted to pursue acting?
AT: I have been a musician and singer for as long as I can remember. Through music, I got involved a bit in theatre in high school, but I still didn’t know that was going to be my lifetime pursuit. Being away from acting during my first year of college was what really solidified for me that this was what I had to do. And once I made that connection, I poured myself in completely and haven’t looked back ever since.
DA: What are your favorite roles to play so far?
AT: I have been truly blessed with a diversity of parts. I have loved them all. But the difference, the common theme, is the need to overcome or change something. I am drawn to real people who have an intense need and desire for something. And as long as that is in place, you have somewhere to go.
DA: In general, how do you decide which film production or acting projects you want to be involved in?
AT: Much like when “Graceland” came about, I really try to listen to my gut and trust what I am drawn too. Also, it helps to have a few great people who I can bounce ideas off of and help make those choices. The same people that I trust to tell me I’m crazy if I am!
DA: Speaking of crazy, you made a big, perhaps quite risky, decision with going to school for business and later switching the major to musical theater. What drove you to do that?
AT: Actually, I almost went to school for business! I was trying to decide, as a high school student, between business and studying music. At the time, I had scholarships to study business, and none for music. Somehow, my parents let me choose music. And after a year studying music, I knew, even though I still wanted to sing, I had a growing hankering for acting. I was very lucky that I could stay in the same college to pursue that.
“Music allows us to go to another level of storytelling, as we don’t sing around daily”
DA: What is it about music you think that makes such a great complement to other storytelling forms including film and theater?
AT: That’s a fantastic question. I really think music just adds such a level to a story. I find myself being overcome with emotion in music. The music allows us to go to another level of storytelling, especially as we don’t go around singing in our daily lives. Music allows a new level of emotional expression to be achieved in a story and creates an environment for the audience to be swept away, literally.
DA: What is acting to you then?
AT: I am very grateful and proud to say that acting is something
I absolutely love to do. It was something that I used to do for myself and for fun, and I now am lucky enough to do it for a living.
Denim shirt by Diesel, tie by Brooklyn Tailors
DA: How do you define a successful actor?
AT: That’s a tough one. There aren’t enough roles for how many wonderful actors there
are, so I think we all need to find success in what we are doing on a daily basis. We love this job; we pour everything into it; and we do it for ourselves. We need to allow that to determine our own personal definitions of success and fulfillment.
DA: Words to live by?
AT: Listen to your gut; don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something or aren’t good enough to do it.
Photographer: Nick Heavican @ WM Artist Management
Stylist: William Graper
Grooming: Natasha Leibel @ ABTP Management
Digital imaging: Darren Nanos
Photography assistant: Maxime La
Styling assistants: Sabrina Bacon and Alysia De Maio
Tailor: Moire Conroy