Who knew that putting off plans of being a surgeon takes this talented performer on a rollercoaster ride through the entertainment world.
Broadway veteran Aaron Lazar stars in Fox’s latest family drama “Filthy Rich,” joining a stellar cast as the Reverend Paul Thomas and reuniting with Kim Cattrall, in a way. See, the American actor started his television career as an extra in “Sex in the City.” Coming from a theatre background, acting for TV comes easily for Lazar. DA MAN chats with the charismatic and multi-talented artist about the transition and more.
DAMAN: Hi Aaron, glad to have you with us. First up, can you tell us about your character on “Filthy Rich”? Also, what or who inspired your own personal take on this role?
Aaron Lazar: I play Reverend Paul Thomas. He’s the popular minister of The Sunshine Network and a Christian music artist. He’s a super ambitious guy who has his own ideas about the future of the network with Eugene gone. My inspiration for the character was a little Joel Osteen, a little evil McConaughey.
DA: Tell us about working with Kim Cattrall and Tate Taylor in this series…
AL: I met Taylor first. When I booked the job he called and said; “You. Are. The. Rev! You, are the Rev!” It was such a fun, memorable phone call. Taylor’s a brilliant guy and it was truly special working with. As for Cattrall, I started in television as an extra on “Sex in the City,” so to have the chance to play opposite her is a dream. She’s magnificent in this role.
DA: You also sing in the series. Tell us, how does it feel to be singing on a primetime show?
AL: It’s the best! I love it so much. I looked forward to every script to see what the Rev would be preaching or singing about on his show within the show—“‘The Word’ with Rev Paul.” I also loved working with the show’s music producer, Travis Howard. We had a blast in the studio and are making music together now in real life. I can’t wait to see and hear how it all comes together!
DA: How’s 2020 going for you?
AL: Thanks for asking. I’m doing well. It’s me and my two boys—eight and ten years old—and it was a bit rough at first, as I imagine it was for all of us. School was particularly tough. But I was—am—happy to be home with them. I was on the road for almost 18 months leading up to 2020. 36 cities in 11 countries. So, I was looking forward to spending quality time with my kids. Despite the pandemic, it’s been a gift being with them. And I applaud the LAUSD school district for providing so much to the kids this fall even from home.
DA: Let’s talk about your early career. How did you decide to move to New York to pursue a career in acting and how did you get your start in theatre?
AL: I was pre-med at Duke University. I’d done the musicals in high school but was set on heading to medical school. That is, until I played Billy Bigelow in “Carousel” my junior year at Duke. Professors started to encourage me to pursue a career in show business and after a summer internship where I started to earn points towards my equity card, I realized I could take a shot at it. I had voice training but needed acting training. I took the MCAT but put med school on hold to get an MFA at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. I thought I would head to L.A., but only knew one manager there. And when he took ill, I took it as a sign to head to NYC.
DA: Who were some of your early career inspirations?
AL: All the greats: Brando, DeNiro, Hoffman, Hackman, Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Later: Christian Bale, DiCaprio. And of course: Sinatra, Pavarotti. And Broadway stars like Brian Stokes Mitchell and Doug Sills.
DA: Which has been your favorite project to date? Which was the most challenging and which are you the proudest of?
AL: “The Light in the Piazza” is a show I hold very dear. It was my breakout role from an understudy on Broadway to a lead. It put me on the map. And the show is gorgeous. I played an Italian boy in the 1950s who falls in love with an American girl. Lincoln Center, thrust stage, PBS, the works. It was glorious. I sing the score every once in a while, because it’s so challenging and a great workout but also just to revel in the beauty and rapture of it all.
DA: What are some of the things that you consider before you accept a role?
AL: Well, being a father, I always consider where does it shoot and for how long. Creatively, I’m looking for roles that excite me, challenge me, have great writing and great people involved.
DA: You must have great stories from your Broadway days, starring in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera: to Sting and John Logan’s “The Last Ship.” Tell us your favorite story…
AL: Oh, there are so many great stories. I’ve been blessed to have such a varied career and work with so many of the best. I think Sting singing to me in rehearsal is a great story. He’d written a new song for my character in “The Last Ship” and asked me if I’d like to hear it. Then he sang to me in a room with just him on guitar and our MD on piano. It was a “holy shit my life is pretty cool” moment.
My first big movie was “J. Edgar” directed by Clint Eastwood. I played the real life prosecutor in the Lindbergh baby murder trial, David Wilentz. Eastwood’s legendary for not rehearsing and only shooting two takes. I remember walking into the courtroom with Josh Lucas who saw me holding my script pages and a pencil and said: “Put those away, man. Don’t let him see you with those.” I quickly threw them in a trashcan and I’m glad I did it. I walked in, Eastwood came in soon after, looked me in the eye and calmly said: “Ok Aaron. Go.” And we started making a movie.
DA: Tell us some of the differences between working in movies, theatre and television.
AL: Rehearsal is very different. In the theater you rehearse six days a week, eight hours a day for a month and then preview the play before opening. In TV and film, sometimes, like with Eastwood, you don’t rehearse, sometimes you rehearse a little, but it’s the day of the shoot, often an hour before you shoot the scene. And often you just got the script the day before. Or, if it’s a Marvel movie, you might not get it until you’re on set!
DA: What kind of roles would you like to explore in the future?
AL: Oh, there are so many roles I’d love to play! A doctor on TV would bring things full circle. I’d love to play Tony Bennett in a movie and Billy Bigelow in an adaptation of “Carousel” I’ve written. On, stage Sweeney Todd and George in “Sunday in the Park” are high on my list.
DA: As a singer, what are your future goals?
AL: Albums and concerts! I have a new single out—on Spotify—with Travis Howard, a cover of Rare Earth’s “I Just Wanna Celebrate.” Like “Filthy Rich,” it’s a great escape from the news. This holiday season look for “Broadway Lullabies,” an album of beloved show tunes reimagined as lullabies for kids and families to rest easier in our crazy world. Twelve Broadway stars, parents and friends joined me to make this and I’m so proud. I also have a solo concert called “Broadway to Hollywood.” It’s iconic songs, comedy, impressions … I’d love to record it and do it for a bit in Vegas or tour it when not shooting TV.
DA: What do you like to do when you are not on set?
AL: I’m a Functional Patterns guy. It’s a ligament-based fitness system and it’s changed my life. So, I train. I also love getting outside. I’ll train outside, go to the beach, hike, camp out, anything that gets me and my kids outside enjoying nature.
DA: Can you share your best advice to actors who are just starting out?
AL: Be you. No one else can be. Own your strengths and weaknesses and work hard. Be real with yourself and be kind. It’s a wild ride.
U.S.-BASED CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
PHOTOGRAPHY Ian Phillips
STYLING Kimberly Goodnight
GROOMING Allie Shehorn using Graftobian HD Makeup
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