THE STRAIGHT MAN. Justin Bartha is probably best known in Asia for his role in the megahit Hangover series. He is also one of the stars of The New Normal, a sitcom that just won the People’s Choice Award for Best New Comedy. He talks to DA MAN about his career path, the challenges of playing a gay man and how a broken wrist led him to become an actor.
Suit and shirt by Emporio Armani
Justin Bartha has been in plenty of comedies, but he often plays the straight man, the stern foil to his comedic colleagues that helps make all the jokes land that much harder. It’s easy to understand why – despite his easygoing attitude and quick wit, it is clear that Bartha is made of sterner stuff. His first role in a Hollywood movie was in the infamous Gigli, a film starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez that was almost universally panned by critics. Despite that, Bartha looks back on that film as a positive experience, one which helped him learn the ropes of what it takes be a part of a Hollywood production. And his career has certainly been on the rise since then. He starred in the hugely popular National Treasure movies opposite Nicholas Cage, followed by major roles in films such as New York, I Love You and The Rebound. And of course, he starred in the hugely successful Hangover films, the third of which is coming out this summer. He also just finished up the first season of The New Normal, a sitcom in which he plays one half of a gay couple that has hired a woman to be the surrogate for their baby. The show, which has been praised for tackling serious social issues with a light and entertaining touch, was awarded the People’s Choice Award for Best New Comedy Series.
DA MAN: First of all, congratulations on all the success The New Normal has earned in its first year, including a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Comedy. How would you sum up your experience with the show so far?
Justin Bartha: I have absolutely loved working on The New Normal and am very proud of the first season. It’s rare to be involved with something that not only is of a high quality but also spreads a great message.
DA MAN: As someone who is straight, would you say there are any unique challenges to playing a gay man? Or is it just another role?
Justin Bartha: As a straight man, the only unique challenge is to make the sexuality seem as believable as possible. Every role presents its own unique set of challenges. My own personal pussy preference doesn’t hold me back when pretending to prefer penis. Alliteration of the day.
DA MAN: How does playing a lead on a TV show compare to film work, in terms of time commitment and how it affects your lifestyle?
Justin Bartha: It affects my lifestyle in an enormously positive way just because I love to work. I’m much more fun to be around if I know where I’m going in the morning and I believe in what I’m doing.
DA MAN: You also did a Broadway show called Lend Me a Tenor. What is the most challenging part about doing live theater for you? Would you like to do more plays in the future?
Justin Bartha: Lend Me a Tenor was exhausting. Stanley Tucci, who directed, told the cast at the beginning of rehearsals that if we all didn’t lose at least 10 pounds from the sheer physicality of the roles than we probably weren’t working hard enough. I ended up losing close to 30 pounds. My character wore a thick wool suit over a pre-dressed costume and barely stopped moving for the entire play. That being said, I had the time of my life. After that show I did two off-Broadway shows back to back.
Shirt by Prada
DA MAN: Do you remember what first inspired you to pursue acting as a career?
Justin Bartha: I broke my wrist trying out for my high school tennis team and needed something to do. The drama department had cuter girls than the chess club.
DA MAN: Before you decided to pursue acting full time, you did some directing and producing work. Do you still have any interest in doing more work behind the cameras?
Justin Bartha: I’m so lucky to be able to work as an actor. There are many other things I’d like to do.
DA MAN: Your roles have largely been comedic. Have you always had a talent for making people laugh? Were you ever the class clown back in school?
Justin Bartha: My best work was probably in the classroom. It’s been all downhill from there.
DA MAN: Sorry but we’ve got to ask about your first major film role, which was in the infamous film Gigli. Do you look back on the making of that film as a good experience, or would you rather interviewers like us just not bring it up ever again?
Justin Bartha: It was an incredible experience. At the time, I was heartbroken. But you have to put that shit in perspective. I was a 21 year old kid who got to realize his dream. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie and I learned more about the film industry on that movie than I’ve learned on every job since then combined.
DA MAN: Has working on The Hangover series been as fun as you guys make it look? What was the most enjoyable day of shooting for you?
Justin Bartha: It’s been a blast working on The Hangover. It’s hard to single out one particular shooting day but the day we shot Zach’s, now infamous, “wolfpack” speech from the first movie was pretty epic.
DA MAN: Can you give us any hints about how the Hangover III could possibly top the first two?
Justin Bartha: Everyone is trying to remain tight-lipped because we want it to be a surprise. I can tell you that it will not disappoint.
DA MAN: Between making the Hangover movies and being born in Fort Lauderdale, you probably know a thing or two about party towns. Where do you like to go on vacation purely to have a crazy good time?
Justin Bartha: I moved out of Florida when I was nine years old, so my partying was delegated to the KB Toy store that I lived near. Otherwise, my idea of a crazy good time is usually relaxing with family and maybe cooking up some tasty meals. Although it should be noted that my favorite ingredients to cook with are ecstasy, tequila and strawberry flavored lube.
Sweater by Etro
DA MAN: As a fashion magazine, we have to ask, how would you describe your personal style? Are there any designers you prefer, especially when you are picking your threads for red carpet events?
Justin Bartha: I like high fashion stuff like Z. Cavaricci, Skids, Hypercolor and when I really want to get it done, Farlo jeans.
DA MAN: What do you like to do in your free time away from the set?
Justin Bartha: You can usually find me at home on Web MD, self-diagnosing.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Juliet Vo
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