Philly born actor Adam Shapiro has major respect for the acting world. His work on film and series include “Steve Jobs,” “A Single Man,” “Now You See Me,” “Sense8,” “The Affair” and, lastly, “Never Have I Ever.” Other than that, Shapiro also made his debut on Broadway back in 2018. And the pandemic hasn’t stopped his love for acting. DA MAN chatted with Shapiro about life and acting in this “new-normal” era.
DA MAN: Hi Adam, thank you for sparing your time for us. How are you doing?
Adam Shapiro: Weird question to answer these days, but all things considered … doing okay! Basketball is back tonight. So, today is a good day. Being woken up by an earthquake at 4AM this morning: not so good. It’s a roller coaster.
DA: Are you still in quarantine with your family?
AS: I am! Honestly so grateful for the gift of the time I’m getting to spend with my wife Katie and two-year-old son Albee. Normally, we’ve got an insane family schedule with both of us on set and filming and traveling, and this has been a much-needed break. That being said, would I like to go to an island all by myself and not change diapers for a few days? Yes. Yes, I would.
DA: How do you keep a positive mindset during the pandemic?
AS: Well, I’m not sure I have been. But, I’m generally a positive-thinking person. It’s just my nature: I love people, I love working, I love traveling. I mean, those are literally the three things I’m not seeing or doing right now per se, but I’ve been finding happiness in cooking, tackling random house projects I’ve put off for years, making adorable daily little movies of my son.
DA: What are your thoughts about what’s going on in the world today?
AS: We are seeing the world change before our eyes. Change is messy, but it’s a necessity. Especially the changes we’re fighting for now. And as frustrating as things have been, having zero federal leadership, a President taking us backward and putting lives in danger, in a time of great uncertainty and pandemic and police killings, I also see rays of hope: BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of color] leaders and activists rising and being heard. I’m thrilled to live during a time of real change and be able to play a part in it and I am proud to stand with Black Lives Matter. To have the time and resources to learn about being anti-racist. To learn how to raise an anti-racist child. To be a part of the community of artists who are doing what we can to use our platforms for good despite perceived risks and resistance. Wear a mask. And follow @ColorOfChange.
DA: What do you think working on set will be like in this “new normal” era?
AS: It’ll be completely different. My favorite part of being on set is the friendships made, the hangouts in the make-up trailer, by craft services, at lunch … I have a feeling most of those moments will be stripped away for safety reasons which will be a bummer. However it is, I cannot wait to get back to it. Nothing I enjoy more than being on set and making a movie. It’s magic.
DA: Speaking about the “new normal,” since the pandemic basically has upended everybody’s life, have you start working on new projects now?
AS: I did a really fun web series during lockdown where all the actors shot their storylines at their houses and sent the footage to the editors and producers to make the show. It’s called “Interconnected” and will be out soon. It’s an experiment for sure, but one that I was very down for. Actors got to act. Pandemic, stay-at-home, whatever … it’s not going to stop us from doing our thing and telling stories. My theatre, IAMA Theatre Company, which I co-founded in 2007, is also doing a ton of live readings and theatrical events. It’s been keeping me busy and having fun figuring out ways of doing what we love doing with our strange new parameters.
DA: You have a long history in musical theatre. Can you tell us how you got started?
AS: Same as so many kids: high school musicals. I never had a big part or anything, I just kind of danced around in the background. Badly. But I was obsessed with musicals growing up. I taught myself to sing by imitating the cast albums for hours after my parents would put me in bed. It was always a dream to be on Broadway. I moved to L.A. to work in film and TV and kind of gave up on that dream. But after doing a few musicals here on the West Coast, I finally got my opportunity to audition for a Broadway musical, got it, and made my debut in “Waitress” in 2018. Greatest few months of my life, hands down, in a musical that I was already a huge fan of, with my wife—who played the Dawn to my Ogie—and our six-month-old son in NYC with us, crawling around on the stage! It was unreal. I think about it every day.
DA: And what makes you love the acting world so much?
AS: I wish I loved something that was way easier to do professionally. But, what can I say? I’ve always been an actor, it’s my favorite thing. The good, the bad, the challenges … it’s all part of the gig. I also love other actors, my favorite kind of people. It’s just a ridiculously fun way to make a living, and, in our small way, a real opportunity to be on the front lines of making a difference in this world. Through the stories we tell, the voices we amplify, the characters we put out there.
DA: What was your first experience in the entertainment industry?
AS: I did a steakhouse commercial in college which paid me exactly what I needed to buy a PlayStation 2. It was huge. And then I moved to L.A. and became Andy Dick’s assistant while he was doing his show for MTV. I loved it. The producers of the show told me if I was loving Hollywood after an entire season of having to be Andy Dick’s assistant, then I was going to be just fine out here. They were right.
DA: What would be your second chosen profession besides acting?
AS: I’d be a graphic designer. I’m obsessed with graphic design: fonts, colors, movie posters, all that stuff. Nothing makes me happier than making something that other people think is dope. And nothing makes me angrier than a bad font. Like, let’s please all stop with Lucida Calligraphy and Papyrus. Please.
DA: Going forward, are there any specific challenges—maybe certain roles or certain genres—that you’d like to tackle as an actor?
AS: I enjoy doing comedy, but I’d love to be in a WWII film. It’s a big part of my Jewish upbringing, the heroic stories that came out of that time. My grandfather was a fighter pilot and was shot down and imprisoned in a POW camp for a year. How cool would it be to honor him and soldiers like him? Those WWII movies and stories have always been so inspiring to me; it’d be a really cool thing to be a part of something like that. Part of the canon of movies that reminds us of a time of unspeakable horrors and unfathomable bravery.
DA: Tell us about “Never Have I Ever,” which now has been renewed for a second season. And your character is actually your own name, Mr. Shapiro. Why did they keep your name for the role?
AS: I guess I was always in [series creator] Mindy Kaling’s mind for the role and once I was cast, the name just stuck. It’s hilarious when I’m on set and people call for “Mr. Shapiro” and I think my dad is behind me. It also helps my ultimate goal of becoming a more famous Shapiro than OJ’s lawyer so people stop asking me if I’m related to him. “Never Have I Ever” just might do it!
DA: What do you think about the importance of series like “Never Have I Ever”?
AS: Our show’s genius young lead, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, put it best when she said: “I’m so hyped that [my cousin] is going to get to see me on screen and see that realistic representation so that she feels like she belongs and doesn’t feel like living her life in the shadows.” This show is one of several recent ground-breaking TV shows that are giving representation to different groups of people that have never been represented on American TV in this way. As the lead. Not the side character. Not the stereotypical version. But of someone with layers, backstories, families, feelings … the kinds of things we’re all too used to seeing with white characters, but are now finally being seeing in BIPOC leads. Also, and I love this, a young person in therapy as a big part of the show. Mental health is another subject that has been in the shadows for too long. I love that Devi sees her therapist and it’s just a normal thing. As it should be. Honestly, I can’t say enough about this show. It’s a real pleasure and honor to be a part of, in so many ways. Big thanks to Lang and Mindy!
DA: How do you think fans of the show will respond to season two?
AS: All I know for sure is that I’ll be celebrating because it will have meant we actually filmed it, which will have meant that the whole thing happened safely and successfully. Can’t wait to see everyone again. Hopefully, for the fans of the show, that happens as soon as possible. As a fan myself, I cannot wait to see season two.
DA: Do you still have anything like a dream project? Or perhaps a bucket list of stories and people you really want to work with?
AS: Not really. But I would like to be on set with Daniel Day Lewis at some point. I don’t even have to be acting opposite him. I’d be happy to prepare his coffee and bring it to him. I just want to see it in person. What he does is insane. It’s like being a basketball player and getting to be on the same court as Lebron. It would be amazing.
DA: Do you have any hidden talents?
AS: Well, I developed one during quarantine. I make a damn good soft pretzel. And where I’m from, a Philly guy, born and raised, that means something.
DA: Last but ¬¬not least, do you have any wise words or favorite quote to live by every day?
AS: My pops always tells me at the end of emails to me to “keep pushing.” It’s short. It’s sweet. It can apply to so much. It’s a little two-word mantra that gets me motivated in all aspects of my life. It’s not about the result, it’s about the work you put in. All the other stuff will fall into place as it will, all you got to do is … keep pushing.
PHOTOGRAPHY Ian Phillips
STYLING Kimberly Goodnight at mediaplaygroundpr.com
GROOMING Robert Bryan at Exclusive Artists
U.S.-BASED CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
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