This weekâs Curtain Cutie is the James Dean-esque Matthew Morrison. Mattâs curly hair (albeit shaved now), brilliant smile and beautiful voice have been on my radar for years. He has originated roles in successful Broadway shows such as Hairspray and Light in the Piazza and currently can be seen in the new off-Broadway musical 10 Million Miles. The musical, directed by Tony-Award-winning director Michael Mayer, features music and lyrics by Patti Griffin, and opens tonight at the Atlantic Theater.
Morrison plays Duane, a charming country boy just out of the army who recruits a former lover (played by Irene Molloy) to accompany him on a road trip in an old pick-up truck.
I got the opportunity to chat with him last week amidst his taxing rehearsal time about his new show, new film (with Steve Carell!) and his equally cute fiancÃ©e, soap star Chrishell Stauseâ¦ sigh.
WS: How did you get started with 10 Million Miles?
MM: I was looking to come back to do a theater piece because Iâve been mostly in film and TV and Iâm really into originating parts right now. I got tons of offers from other shows but I was just so excited to do this and Iâve become a fan of Patty Griffin as of recently. I thought it was a fun show and it was kind of a different character that I havenât played before so I was excited for the challenge -- Iâve always kind of played the secondary character in shows and stuff and its kind of a change to be at the forefront of things.
WS: Did you listen to country music before?
WS: So what kind of music do you generally listen to?
MM: Show tunes. No, Iâm kidding. No, the reason why I kind of dig Patti Griffin is because sheâs kind of folky and can do a little country but sheâs just a great songwriter -- like, what I love. I just love like John Mayer and James Taylor, you know stuff like that. But sheâs just great. Iâve had a lot of fun just singing this music.
WS: The showâs run was extended before it even opened! Have you heard anything about it moving to Broadway?
MM: I havenât really heard anything like that. I mean obviously I think thatâs the best case scenario, thatâs what everyone wants to happen but I donât know, who knows whatâs going to happen. Yeah, I donât even like to think about that, you know?
WS: In 10 Million Miles you have to take off some clothing, and you also do a little dancing. Do you ever get embarrassed?
MM: No. I mean I feel more comfortable being on stage than I do in real life. I have had embarrassing moments on stage. I did this play not too long ago, it was called A Naked Girl on the Appian Way. Richard Thomas played my adopted dad. We had this scene where he was doing a speech about how itâs not right for me to marry my adopted sisterâ¦ and I had to come up with this wild theory about how my birth parents were gymnasts and it was always so funny to us... Once a week -- at least -- we would lose our shit on this line. And I was sitting down on the couch, so I would actually put a pillow over my face and the audience was losing it because we could not control ourselves, we laughed at everything.
WS: Letâs get down to the basics. Where are you from?
MM: Iâm from the O.C.
WS: Do you watch any of the television shows related to the O.C.?
MM: No. Because none of itâs good, itâs all a bunch of crap.
WS: Why did you move away from the sun and the surf?
MM: To do theater. I went to NYU, spent two years there and I dropped out 'cause I got a part in Footloose on Broadway.
WS: So you just got engaged, right?
MM: Yep to Chrishell Stause.
WS: Aw. So how did you do it?
MM: We got engaged December 9th. I chartered this boat and had some friends decorate it and did a whole dinner and proposed in front of the Statue of Liberty. Then we had an engagement party right after that and she was trying to contact all her friends and stuff and tell them she had just gotten engaged but no one was answering because I flew in some of her family and some of her closest friends and we were all having a party and stuff. It was fun.
WS: What do you have to have in your dressing room?
MM: Um, not much. [At the Atlantic] itâs just one big room thatâs sectioned off by curtains. Itâs not very glamorous over there! But we only have four people in the cast. The most important thing that I need in my dressing room is something to sleep on. Thatâs my most essential thing, so we have a little futon kind of thing that I always have dibs on.
WS: When do you get time to sleep?
MM: Well usually we have rehearsal from 1 to 6 p.m. Then we have a little break and I just konk out. Iâm all about naps.
WS: How old are you?
MM: 28. How old are you?
WS: Oooh TouchÃ©! Moving on. Where did you get your start?
MM: I did a childrenâs theater show when I was in the fourth grade. We were visiting my cousinâs family in Arizona and they didnât really want to deal with me, so they they threw me and my cousin into this childrenâs theater and I just had a ball. And I said I wanted to do it after that. I donât know what I would do if I wasnât an actor.
WS: Well letâs say you had to pick something to be besides an actor.
MM: Umâ¦ I donât know. I mean, like Iâm so bad at everything else. We were putting a new shower head in our bathroom and my fiancÃ© was all, âwhy canât you do it?â And we called the super and stuff and he did it in like two seconds.
But, If I had to choose another career, Iâd want to be a midwife.
MM: Well yeah, my dad is actually a midwife.
WS: Do you prefer L.A. or New York?
MM: Um, I donât know. I actually just bought a place here, two years ago soâ¦ Iâm always going to have a place here because I know Iâll always want to come back and do theater because thereâs nothing better than that for me.
But Iâll probably have a place [in LA] too eventually.
WS: Youâre off-Broadway now but youâve had several roles on Broadway. What are the big differences?
MM: Thatâs a really good question. I definitely think there is a lot more glamour and hoopla with a Broadway show. And they talk about you more on websites, on the chatrooms, if youâre on a Broadway show. Oh and the paycheckâ¦
WS: Yes, I know thereâs not a lot of money in an off-Broadway show. So what do you do to make money when you are doing one?
MM: I did a pilot of a TV show right before I started this gig. Doing stuff like that I can afford to do this show.
WS: Is it going to be picked up?
MM: I donât think so -- it was pretty bad. I mean I was glad it didnât get picked up. You get a great, great pay check but then thatâs it, no one ever has to see it so thatâs good.
WS: You also have a movie with Steve Carell coming out right?
MM: Yeah, it doesnât come out until September. Iâm really excited about it, itâs going to be a good movie. I play a police officer who pulls [Steve Carell] over like three times and then he finally backs into my squad car at the very end of the movie so itâs a small part. It's very funny though.
WS: I'm sold!
10 Million Miles opens tonight at The Atlantic Theater and is running through July 15th. Pictured are scenes from the musical.
Matthew Morrison and Irene Molloy.