Emmys 2012: Worst Jobs, Career Highs and (TMI!) On-Stage Accidents at the Drama Actors Roundtable
This story first appeared in the June 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
An actor's worst nightmare, it turns out, is not acting. So say the six leading men The Hollywood Reporter gathered to chat about the state of their craft. In a colorful conversation, these Emmy contenders -- Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), 56; Kelsey Grammer (Boss), 57; Jon Hamm (Mad Men), 41; Peter Krause (Parenthood), 46; Damian Lewis (Homeland), 41; and Kiefer Sutherland (Touch), 45 -- reveal their most mortifying moments, the stress of rewrites, odd jobs they wish they could forget and "the luxury" of going to work as an actor every day.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: What's been your worst moment ever as an actor?
Jon Hamm: Mine would be living in L.A. for 10 years and not working, having no money and no prospects. The days were kind of great; it was the long nights staring at the ceiling waiting for the phone to ring. The uncertainty is always the difficult part, at least it has been for me.
Kiefer Sutherland: I was doing The Glass Menagerie. It was the top of the second act and I had forgotten a vital prop. My dressing room was on the fourth floor. I had to go from underneath the stage where I would come up, all the way to the fourth floor, grab my prop, run all the way back. I had this huge monologue. By the time the curtain came up, I had lost all wind trying to get my composure back. I almost got to the moment where I actually said, "Sorry." I was just right there. Then I caught my breath and went on, but it was the idea of actually having to look at 2,000 people and say, "Sorry. Can we start again?" I get it if you're 80 and you've done this forever and the memory starts to go, but not at 30.
Kelsey Grammer: Your memory goes anytime. I did something in New York a while ago. I took a week off and the first night back I forgot everything. (Laughter.) Just a blank. I actually apologized to the audience. "I'm going to need a minute," and I walked offstage.
Bryan Cranston: That kind of experience, Kelsey, would be enough to drive me out of the business. I love to act. But if it ever got to the point where you couldn't really fulfill your job, I think that's when I would hang it up.
Grammer: Then it's time for a different job. (Laughter.) Like, living.
Damian Lewis: Ralph Fiennes played a well-regarded Hamlet on Broadway, and I was Laertes. We had this incredible sword fight, and it got quicker and quicker every night as we got more and more hungover. We partied pretty hard on that job. One day it was going quicker and quicker, and I got hit by the pommel of his sword and blood started pouring out of my eye. Ralph hadn't turned around until he'd seen me lying on the floor with blood covering half my face. He came up to me and carried on doing his dialogue. Ralph has these crazy eyes anyway, and he got closer and closer. "Are you OK?" I said, "I don't know, you tell me. Is my eye still in?" I couldn't feel it. We got to the end of the show, and I went off to the hospital. I had six stitches straight across the top of my eye. You could hear everyone in the audience, "Oh my God, this is amazing."
Peter Krause: I was doing summer stock in Woodstock, New York, and unbeknownst to me, we shouldn't have been drinking the well water. It's in a barn, I'm wearing a tuxedo and in incredible gastronomic pain. Things progress, I'm in a panic, and I soil myself. All I could think was, how far is it to the lodge where I can get to the bathroom? It was the most terrifying experience I've ever had as an actor.
Sutherland: So you shit yourself.
Grammer: I farted once. It was the fart heard around the world. (Laughter.)
THR: Did the audience respond?
Grammer: Oh completely.
Lewis: By farting back?
Hamm: Classic call and response.
Grammer: I was playing Florizel, and they staged this rustic dance/wedding ceremony. The virgin Indian girl is lying on the floor downstage. There's a circle of people around, and there's chanting and drums. There's a great silence as I, the young prince, go to lift up my bride-to-be. I bent down and slid my hands underneath and (makes flatulence noise).
Sutherland: I'd have called out her name.
Cranston: "Damn it, Cindy!"
THR: Who are your acting heroes?
Cranston: Kelsey Grammer, actually …
Grammer: Oh, lord. Gregory Peck was one guy I really loved. John Wayne.
Cranston: Spencer Tracy.
Grammer: Gregory Peck. To Kill a Mockingbird really got to me.
THR: Did you see yourself becoming a film actor?
Grammer: I saw myself becoming a waiter. (Laughter.) I loved Shakespeare as a boy, so I hoped that I'd have a career in theater. Then television came along, and that was helpful.
Krause: For me, it was Paul Newman and Larry Hagman. Newman made it look cool, but then I saw Hagman on I Dream of Jeannie. I was a kid and quite focused on Jeannie, but Hagman's physical comedy was just great.
Lewis: I really responded to Jack Lemmon and a British actor working at the moment called Mark Rylance. He was a generation ahead of me, and I used to see him as a student at school and was just cowed by his brilliance. Like Kelsey, I had theater training, classical training. I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Those were my sort of touchstones. TV and film I've become a student of subsequently, and happily.
Grammer: Are we better than the drama actresses yet? [In THR's June 8 issue.]
Hamm: None of the girls shit their pants. (Laughter.) We win.