Five Burning Questions with Casa Valentina Star Gabriel Ebert
June 4th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Last season Gabriel Ebert won his first Tony Award for his sidesplitting performance as Mr. Wormwood in the hit musical Matilda, and this season he’s breaking our hearts into a million pieces as Jonathon/Miranda in Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-nominated play Casa Valentina. (Though if you saw Ebert in LCT’s 4000 Miles, you’d know this young actor can do it all!) BroadwayBox caught up with Ebert to talk about his ideological differences with Wormwood, his favorite Harvey stories and his Tony night surprise.
1. What’s the one thing no one tells you about winning a Tony Award?
Nobody told me that after you win, you don’t get to sit back down. You go to another building and do press for like an hour and a half before you can go sit back down. My award was early in the night, and I didn’t make it back until there was only 20 minutes left. I would figure out who won by who was streaming into the pressroom. So that was kind of crazy.
2. I love the scene in Casa Valentina where your character Miranda gets her big makeover, and I believe Charlotte (Reed Birney) says you have to put someone in charge of the process; so if you were going to put one of your co-stars in charge of your look in real life, who wins?
A part of me says John Cullum. The dude is 84, and he’s like me, in that most of our wardrobe is comprised of costume pieces from shows we’ve done in the past. But definitely the hippest dressing person around is Nick Westrate. He always looks really good; I think he’s probably the most attractive woman onstage too. So I’d have to go with Nick in charge of making me look pretty as a girl or pretty as a boy.
3. If you were going to go on a 4,000 mile road trip with Mr. Wormwood or Jonathon, who are you sharing that experience with?
Oh for god sake, Jonathon! I don't think you could spend five minutes in a room with Mr. Wormwood. All of the things he believes are the exact opposite of what I believe, and all of the things he finds useful to spend his time doing are the things that make me sad about humanity. So I’d spend my time with Jonathon—maybe he’s a sheltered little guy, but I think he’s got a lot to say. And he’s an English teacher, so he’s read some great classics and we can talk about that.
4. What’s your happy place? What do you do when you want to feel amazing?
I don’t want to get too deep but it’s changed. What used to make me feel amazing was being onstage and doing plays. When I was at school, or at Juilliard, we’d only do plays four or five times, so every time you performed it, the stakes were so high—you were only going to get so many chances to swing at it. But now that I’ve done long runs of shows, that relationship has changed. Though I still love it and it fills me with joy, it’s also really hard work. So the things that tend to make me happy now I actually have to make a conscious effort towards. One of the things that fills me with the most joy is playing music. I play a couple different instruments, and at my apartment I don’t have a television but I have a piano. I have friends I play music with and we can jam. I’m also sort of a reclusive man, so I like to go upstate and swim in a lake, and when I’m swimming in a lake, that's probably my happiest place.
5. What’s your most memorable story about your wonderful, colorful playwright Harvey Fierstein? When you look back at Casa Valentina, what’s going to pop into your head?
[Laughs.] They are still being built. One of my favorite things was watching Harvey and Joe Mantello working together. Joe’s a brilliant director but very serious, and Harvey is always having a good time and cracking jokes, even though we were dealing with this incredibly heavy subject matter. Harvey always called Joe Mary. And when Joe was working on what he called clearing out the underbrush (clearing out the bits of the play that were muddy or didn't further the thrust of the story), Harvey would always says little things like, 'There goes my Pulitzer.' I always thought the dynamic those two had was amazing. I’m going to go with [Harvey] to the Tonys, so I’ll have even crazier stories when this thing is over. He’s an amazing man and a really important artist in our world. I hope people look at his play and look at what a serious thing he’s done and how brave it was to write this play.
See Tony winner Gabriel Ebert in Harvey Fierstein’s brave, brilliant and Tony-nominated play ‘Casa Valentina’ at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.