Five Burning Questions with Sex with Strangers Star Billy Magnussen
August 7th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Billy Magnussen had a big breakout moment as boytoy Spike in the Tony Award-winning Broadway comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and earned himself a 2013 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. Almost immediately after, he landed the plum role of Rapunzel’s Prince in Disney’s super star-studded film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods. (Oh, and there was that sexy arc on HBO's Boardwalk Empire.)
Now, Magnussen returns to the stage with an incredible performance in the new play Sex with Strangers at Second Stage, proving himself to be one of New York’s most formidable young stars. Below, BroadwayBox talks with the charming actor about sex, literature and Sondheim.
1. This play is about writers and literature, so what are three books that really rocked your world?
The Alchemist , The Drop Edge the Yonder and Open, Andre Agassi’s biography. I don’t want to spoil it, but you have to read The Alchemist, once you read it you’ll understand why. The Drop Edge the Yonder is how life will steer you in some directions even if you don’t want to be that way, but that’s who you are—and it’s got a good Western feel to it. And then Open is just like sitting down at a bar with Andre Agassi, the way it reads.
2. If there was a book about your sex life what would it be called?
Sex with Strangers [Laughs]. I’ve met some wonderful people in New York over the years and in college. We all have those stories. We do. I appreciate every single one. It made me who I am. It really did. It’s crazy. There’s people I’ve had sex with where I don’t know them but I felt closer because of sex, and then there are people you have sex with where you’re like, ‘I don’t even know who you are.’ I don’t know.
3. There’s a whole thing in the show about reading reviews and critics; do you read your own reviews?
Yeah, I read reviews like The New York Times. What I feel acting is you’re constantly learning, constantly failing and you want to know what people are thinking. Did this work? Did that work? It’s like people who act on television and film and don’t watch themselves; it’s like, ‘F#ck then how do you know what you’re doing and make yourself better?’ Come on. You have to know your craft of what you do and what works and what doesn't. I fail all the time but I learn from it. It's the only way I’m going to get better. My dad taught me, ‘If you fall down, get up.’
4. What’s Billy Magnussen’s ball-out food? Like junk food you can’t get enough of?
I went to Bar Bacon last night and I felt like the Blueberry Girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory afterwards. It’s like once a year I can go to Bar Bacon. I feel like Chinese and Asian foods are my go-to jam, and Indian food; I love that shit. I’m allergic to chocolate so I can’t do that, but I do desserts all the time, but then I have to go to the gym.
5. If your band Reserved for Rondee did a Sondheim cover, what song are you reimagining?
We did! We did a cover of “there’s a hole in the world like a great black pit” [“No Place Like London” from Sweeney Todd] for this The Lord and The Master, a Night of Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber that Pat Cerasaro put together.
Dude, I can’t wait for Into the Woods—that photo of you on the horse.
I’m pumped about that. I learned to ride a horse. I took four months of horse training. There is no stunt double for me.
Don't miss Billy Magnussen's incendiary performance as Ethan in 'Sex with Strangers' at off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre through August 31, and see him on the big screen in 'Into the Woods' on Christmas Day.