Brian Hutchison & Valerie Harper in 'Looped'
Tallulah was an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is, ahead-of-her-time broad."
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Currently: Playing uptight editor Danny, who must perform the thankless duty of supervising the erratic, over-the-top Tallulah Bankhead (played by Valerie Harper) as she loops (or re-records) a line of dialogue for a film in Matthew Lombardo’s Looped on Broadway.
Unlocking Opportunity: A natural performer, Hutchison spent his formative years performing in plays and singing in a rock band, but he says he felt “unfocused creatively” and was unsure of how to build a career in the arts. He then had an aha moment while studying at Lafayette College. A professor revealed that she could see him as a New York actor. “It was this big pivotal moment in terms of giving me permission to try,” he recalls. “The idea unlocked a world that at that point had seemed amorphous.“ When the same teacher recommended doing an apprenticeship at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the seeds of Hutchison’s future as a professional actor were sown. He spent that summer at WTF immersing himself “in everything theatrical” and knew he would seriously pursue acting.
It’s a Hard-Knock Life: Hutchison moved to New York in his early 20s. “I’m not going to lie to you, the first few years were really rough,” he admits. “I was one of those people that would wait outside the Equity building for an appointment at 7am in the rain trying to schedule an audition.” Between acting gigs, the former English major had day jobs as a proofreader, waiter and paralegal. “I got enough faint praise [from acting] that I could continue forward.”
A Well-Timed Break: Hutchison’s break in New York could not have come at a better time: “I was just finishing grad school [at the Old Globe/University of San Diego, where the actor went to earn an MFA], moving out my apartment in San Diego and driving across country to move back to New York. When I was driving through New Mexico, I got a call that they wanted to see me for ensemble and understudy in The Invention of Love. I printed out the pages of the script in a Kinko’s in Albuquerque and learned it as I was driving across the country. I got to New York and the next morning I auditioned at Lincoln Center. By the end of that day, I had a Broadway contract. “
Enter the Guard: That first Broadway job led to being an understudy in Proof and “got the ball rolling” with a steady string of roles off-Broadway and in regional plays. Then the actor landed a part in last season’s Exit the King. ”That was one of the best experiences I will probably ever have,” Hutchison says of appearing opposite Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon in the Ionesco play. “Geoffrey had already done that part in Australia, but watching him recreate it with all of us and then getting to watch him perform it every night and clowning around alongside him in my suit of armor was such a thrill.” That suit of armor, by the way, weighed in the neighborhood of 35 pounds. “It was real. I don’t think anybody had worn the real suit of armor on stage in years and years on Broadway. I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t complain about it. The play was such a joy to do, it made any pain I had wearing the armor kind of disappear,” he says, adding, “I did get a good chiropractor, though.”
Tallulah, Hallelujah: “It’s a great part to come along for me,” Hutchison says of playing Danny in Looped. “Tallulah was an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is, ahead-of-her-time broad.” The actor admits he didn’t know much about the Hollywood bad girl until he was cast in the play, though he was aware of her name and outrageous reputation. He started by doing some research: “I immediately watched Life Boat; she’s amazing in that. The next thing I watched was the film Die! Die! My Darling!, which is what Looped is based on, and it’s a totally different thing to see her at the end of her career.” Hutchison notes that Looped co-star Harper couldn’t be farther from the bawdy, boozy loudmouth she plays:” She is the most earth-mothering kind of person you’d ever want to meet.”
Doing the Deed: Has Hutchison ever had to loop a line? “I have for Law & Order,” he says. “Nowadays it’s a high-def TV that’s right in front of you, and you’re in a really luxurious sound studio in your own little booth. You hear beeps and say the line while watching yourself in the scene.” How long does it take? “It didn’t take me eight hours,” he laughs, “but I wasn’t drunk and popping pills and belligerent when I went in there, so maybe that helped.”