Hometown: Katy, Texas
Currently: Playing Richard Hannay, the dashing, mustachioed British adventurer falsely accused of murder in the suspenseful off-Broadway spoof The 39 Steps.
Learning the Ropes: Aside from an appearance in his high school's production of Romeo and Juliet, John Behlmann never really considered acting until entering college at Weslyan University. Even then he majored in political science and French, but soon got involved in the school’s theater scene, acting in shows such as Equus, Art and (opposite his former classmate and current 39 Steps co-star Kate MacCluggage) in Lady of the Drowned. After graduating, Behlmann pursued acting fulltime and earned his MFA at the National Theater Conservatory in Denver before moving to New York City. “I come from a lifetime of school, where I constantly had things to work on,” he says of his move to New York, “so when I got here and people weren’t banging on my door handing me jobs, I’d get antsy and call my agent every day. He eventually had to say, ‘This is my job, calm down, we’ll get you there eventually.’”
Journey to Broadway: His agent delivered. Within six months of moving to New York, Behlmann landed a gig in the 2007 Tony-winning revival of Journey’s End, where he had a bit part as Private Albert Brown and understudied Hugh Dancy. “That was a great group of 11 actors. All men with no egos or pretension,” he says of his co-stars which also included four-time Tony winner Boyd Gaines and American Idiot’s Stark Sands. “I couldn’t have asked for a smoother intro to the New York theater world. I was nervous because I knew how to do plays, but not on this huge of a scale. Turns out they’re pretty much the same, there’s just more money on the line,” he says with a laugh.
Sleaziness in the Soap World: When Journey actually did end, Behlmann kept busy by making appearances on soap operas like Guiding Light and All My Children. He says he usually didn’t receive scripts until the last minute, so he was caught off guard when he suddenly learned one of his characters was an accused pedophile. “It’s an interesting thing to call up your family and say, ‘Hey guys watch me on Guiding Light’ and then as they’re watching they realize, ‘Oh, my nephew is a pedophile!’” Luckily his character turned out to be innocent and had been framed the whole time.
Web Writing: Behlmann also found a creative outlet through the Internet. He was hired to write episodes and act in CBS.com’s web series Wallstrip (a spoof about Wall Street executives) and the sports-themed Heckle U. “To write things and then a week or two later see them fully realized was great,” Behlmann says of the web’s quick production time. “Plus, I could always write myself a good part.” The actor was no stranger to writing for himself on the Internet though, thanks to his annual YouTube birthday videos. When Behlmann suffered a ligament tear, he found himself confined to his apartment while recovering. “I had all this time on my hands, so I’d been doing some blogging and making videos to have contact with the outside world.” With his leg healing and “re-entry into the social world” coinciding with his 26th birthday, Behlmann filmed a humorous rap music video inviting his friends out to party. It was such a hit, he’s now produced one every year since.
Stepping Up: Behlmann landed his current gig thanks to a previous job with The 39 Steps director Maria Aitken, and even recommended his old college pal MacCluggage to co-star due to the tall actress' ability to match his height. (He's 6'4".) “There’s a lot of manhandling and being handcuffed to each other, and that goes a lot smoother when you don’t have to say ‘Oh, so where’d you grow up?’” he cracks about their relationship. Handcuffs aren't Behlmann's only obstacle in the show, which often finds him climbing walls and jumping out prop windows. “It’s definitely a workout,” he says. "It’s great to be an action hero of the '30s but still have this great range of humor. They don’t often ask the tall handsome guy to tell jokes!”