Broadway.com readers love How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying star Christopher J. Hanke, host of our popular Frump Tower vlog and top vote-getter in a recent poll asking which Broadway star you’d like to take to the beach. We figured that the dog days of summer would be a great time to chat with Hanke about why he feels at ease playing comic villain Bud Frump and how he sees his career unfolding after he and co-star Daniel Radcliffe leave the show.
You’ve spent your summer in a bona fide Broadway hit…
I know! If you look at my resume, I’ve never really been in one. The people at Rent will get mad, but that was already running when I came in, so this is my first time with a new hit show. It’s still a lot of fun to come to work.
How did Daniel Radcliffe cope with all the Harry Potter hoopla while doing eight shows a week?
He is possibly an alien, frankly, because he has kept completely calm and normal and focused through those interviews and openings; I would not be able to do it. He always comes to work with the biggest smile on his face, and he is so nice. He even had a private screening of the film for our entire cast before it came out.
So, he really is as sweet as he seems?
Listen, I would tell the truth, but he is sweeter than he seems. When Dan is with us, he’s a part of us. He knows everybody’s name; he plays games with us after the show; he comes to our parties; he is not separate from us in any way. He’s just a cast member, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Frankly, you seem more like a Finch [the part played by Radcliffe] than Bud Frump. Is it odd that you’ve found yourself playing comic villains in this show and in Cry-Baby?
The Finch thing is kind of obvious. Yeah, I could do it, but I wouldn’t want to do it in this production—and thank god I’m not, because the show would have closed by now! [Laughs.] I have no problem playing a comic villain. It’s fun to do something unexpected and to deliciously crawl all over the stage, metaphorically and literally. Frump has been a joy to create.
Well, it didn’t keep you from winning our poll as the actor Broadway.com readers would most like to take to the beach!
The only reason I won that poll is that my mother sat up for 48 hours straight with a box of Franzia and a cigarette and voted nonstop [laughs]. She didn’t even go to the bathroom for those two days.
Seriously, would you agree that your Broadway.com vlog has shown fans a different side of your personality?
I would never have won that poll had I not done the vlog—coupled with the fact that Harry Potter fans come to see the show and become fans of the other cast members.
In the last couple of years, you’ve been a series regular on Three Rivers and had recurring roles on Big Love and Brothers & Sisters. Was it a big decision to leave L.A. for a year to do How to Succeed?
All of those TV shows happened in a short period of time—Three Rivers was my third audition in L.A.—and I rode that ride for all it was worth. Then Broadway came a-calling, and when you have a chance to play a funny part opposite one of the biggest movie stars in the world and one of the best comedians in the world [John Larroquette], you say “yes.” I didn’t feel like I was going to lose anything by being gone for a year, and as soon as my contract is done, I’m going to head back to L.A. and pick up where I left off.
In several interviews, you’ve referred to L.A. as home. What do you like about it?
CBS moved me out there when I got Three Rivers, and once I got a car, it brought me back to my roots of growing up in the south. [Hanke is from Little Rock, Arkansas.] I enjoy having a larger apartment, for less money, than I had in New York, and being able to drive to the grocery store and put my gym bag in the trunk rather than carrying a backpack around for 12 hours. It’s nice to live a more normal life.
You don’t seem very southern. Where did you go to college?
Baylor University, and I loved it. It’s Baptist: no drinking, no dancing, no playing cards! [Laughs.] We weren’t allowed to have dances on campus, so fraternity functions had to be held off campus and separate from the school. I did not drink until I was 21 because it’s the law. I certainly love a margarita now.
Did your family approve of you becoming an actor?
When I told my father I wasn’t going to go to medical school and was going to be an actor, his quote was something like, “Great. I wasted $300,000 on education for my son to become a waiter.” Once he saw me in my first three productions, it all changed. He cried and said, “I had no idea you could do this.” Now people want to interview him, and he denies he ever said anything. Parents forget quickly!