Mark Consuelos is among the initial cast of rotating stars in off-Broadway's Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, which features nine short plays from acclaimed authors including Neil LaBute, Paul Rudnick, Mo Gaffney, Jordan Harrison and more. Consuelos, who is well known for his own marriage to Live with Regis and Kelly co-host and his former All My Children co-star Kelly Ripa, chatted with Broadway.com shortly before the show's opening about supporting marriage equality, his stint as a minister at Howard Stern's wedding and the rumors that he may become Regis Philbin's permanent TV replacement.
Why did you want to be part of the off-Broadway debut of Standing on Ceremony?
I love theater, and it’s an honor to be part of this message. It’s a super important message of equality and equal rights and protection. I still feel like I’m pinching myself that they asked me to do it. This is an important time in this country, especially in New York, so I just jumped at the chance.
This show is like a summit of star playwrights and theater actors. What was the process of putting it together like?
I’m blown away to be in the presence of these actors, learn from them and listen to them—and then there’s the playwrights! [During rehearsal] they would pop in and tweak some of the pieces, and that was always extremely cool to see them at work. We’d be doing Neil LaBute’s piece and all the sudden he walks in to listen to it and you’re like, “Oh My God! Neil LaBute!” or Paul Rudnick would come in and say, “Let’s change this.” Jose Rivera was there while we were reading one day, and my knees were just shaking. It’s funny to be 40 years old and still feel nervous like a little kid.
Do you have a favorite of the nine pieces?
I have favorite parts of every piece. I obviously like the ones I’m in [laughs]. Richard Thomas does one by Moises Kaufman, and it’s beautiful. Richard just blows me away. There’s this really great piece by Neil LaBute called Strange Fruit. It’s so stylized and so Neil LaBute…it’s really heavy, but great. There’s one called On Facebook by Doug Wright, who took the piece straight from a Facebook thread [of people debating about gay marriage] and it’s brilliant and super funny. That’s the great thing about all these pieces: You’re going to laugh a lot. Our director, Stuart Ross, staged it in a really cool way; we’re always on stage and get to experience the readings, even of the scenes we’re not in.
To over-generalize, the theater and gay communities kind of go hand in hand. Do you think the show will find a wider audience?
Yeah, absolutely. It has something for everyone. People who don’t necessarily know how to feel about the subject will be surprised when they come see it. The show gives you a window into these relationships and will open some eyes. I’m not super political and I wouldn’t have done this piece just as a political stance. It has a lot of heart to it and it’s funny and makes you realize that relationships cross all gender lines. It’s just about people who love each other and want to be together.
Had you been following the debates about gay marriage?
I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to it until Prop 8 started happening in California. I didn’t really understand it…they voted for it and had [legalized gay marriage], and now they don’t have it? It was like, “Wait—they can’t do that.” When it [initially] didn’t pass in New York I had some close friends here who had really strong feelings about that vote. It was interesting to see certain politicians make certain decisions based on constituents or religious beliefs instead of just saying, “What is the right thing to do? What is fair?” This country was based on equal rights—at least we thought we were—and we’ve been coming closer and closer to that each decade.
You officiated Howard Stern’s wedding in 2008. Do you have plans to oversee any more weddings in the future?
I kind of retired after that one [laughs]. I really only did it for the clergy pass that I got for being a minister, which doesn’t work in New York City anyway. It took my assistant about 15 minutes and $43 to become an official. I still have a lot of people ask me. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have stopped. It could be a nice little side job. A back-up plan!
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about who will replace Regis Philbin as your wife’s co-host on Live. Is there any truth to the rumors you’re in the running?
No one’s asked me to do it. As much buzz and conjecture as there is about certain people, nobody has asked me. I wish Regis well, and if anybody deserves to have some time to do what they want to do and move on, it’s him. The guy works so hard. Whoever gets that seat will be the luckiest man, child, woman, whatever they are. They’ll be in great company. My wife is so funny and talented and never lets anybody fail next to her.
If you were to receive an offer, do you think a full-time gig alongside your wife would involve too much time together?
I think I would probably annoy my wife. We did work together for a number of years on All My Children, and those were really long days. This show is only an hour, so I think we’d be ok.
Shortly before the Standing on Ceremony’s opening, you had to fly out to Los Angeles for a TV commitment.
I’m doing I Hate My Teenage Daughter with Katie Finneran and Jaime Pressly. To go from doing a scene with Harriet Harris in New York, then fly out to L.A. to work with Katie and Jaime, and be married to my wife, I’m surrounded by funny women all the time. It’s such a treat!
Katie Finneran is a Broadway favorite. Did you have fun working together?
Katie’s amazing. I know her pedigree in the theater, and she’s super funny in the show. I’m doing a two-episode arc. I play a Spanish teacher at a local college and Katie and Jaime’s characters decide to go back to night school. FOX has super high hopes for the show [which premieres on November 30]. I taped my first episode in front of the live audience and I have to go back again soon for the second.
So, now that you’re in a show about marriage, what's the key to maintaining a happy one?
Having an extremely patient and tolerant wife! We had great role models growing up: Both our sets of parents are still together after almost 50 years, so those values were instilled in us early on. We take it day by day, but I think she still likes me.
See Mark Consuelos in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays at the Minetta Lane Theatre.