Age & Hometown: 27; Lenox, Massachusetts
Current Role: A Broadway debut as Happy Loman, the womanizing, truth-stretching younger son of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Linda Emond in Mike Nichols’ starry revival of Death of a Salesman.
Shakespearean Beginnings: Growing up in the theater-centric Berkshires, Wittrock made his unofficial acting debut at Shakespeare & Company at age eight. “My friends and I would do little Shakespeare scenes for the company after a main stage show,” he recalls. “It started out as just cute, local kids speaking words they didn’t understand. As it went on—we did it for seven years!—it actually became something amazing that the company would look forward to every summer.” Wittrock continued to study and perform Shakespeare at Juilliard, but he found fame as bad boy Damon Miller on the daytime soap All My Children. Still, he hasn’t forgotten his roots: “I would love to do Shakespeare in New York. You get thirsty to say those words again. I would love to play Henry IV, Henry V and Hamlet,” he ticks off, adding with a laugh, “That’s how I’d start!”
The Graduate Course: Wittrock received an invitation to audition for Death of a Salesman after director Mike Nichols saw him perform off-Broadway in Tony Kushner’s The Illusion. “I was nervous,” he says of auditioning for the celebrated director, “but it was so out of this world, I was like, 'There’s no possible way I’ll get this.’ I think I worked harder than on any audition in my life.” The work paid off, because he was offered the role of Happy the same day. “I remember hearing the story of Dustin Hoffman getting The Graduate,” Wittrock reflects. “Mike [Nichols] saw him in some off-Broadway play and called him out to Hollywood to audition for this part, which was the coolest story I have ever heard in my life. To have something similar happen to me was mind blowing.”
Triple Threat: An actor’s life comes with lulls, waiting around for the phone to ring with the next audition or job, but Wittrock has found solace in exploring writing and directing. “It’s something I am really passionate about,” he says, citing his work with the Los Angeles-based theater company The Mechanicals. “It can save your life when you are between jobs. It’s great to have something fulfilling, especially in L.A.” Wittrock’s latest project is a film he co-wrote and hopes to star in titled Submarine Kid. “It’s a 3D movie with an indie feel about a kid who comes back from Afghanistan and falls in love with this girl, ” he explains. “They have a car accident and she drowns, so he creates a dual reality where he can visit her.” The film aims to shoot in July, after Wittrock finishes Death of a Salesman.