Age & Hometown: 29; Howell, New Jersey
Current Role: Playing Mickey Deans, Judy Garland’s young, untrustworthy fiancé, in the Broadway premiere of End of the Rainbow.
Bad Guy: This New Jersey native and graduate of the theater program at Rutgers always pictured himself on a Broadway stage. “TV and movies are great,” says Pelphrey, “but the real dream since I started pursuing acting at 14 year old was to be on Broadway.” Before making his debut in a play about the final months of Judy Garland’s life, the actor did a lot of research. “I have people in my life who love [Judy Garland] and I asked them, ‘What’s your feeling on Mickey Deans?’ And, of course, most of them think he was Satan himself.” Not surprisingly, Pelphrey has a different view: “I see a guy who was younger and just way out of his league. I think his intentions were right, if misguided.” The audience sides with Pelphrey’s friends. “There was one show when I had [Tracie Bennett] on my lap and I’m putting pills in her mouth. An individual in the audience was shouting, ‘no. No. No! NO!’” he recalls. “Sometimes you finish a show and you’re like, ‘Oh my god. I feel like an asshole—I just had 1,000 people hating me.’”
Daytime Drama: Before making his Main Stem debut, Pelphrey won two Daytime Emmy Awards as bad-boy Jonathan Randall on the now-cancelled soap opera Guiding Light. “It might sound odd, but filming a soap was closer to acting in a play than filming episodic television,” he says, noting that soap sets resemble classic stage sets. Pelphrey laughingly describes his early days on the show: “People said, ‘You’re on camera, so you don’t do anything,’ and I took that kind of literally. When I watched myself a month later, it looked like I had a pole shoved up my ass.” Modesty aside, the handsome young actor became a breakout, award-winning soap star. “It was crazy,” he says of taking home two Emmys. “It was nice to be able to go to the Emmys and bring my mom, all dressed up. There’s nothing bad about that!”
Tom & Tracie: What’s it like sharing a Broadway stage with two-time Olivier Award-winning actress Tracie Bennett as Garland? “Amazing,” Pelphrey says. “When you see someone doing that level of work, it’s an honor to be on stage with her, and you want to do anything you can to help support it.” After every show, he adds, “The guys sit back and say, ‘How the hell did she just do that? How could she not fall over?’” Audiences at the Belasco Theater agree, often rushing to their feet to applaud the four-person cast. “Our first preview felt like you were in a rock concert,” he remembers. “The audience was screaming for Tracie, cheering her on and applauding all the songs. It was fantastic because the energy was full of love from them, and a bit crazy. Every night is a standing ovation.”