Age & Hometown: 33; Guildford, England
Current role: A side-splitting, Tony-nominated comic turn as pacemaker-fueled octogenarian and trainee waiter Alfie in One Man, Two Guvnors.
Great Expectations: If Tom Edden wasn’t an actor, he’d probably be a cartoonist. “My two big passions were theater and drawing,” he remembers of his school days. His love for drama was honed through pretend games with his twin sister, but his love of art was equally compelling. “It was kind of a coin flip between the two,” he recalls, “and I found the idea of theater more lively.” Another factor was drama teacher Jennifer Haynes, who overhauled his high school's program. “We did all six hours of Nicholas Nickleby, we did Brecht, she took us to the Edinburgh Festival; she was a real inspiration.” It was Haynes that who brought the future star to the theater in London. “I saw Pygmalion at the National when I was about 15. It sounds clichéd now, but that’s when I said, ‘I really want to work at the National Theater.’ It felt like the place to be for an actor.”
Funny Stuff: After studying drama at Rose Bruford College, Edden landed a gig touring The Importance of Being Earnest in Germany. Not that everything from smooth sailing from there: “I was a sightseeing tour guide, I’ve handed out free dog food, I’ve worked in Harrods, I’ve worked in call centers,” he rattles off. “I’ve done all the shitty jobs you can imagine.” But Edden maintained his belief in “keeping one’s life as creative as you can,” which included a turn at stand-up comedy. “I was not edgy at all, I’d just laugh at my own homosexuality and toilet stuff, really. A lot of stuff about the Pope.” The experience paid off when he landed an audition for Oliver! “I thought, ‘If I can do stand-up in front of 30 South African rugby players in Wimbledon, auditioning for Fagin is going to be a walk in the park.” He landed his first West End job, understudying one of his comedy heroes, Rowan Atkinson.
A Tale of Two Cities: Serendipity knocked when Edden auditioned for One Man, Two Guvnors. “I was teaching clowning at the time, so my head was already in the playful place where I said, ‘OK, I’ll hoist my trousers up as inappropriately far as they can go, over-exaggerate my physical asymmetry, give it a punt and see what happens,’” he says. An hour later, he’d landed the role that would ultimately bring him to Broadway. Meeting Joan Rivers and attending the Metropolitan Opera are icing on the New York cake for Edden, who bought a ticket to Die Walküre “as a little treat for my [Tony] nomination.” The hard part is being away from his partner, choreographer Aiden Treays. “I was going to propose to him in New York,” Edden says, “but he got in there first. He went to the Himalayas, found himself in a jewelry shop and proposed when he got back.” Treays will be Edden's Tony date, but he’s hoping to be joined by another special guest: “Liza Minnelli has to come to the Tonys, right? Please say she’ll come to the Tonys!”