Age & Hometown: 26; Forest Lake, Minnesota
Current Role: Billy Narracott, the spoiled young antagonist who finds himself unprepared for the horrors of World War I in the Tony-winning drama War Horse.
Puppet Problems: Before assuming the featured role of Billy in War Horse, Stephen James Anthony made his Broadway debut as part of the original three-person team operating the Baby Joey puppet. “For someone like me with absolutely no puppetry experience, it was absolutely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Anthony says. “The puppeteers in the show come from a multitude of disciplines. There are some experienced puppeteers, movement actors and people from dance backgrounds, but they also cast actors because they wanted people who could convey the emotional depth and range that the animal experiences during the show.” In spite of being trained by brilliant pros from South Africa's Handspring Puppet Company, Anthony admits that mishaps occasionally happened. “The tough thing about the Baby Joey puppet is the legs are not attached to the body of the horse, and on many occasions, we'd drop the legs,” he recalls with a laugh. “Our American puppetry director, Matt Acheson, had a great quote: ‘The puppet will never cease finding ways to make you look like an idiot.’ The goal is just to keep your cool and move on.”
Blast from the Past: Though still young, Anthony has spent most of his life working in theater. “I started acting pretty early on,” he says. “I wasn’t good at sports or anything else, so I ended up following my big sister into community theater shows in Minnesota.” After their mom realized how interested the two young children were in theater, she brought them to the Twin Cities to audition for larger shows. It was there that he met future War Horse co-star Seth Numrich. “We met when I was 14 and he was 12, and we grew up together doing shows in the Twin Cities,” Anthony recounts. “When we found out we were doing [the original Broadway company] War Horse together, it was a remarkable moment. For two kids who had been staging fight scenes in theater basements as pre-teens to get to do a show together on Broadway was pretty incredible.”
Love Offstage: Anthony was first introduced to War Horse while visiting his actress girlfriend Amanda Gardner in London, two years after he had studied there at the Globe Theater. “We went in knowing absolutely nothing about War Horse and, needless to say, we were blown away,” he shares. “The whole show, especially when you see it for the first time, sort of washes over you.” As fate would have it, the London production was the first of many War Horse experiences for the couple, who've been together since their college years at Syracuse. “She is very supportive, so she’s had to see it far too many times,” jokes Anthony. Dating a fellow actor holds no pitfalls, he adds: “I think it helps a great deal having someone in the industry be your significant other,” he asserts. “Inevitably there are those moments where one of us in working and the other is not, but we are such a team that we support each other. I would love nothing more than for her to be a massive success. I am happy to be a kept man!”