Age & Hometown: 36; Baton Rouge, LA
Current Role: An explosive Broadway debut as Nick, a rookie professor at New Carthage University in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
A Killer Education: Born and raised in Baton Rouge (the “kid brother to New Orleans, its cooler older brother”), Dirks grew up watching football games and plays at Louisiana State University. When he was finally old enough to attend LSU, Dirks immersed himself in the theater department, working on the crew for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and assistant directing Killer Joe by Tracy Letts. “I was a huge fan of Tracy and Amy [Morton] in college,” he says. When they eventually became his Broadway co-stars, Dirks’ admiration grew. “They’re wildly accomplished actors who have worked together a long time. It's daunting, but Amy and Tracy treat me as a peer. They’re warm, they’re funny and they ask a lot of questions. They do it right!”
Chicago Bound: On the advice of a professor, Dirks moved to the Windy City after graduation to pursue acting. There, he landed his first film role, an FBI agent in Public Enemies, starring the “incredible” Christian Bale. “He’s the only guy I hung out with,” recalls Dirks, who got “mowed down” in a hail of bullets in the film but enjoyed a warm on-set relationship with Bale. “It’s amazing to see someone of his status—no entourage, just him in his baseball cap—set a good example for the younger guys.” In Chicago, Dirks met a beautiful actress who would change his life: his fiancée, Rebecca Buller. “It was immediate,” he remembers. “It’s like, I’ve gotta be around this woman! I don’t wanna be anywhere else.” The couple will wed in New Orleans this summer after the release of the Superman flick Man of Steel, in which Buller is rumored to be playing the female Jimmy Olsen.
Taming the Woolf: Because his Virginia Woolf character constantly guzzles bourbon, Dirks has to plan bathroom breaks carefully. “If I don’t go at intermission, Act Two is gonna be the longest 55 minutes of my life,” he says with a laugh. After more than 200 performances of Albee’s masterpiece in Chicago, Washington DC and on Broadway, Dirks has his fake drinking down to a science—but the play itself remains a nightly challenge. “That boulder keeps gaining mass as it gets pushed up the hill,” he says. “If anything, the burden of having to tell the story the right way every night gets even bigger.” Luckily, the cast of four (including Carrie Coon as Honey) is very close. “If you’re gonna do a play that’s this difficult, you need to feel good about the people you’re doing it with,” Dirks says. “I really got lucky.”