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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - Broadway

Lincoln Center Theater presents Christopher Durang's Chevhov-centric new play.

Vanya’s Billy Magnussen on Soap Operas, Underwear Scenes & What He Really Wants To Do With His Life

Vanya’s Billy Magnussen on Soap Operas, Underwear Scenes & What He Really Wants To Do With His Life
Billy Magnussen photographed by Jenny Anderson for
'I went to four years of college, but damn, that soap taught me so much more.'

Age & Hometown: 28; Queens, NY

Current Role: Giving a Tony-nominated performance as Spike, the simple, lovable and nearly naked boy-toy to Masha (Sigourney Weaver) in Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Where the Girls Are: Billy Magnussen discovered his passion for theater after pulling a hamstring and shifting from sports to an acting class. “It’s a liberating world,” says the rising star, who's as cheeky in real life as his Broadway character. “There’s magic to it. And that’s where the women are, so that’s why I stayed.” Luckily for the ladies, Magnussen is not tied down. “I don’t have a girlfriend right now, per se,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I’m always taking applications.” After graduating from North Carolina School of the Arts and making his Broadway debut in The Ritz, Magnussen took over the role of bad boy Casey Hughes on the now-cancelled CBS soap opera As the World Turns. “I went to four years of college but damn, that soap taught me so much more,” he says. “You have a stake in it—shit’s going to tape and it’s going to be on national television.”

Rock Star Wanderlust: In addition to acting, Magnussen paints with acrylics and oils, raises two puppies (Tank and Kiki Something Awesome Ninja Meatball), works out constantly (“They're basically paying me to go to the gym”) and plays guitar and synthesizer in the band Reserved for Rondee. “As an actor, I’m just a part of the picture,” he explains. “With music, we create it, direct it, record it and perform it together. It’s amazing how passionate you get.” Another passion is world travel. Magnussen considers his two and a half weeks in the Peruvian Amazon a particular highlight and hopes to run with the bulls in Pamplona. “It’s all I want to do with my life,” he said of his wanderlust. “If I make money acting, I’m going to spend it traveling. I don’t want to spend it on a nice apartment; I think experience is worth everything.”

The Big Reveal: Magnussen’s two Broadway credits have one thing in common: scenes in his underwear. “I just remember [my Broadway debut] being like, ‘I wonder if my parents are proud of this?’" the actor jokes. “The Ritz is set in a gay bathhouse and I’m in a turquoise Speedo, and I imagined them [saying], ‘I pay for four years of college, and now he’s just naked on stage?’” Magnussen is making it up to Mom and Dad by bringing them (and about eight other supportive family members) to the 2013 Tony Awards, where he is a first-time nominee. And as for baring it all again, he insists that his Vanya striptease is no big deal. “You know when you see a movie that’s been hyped up and hyped up and you finally see it and you’re like, ‘Really?!’”

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