Age & Hometown: 23; Pelham, NY
Current Role: A Broadway debut as the intelligent and irascible Arnold Gaesling, a wise-beyond-his-years 18-year-old who is determined to force his family to face their financial woes in The Snow Geese.
Nose In a Book: Growing up in the suburbs, Brian Cross—the middle of five children—knew that his older brother Joseph was an successful film actor (with credits that include Running with Scissors, Milk and Lincoln), but didn't consider entering the business himself as a kid. "I always looked up to him and we have an awesome relationship, but I didn't really know what his job entailed," he says. "I'm sure some subconscious part of me loved what he did." Cross concentrated on academics at Regis High School on Manhattan's Upper East Side and credits the Jesuit-run private school for shaping him into the young man he is today. "If I have any abilities intellectually, it's to their credit for having instilled those in me," he says. "They taught me how to think critically and to not take anything for granted."
Ivy Leaguer: Armed with a thirst for knowledge, Cross decided to pursue an economics degree at Brown University. "I thought economics was really interesting," he says, "but I didn't think of it in terms of a career path. It made my mom happy more than anything else, to be honest." As time went on, Cross began thinking more seriously about performing, so he joined Brown's oldest a cappella group, The Jabberwocks, and enrolled in a transformative theater course during his junior year. "I watch Inside the Actors Studio and hear a lot of actors say that it was one teacher who inspired them—and, for me, it was exactly that," he says. Roles in several school productions followed, and when Cross arrived in New York after graduation, he didn't have to wait long for a very big break.
Just Breathe: Cross made the unlikely jump from a day job at the stuffed animal store Squishable to a huge role as the younger son of Tony winner Mary-Louise Parker and nephew of Victoria Clark and Danny Burstein in Sharr White's World War I-era drama. "For the first few days, I don't think I said any words to anybody because I was so nervous," he says of rehearsal. "Mary-Louise and I have one big scene, but I was never scared to act with her because she's so generous." When he's not going head-to-head with Broadway royalty, Cross, who lives with friends in Greenwich Village, tries to carve out time to go grocery shopping ("I haven't eaten a vegetable in a month!") and plots his future on stage. "In the theater, I feel like I'm part of this strange, ephemeral tradition," he says. "I'd love to go from play to play for the rest of my life."