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Journey's End

Shots of humor, heroism and humanity make this WWI-era play as timely as ever.

Stark Sands

Age: "I'm 28, but I consistently play 18. I'm doing it again now!"

Currently: Making his Broadway debut as a freshly enlisted British soldier, Second Lieutenant Jimmy Raleigh, in the revival of R.C. Sherriff's moving World War I drama, Journey's End.

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

All Real, Baby! "I love my name," Sands says, explaining that Stark is actually his mother's maiden name, bestowed on him instead of his twin brother, Jacob, because he was born blond like Mom's side of the family. "When I was starting out, everyone I would meet in auditions—guys I was competing against—would be like, 'Dude. Stark Sands? That's an awesome name! Where did you get that?' And I'd walk away thinking, 'They're going to steal my name.' I was terrified." Luckily, it was still available when he registered with the Screen Actors Guild after landing a two-episode guest role on Six Feet Under. "I've still never met anyone else with the first name Stark. The only other one I've found since is someone named Stark Raven, and I believe she's in the adult film business—so I don't think she's real competition," he says with a grin.

Mommie Dearest: Following his Six Feet Under stint, which he landed fresh out of the theater program at the University of Southern California, Sands enjoyed six years of steady film and TV work, including small parts in Shall We Dance and Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, as well as a starring role in Charles Busch's film adaptation of his play Die Mommie Die! "It's the only movie I ever get recognized for," he says. "And I love it. I've always been so fond of that experience." "Fond" may be too mild a term to sum up the outrageous role, which found the actor playing the guitar naked and seducing Jason Priestley!

In the Trenches: Taking on a heavy role in a World War I drama as his first Broadway gig may seem like a leap from the camp-tastic Mommie and Sands' laundry list of standard musical theater roles in high school and college Pippin, Guys and Dolls, Babes in Arms, Grease, but the young actor turns in an accomplished and heartbreaking debut performance. "Coming back to [the theater] is wonderful," he says. "I pulled out all my old journals from college and gave myself a refresher course on what I did there because I know I'm the rookie in this thing." And the newbie was more than eager to please when rehearsals for Journey's End kicked off at the beginning of the year. "I so desperately didn't want to let anybody down or hold anybody back that I learned all my lines," he says with a laugh. "I did all this research, and when I showed up, everybody else was carrying around the script. But what did I know? I've never been on Broadway!"

War Is Hell: The high-intensity play requires not only a lot of emotional oomph from the lively Sands, but also a series of quick post-battle clean-ups in the free-standing shower in his dressing room. "The urgency that comes with having only a certain amount of time to do that keeps me in the play and keeps my energy up," he explains. "Doing this play is challenging as hell, but it feels so good. My neurons haven't fired like this since I was in college. That's not a dis on the work I've done in the past, but this consistent, long-term thinking about the same thing is so rewarding."

Role Models: "When you're working with people this talented and this experienced, it gives you confidence," Sands says of sharing the stage at the Belasco Theatre with three-time Tony Award winner Boyd Gaines and rising film star Hugh Dancy. "Hugh is incredibly talented and so dedicated to this. He goes there. And if I'm ever not having a good night, all I have to do is focus on Boyd and he pulls me back into it. Those are my rocks." Sands lights up even more when philosophizing about his innocent character, Raleigh. "He's a guy who hero-worships [Dancy's character, Stanhope]. He wants do everything right. He's in this new place he's never been before; he's nervous; he's excited; he's intimidated. It's amazing how much this parallels my experience doing this play," he says. "Moving to New York, doing something I've never done before—the biggest thing I've ever done—and working with people that I look up to… all I want to do is make them proud. I never forget that."

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