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Benjamin Walker

Age: "Can I plead the fifth?"

Currently: Making his Broadway debut in Inherit the Wind as Bertram Cates, the dramatized version of schoolteacher John Scopes, who was put on trial in 1925 for teaching evolution in the notorious "monkey trial."

Hometown: Cartersville, Georgia.

Training Days: As a teen, Walker attended the famed Interlochen summer arts camp in Michigan to test whether his hankering for acting was just a phase. "I thought, 'If I can handle this, I must really like it,'" he says. "I got bitten by the bug there, and that was that." He then attended Juilliard's prestigious acting program, an experience that elicits a burst of adjectives from the playful actor: "Fantastic. Hard. Beyond hard. Challenging. Some of the best teachers and directors and writers in the world are there," he says pausing reflectively. "And then me," he cracks. "I don't know how I got in."

Nose No Bounds: While in his final year at Juilliard, Walker landed his first film, playing the 19-year-old version of Liam Neeson's title character in Kinsey. "I was so over-stimulated that I don't really remember much of it," he says of the film shoot. "I had no idea what I was doing. They had a prosthetic nose glued to my face, and here I was running around with my pants down on a movie set. I was petrified. It was truly wild." Following post-grad roles in a few indie flicks and The Notorious Bettie Page, Walker landed the part of Harlon Block, one of the six famous Iwo Jima flag-raisers in Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers, and shipped out to Iceland to film. "It was more work than you'd imagine," he says. "Not that I thought it was going to be playtime. But the physical rigor of it was intense: enduring cold and simple things like that, as opposed to…my character's motivation," he says with a grin.

Spring-time: While honing his on-screen skills, Walker also chalked up some nice theater roles, including a well-reviewed turn last summer as Mercutio in eyeliner and a dress, no less in Williamstown's production of Romeo and Juliet. "Mercutio's the only part to play in that show," he declares. "Sword fight, shout, die…sleep 'till curtain call!" He's also the unlikely source for a trivia tidbit for Spring Awakening buffs: Walker starred as Melchior in the 2005 Lincoln Center workshop of the popular Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater tuner. So is he disappointed that he didn't get to see the show to its Broadway bow? "No," he says simply. "I mean, I couldn't. Look at me. I'm six feet tall! And as much as I want to bare my ass to the Broadway fan base…no. I think it works so well now. I saw it, and [Jonathan Groff] can take it! You got it, bud. It's that good."

Find Me Funny: "Yeah, I tell dirty jokes," Walker says with a wink when asked about his surprising side gig as a stand-up comedian. "The first two years of Juilliard, they don't allow you to perform for the public, and that was bothersome," he explains. "So I started doing open mics. It was a little late-night thing I could do and not tell anybody about. I don't think any teachers are going to show up at Gladys' Comedy Hole! But it's kind of grown into this beast." Showing off a hoodie emblazoned with the logo of his group, "Find the Funny," he says, "We have some of the best young stand-ups in the city doing our [bi-monthly] show. I don't know that I'm a comic, but it's a challenge. That's the great thing about being an actor: You can be anything. 'Could I be on trial? I dunno. Let's do the show tonight!'"

Learning from Legends: "I'm livin' the dream," Walker says, shifting tone to discuss making his Broadway debut in Inherit the Wind. "I heard Doug Hughes was directing it. When I was in school I was watching these theatrical events take place—Doubt, Frozen—and Doug's name was always attached. He and the fates smiled on me with this." How about his legendary co-stars, Brian Dennehy and Christopher Plummer? "Who?" he says playfully. "Their track records are more than impressive, and their skill and craft are unprecedented, but at the same time, they're genuine, kind men who love telling a story with a group of people. Period." Sharing scenes with Plummer, who plays Henry Drummond, the lawyer defending Walker's character for teaching evolution, has taught him tons. "Regardless of the amount of experience he's had, he's continually trying to rediscover himself as an actor," Walker says. "Every night, you'd better be on your game, because it's going to be different. And that's impressive, given the amount of experience he's bringing to this—that he's still doing it every day; that he's still playful. [My character] is lucky to have a lawyer like Drummond…and I'm lucky to have an actor like Christopher Plummer to sit next to."

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