I was a lucky girl last week. Not only was I able to interview one handsome leading man, but two!!! Christian Conn, world traveler and stage, tv and movie actor, is now in Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre’s production of Three Sisters and later will star in The Proposal. He’s a busy guy but also incredibly nice and sweet. When our schedules prevented us from meeting for the interview, he took it in stride and compromised on a way to still get it done. I’m so glad that he did. The interview was great fun and Christian’s answers were awesome! Thanks so much, and see you at Henry Hayman!
1. Hey Christian! Welcome to the site and thanks for the interview. Let’s get started: You’ve had an amazing career so far and you’re still so young. How did you get into acting?
I think it must have something to do with my being an Army brat. I moved around a ton as a kid, and you are constantly feeling the need to reinvent yourself, in order to ingratiate yourself into new social environments. I think that makes good practice for taking on new roles. Also, math and science were my bag in high school. I really wanted to be an engineer or a physicist. This is part of what I share with my character in THREE SISTERS (Andrei) – we both aspired to be scientists. But, somewhere in my senior year of high school, physics seemed to become less about ideas and venture more into the world of numbers and equations. It lost its magic. And the other place where I found some magic in school was the theatre. So, I decided on the latter.
2. You’ve done Shakespeare, Wilde, Kushner and much more. So first, do you have a particular playwright you enjoy doing above the others? And 2, is there a favorite role you’ve played?
No. You tend to, if you are lucky, fall in love with the character/play you happen to be working on. Now, this can be hard if you are doing, say, a soap opera. But, still, it helps. I love the great American writers: O’Neill, Miller, Williams. I have a real affinity for Irish writers: Shaw, Beckett, Synge, McDonagh, and I sort of think Enda Walsh might be the second coming – I’m not sure there’s another contemporary playwright that excites me as he does. And then there’s Shakespeare. But, right now, I love Chekhov. THREE SISTERS has often been, and currently is my favorite pay. It might be perfect.
3. Referring back to Question 2, you’ve obviously had a diverse career too. You’ve been in all the mediums: stage, tv, movies. Was it always your goal to have such a diverse career?
Absolutely. As an actor, you crave diversity. When you finish a contemporary play, you sort of yearn for the classics. And when you finish doing some Shakespeare, you just want to be able to say “fuck” in an indie film, or something. TV and film is important, because it PAYS. But, the theater is where my heart will always reside. It’s my home.
4. I totally understand. J So, you were born in Germany and lived in many states. You’ve studied at Rutgers and the London Academy of Theatre, where you were under the patronage of Dame Judi Dench. That’s very impressive! What have you taken away from all that extraordinary training?
I draw on my training every day in my work. The great words and teachings of Stanislavski and Meisner are always with me. I’ve been very lucky to have had exceptional acting, voice and movement teachers. I think it’s particularly important when you get to the classics. They require a level of rigor and technique that must be studied. And, frankly, it never stops . . . the lesson never ends. A playwright like Chekhov is very humbling . . . he’s constantly reminding you how little you know. That’s why we love him!
5. Do you find a very big difference between stage acting and television/movie acting?
There is and there isn’t a huge difference between stage and screen. Both are about creating truthful behavior. But the scale is different. What is required for a 1200-seat house and what is required for a camera 3 feet from your face is, obviously, different.
What I find most difficult about tv/film is shooting out of sequence. In a play, for the most part, you get to live out an entire journey from beginning to end. In film, you almost NEVER shoot in sequence, for various reasons. So, it takes great focus to place yourself at the proper moment in your journey.
6. What advice do you have for actors?
I do some teaching. I often tell young people to read Rilke. Brilliant insight into being an artist. But, mostly, be a well-rounded human being. The more experiences you have, the more you know about the world, the more you read, the more disciplines you’ve dipped your toe in . . . the better actor you will be.
7. I believe this is your first time acting with Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre. You’re performing in two Chekhov plays. Can you talk about your characters? How’s your experience so far?
Yes. I’m playing Andrei in THREE SISTERS, and Iomov (sorry, i have no capital “l” on my computer – spilled water on it – ha!) in The Proposal. Andrei is unlike most characters I get to play. I tend to play pretty pro-active characters, and Chekhov doesn’t write tons of those. Andrei is a man who aspired to be a great scientist and professor, but finds himself living a life that is quite different from what he imagined. He’s a nerd – I love that about him. A nerd about music and science. He’s always uncomfortable in his own skin, never feels quite at home. And, ultimately, he recognizes the disappointing path that his life seems to have taken, but is powerless to do anything about it. I find him tremendously sympathetic and sad.
Iomov, on the other hand is utterly ridiculous. He shares Andrei’s uncomfortable state of being. He’s pursuing a proposal, but continually is side-tracked by silly arguments with his neighbors. It’s a fantastically funny and physical role. And I’m looking forward to learning more about him and the play, when we start rehearsals in a week or two. My experience thus far has been spectacular. I’m working on great plays with great actors, directors, designers and crews. PICT is supportive, and I’m thrilled I get to be a visitor for the next six weeks or so.
8. And how are you enjoying the city?
I really digPittsburgh. The museums are dynamic (Mattress Factory is a particular favorite)! The food is great. The people have been nothing but welcoming to me. I live on the South Side, which can be rowdy on the weekends – but I love the vitality here. Not to mention, there are several great theatres in town. I find that very exciting! Plus, I’m an avid card-player, so it’s nice to have Rivers not too far away.
9. I haven’t been to the Rivers yet! Maybe one day I’ll see you there. J But I’m always curious how audiences differ in various cities. How is performing for the Pittsburgh audience different than performing for….let’s see..London!
Audiences are different in every town you visit. I findPittsburghaudiences to be smart, enthusiastic and brave. There’s a lot of exciting work going on in this town, and that wouldn’t be possible without patrons who were willing to embrace it.
10. Finally, what’s next for you?
When I close the Chekhov Festival, I’m going to take a brief vacation and then head back to my home,New York City. It’s my goal to plant my feet in that town for awhile. I’ve done a fair amount of “out-of-town” work, and need to spend some time working in my town.