Actor Randy Harrison may always be remembered as fresh-faced Justin Taylor on the Showtime drama Queer as Folk. He played the part for five seasons, which led him to being internationally recognized.
Many may not know of the thriving theater career that he has hammered out over the years, being in productions of Wicked and Amadeus, among many others.
Harrison leads the national tour of the Tony-winning version of Cabaret this month. Set in the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin, this production, which the Roundabout Theatre Company is presenting, has him playing the emcee each night.
Windy City Times rang Harrison while he was out on the road to hear more about it.
Windy City Times: Hi, Randy. Your resume is packed with theater credits.
Randy Harrison: It is primarily what I have done. Obviously, I am known more for television because people see it.
WCT: How did you land on Queer as Folk in the first place?
RH: I had just graduated from [the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music]. I auditioned. I knew of the show because of the British incarnation. I knew the role and knew I could do it. They put me on tape. They flew me out to LA for two different call backs and I booked it.
WCT: How old were you when you were on the show?
RH: I was 22 when I started. I did it from the ages of 22 to 27.
WCT: There was noticeably a mix of gay and straight actors on Queer as Folk.
RH: YeahPeter Paige, Robert Gant and I were out but all of the lead actors were straight.
WCT: Will there be a reunion?
RH: I don't know. We get together periodically for convention kind of things. There is a big fan base around the world. We would be open to it but I don't know if there is a market for making any more of it.
The first time we all got together was Cologne five years ago with Sharon Gless and everybody. We will do events together depending on the demand.
WCT: There was a lot of nudity with roles you have played such as Equus and Queer as Folk. Did you ever have any issues with that?
RH: No, but it depends on what it is. Equus was a role I always wanted to play so I didn't think too much about it.
I know the nudity in Queer as Folk got more graphic as the show went on. Initially, I thought sexuality was a really important part of the show because it needed to be on television and people needed to see it. As it continued, it felt like we had done it a million times.
It really depends. If I feel I am being taken advantage of or I feel it is complete objectification with no political or social significance then I am irritated and don't want to do it.
WCT: This version of Cabaret has Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall attached to it?
RH: Yes; it is their production. Sam Mendes originally did a revival that is not quite this production in the early '90s at the Donmar Warehouse and it had Alan Cumming in it. Todd Haimes, who is the artistic director of the Roundabout Theatre Company, wanted to bring it to New York but Sam Mendes would only do it if they could find a cabaret space so it took a few years. Then they came up with Rob Marshall being co-director and choreographer. It opened at the Henry Miller Theater, then moved to Studio 54. The rebirth of Studio 54 was with this production.
It is simultaneously stripped down and blown out, thematically. I think the big concept that Sam had was that in the original production it was a play that has a cabaret in it but he wanted this whole thing to take place within the cabaret. All the scenes happen in the cabaret at some capacity.
WCT: Had you seen Cabaret before?
RH: I saw it three times between 1999 and 2004. I saw it twice with Alan and once with John Stamos, near the end of the run. It is a really great production and I am happy to be a part of it.
WCT: Did you work out a lot since you are shirtless so much?
RH: Yeah; I lost 15 pounds. I wanted to be a little bit muscular. The character is on heroin; it is not obvious all of the time but I think it works better if he is physically leaner. I am still not as skinny as I want to be but I can only do so much.
WCT: Stay away from that Chicago pizza while you are here...
RH: I will, although I just had some weird crepe at this Pittsburgh diner. That has to stop right now!
WCT: How is working with Andrea Goss, who plays Sally Bowles?
RH: She's amazing. When it was revived most recently last year, she covered Sally and went on a bunch. She was understudying Michelle Williams, Emma Stone and Sienna Miller. She did it like 40 or 50 times so she knows the show really well. She such a beautiful performer that it kind of breaks my heart. I am able to watch the final scene from the wings every night and it is just heartbreaking.
WCT: Have you been to Chicago before?
RH: Once. When I was there I went to a Second City show and it was Paradigm Lost, with Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch. This was back in 1997, so it has been a while.
WCT: Are you still on the TV series Mr. Robot?
RH: Yes, I was on two episodes and they want to bring me back. It will depend on how I work it when I am on tour. I think it is shooting while I am on tour so I might have to take a few days off then go back. I am proud of being part of that show. I think it is incredible!
Come hear the music play at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., through Sunday, Feb. 21. Visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com for ticket information .