Tom Wopat Watches His “Heirloom” Garden Grow

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Heirloom
Paten Hughes and Tom Wopat in Heirloom. Photo: Heirloom.

Heirloom is a nine-part romantic comedy series, streamed over Vimeo, about a tomato farm — and a lot more. Co-created by and starring Paten Hughes (one of the original members of Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic New Voice Network) and written by noted American playwright Bekah Brunstetter, who also appears in the series, another highly noteworthy cast member is the twice-Tony-nominated actor Tom Wopat, in a rare foray into TV. Not that it’s a remotely new medium for him: he became a household name some 35 or more years ago on The Dukes of Hazzard.

But Wopat hasn’t needed to trade on his Hazzard credentials in nearly that long: he is thoroughly known these days as a true Broadway baby. In the last 10 years on the Great White Way alone, he has appeared in The Trip to Bountiful (2013), Catch Me If You Can (2011), Sondheim on Sondheim (2010), A Catered Affair (2008) and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005), plus innumerable film gigs and appearances in concert, in cabaret and on CD. Still, Wopat on TV — in a comparatively dramatic role — is an event. (Wopat’s Tony nominations were both for Best Actor in a Musical — for the aforementioned A Catered Affair and for the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun, opposite Bernadette Peters.)

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What inspired Hughes to create Heirloom, meanwhile, was the fact that she actually started an organic heirloom tomato farm. The series follows a down-on-her-luck actress named Emily, played by Hughes, who endures horrible audition after horrible audition until one day her mother calls and tells her that her Uncle Bob has bequeathed to her a farm in Sonoma, CA. Dumping her depressed writer-boyfriend (and what NYC actor doesn’t have one of those?), Emily and her dog (for obligatory cute factor!) head west, where new friends, new business and a new shot at love all await. To find out which of those categories covers Wopat’s character, Lynn Brown — well, you’ll have to stream the series.

And now, 5 questions that Tom Wopat has never been asked.

Imagine someone totally unaware of who you are. In +/-100 words, tell us who you are. Be informative, funny, irreverent, deep, outrageous — or thoughtful. Start with “Tom Wopat is…”

I’m a singer and an actor, a father and a brother.

What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?

Huh…I have no idea.

What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?

You know, I can’t remember any.

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What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?

I can’t think of anything. This one?

Tell us about your character in Heirloom, Lynn Brown. What appeals to you about him — and what parts of him are most like and least like you in real life?

I grew up being a farmer and grow heirloom tomatoes in real life. I had a terrific time with the real Lynn Brown, who is a really interesting character. We’re least alike since farming is not my main function in life, though there is a certain appeal to that.

Heirloom is pretty remarkable in terms of the number of performers and creatives involved who work often (as possible, like you) in the professional theater. Did the presence of so many theater people result in a different kind of acting, filming and production experience?

It didn’t change for me, because I just worked with Paten and the film crew. My character’s scenes didn’t require work with all of the theater experienced talent around us

“Bonus” question:

Tomorrow the phone rings and you discover that a relative has bequeathed an heirloom tomato farm to you. What do you do? What happens if you go to the farm and meet a farmer — named Lynn Brown? What do you say to one another? What surprises you about him?

I’d find someone to run it! I own my father’s farm in Wisconsin, actually.