Special 5 Questions: Director Jeremy Dobrish Interviews Actor Christian Campbell

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Christian Campbell (Photo Credit: DBS Press)

By Jeremy Dobrish
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report

I first met Christian Campbell in 2006 when I directed him in the musical Drift in the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Christian’s natural charm, boyish good looks (those dimples are simply impossible) and easygoing stage presence are beyond compare. He’s also a hell of an actor and can sing his face off. So when he agreed to do William Donnelly’s Magnetic North with me, I was over the moon (even though it’s a play, so there will be no singing off of the face).

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Magnetic North is, according to the press materials, “A charged tale of intimacy, temptation, and the shadowy border between flirtation and betrayal.” It’s a complicated show, and so much of it takes place between the lines. And I was gonna rehearse it fast, and put it in the round, and do it with an extremely limited budget.

So I really needed Christian. Christian is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He brings so much to rehearsal, but does it with an effortless grace that prevents you from ever seeing the “acting.” I surrounded Christian with three other amazing actors (Scott Foster, Heather Lee Harper and Sarah Shahinian) and Magnetic North is shaping up to be an evening of laughs, truth, and squirms.

Magnetic North runs through May 16 at the Workshop Theater (312 W. 36th St.). For tickets, click here.

And now, 5 questions Christian Campbell has never been asked — by me:

1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
The most perceptive question would be, “What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?”

2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Umm. This would just be mean. But it’d be funny.

3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Oh, I could keep going on this riff. It’s such a good set up. Thanks, Dobrish.

The inimitable Jeremy Dobrish

4) How do you prepare for a film role differently than a stage role?
The major difference is simply rehearsal time. With stage we have the luxury of time to make those great mistakes that layer performances. Whereas in film we are often only given 10 minutes before the cameras are set up and roll, so it’s only that 10-minute window where you can really find those moments. That can be frustrating when one has become accustomed to the playtime of a lengthy rehearsal process.

5) You do a lot of musicals. What made you want to do a play?
My background has always been as an actor first. I stumbled upon musical theater when I was cast as Jimmy in Reefer Madness. From there on in it seems that I’ve fooled people into thinking I do musical theater. No one’s going to read this, right?

6) How is acting in the round different from acting in proscenium?
You have to act with your shoulders and make sure that one’s back fat isn’t showing.

7) You’re a very politically active and socially aware person. What role do you think politics plays in theater?
Everything is politics as far as I’m concerned so all theater is political. The key to successful theater is to not appear political. Sugarcoat it with entertainment but ultimately there will always be a message.

8) What drew you to Magnetic North?
The writing, the writing, the writing. Oh and I like to bust Dobrish’s balls so this gave me better opportunity to do that.

ew York premiere of Magnetic North, a play by William Donnelly