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Monday
Jul112011

Andy Halliday

For more than 25 years, Andy Halliday has been entertaining audiences from theatre to film and I had the honor of sitting down with him to discuss his illustrious career! Andy's career started in the living room of his childhood home when at 6 years old, his dad built a stage in their recreation room. Bitten by the acting bug, Andy continued to pursue performing whenever he could. He attended Beginner's Showcase, a theatrical summer camp where he met the one and only Charles Busch. The winter after camp, Andy and Charles became close friends and when Charles wrote "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom," he cast Andy and a 10 year working relationship ensued in addition to their friendship. Andy also starred in Charles' "Theodora, She-Bitch of Byzantium," "Sleeping Beauty or Coma," "Times Square Angel," "Pardon My Inquisition," "Gidget Goes Psychotic" which became "Psycho Beach Party-The Play," "The Lady In Question," and "Red Scarze on Sunset." As a playwright, Andy wrote the Off-Broadway shows "I Can't Stop Screaming," and "Sex Slaves of the Lost Kingdom." In 1992, Andy developed and performed his cabaret act as well as stepped back in to "Times Square Angel" which Charles started to revive as an annual event every December and continues to do so, but this time around Charles wrote Andy the part of "Helen" instead of his original role of "Eddie."

After many years in the business, Andy decided to transition out and move into the corporate world. But like most performers, that spark to entertain never goes away. In 2004, after a showing of two short films Andy made "Missed Opportunities" and "A Day in the Life of a Lost Boy," Andy developed "Pocketwatch Films," where he writes, directs, and stars in films about gay men and women after they "come out." "Pocketwatch Films" is derived from Andy's fascination with pocket watches and how many of them are personalized with inscriptions inside, so Andy decided to make films that mean something to him on a very personal level. Some of his other films include "Something Beautiful" and "The Five Year Itch."

Andy Halliday and Everett Quinton in Devil Boys From Beyond,Photo credit: Carol RoseggOn March 28, 2005, Andy participated in "Charles Busch and Julie Halston On Broadway," a benefit for the Actor's Fund. The second part of this special evening was celebrating the 20th Anniversary of "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" where Andy recreated his role of "Eitenne." In 2010, Andy returned to theatre when he was cast in the hilarious, but short-lived "Devil Boys From Beyond." Andy continues to make films and work at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I was very, very shy growing up, so performing for me was a great way to escape. I wanted attention a lot, but didn't know how to get it. I used to watch Fred Astaire, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe on the afternoon movies at 4pm. They would repeat the same movie over and over again all week long, so I would see the same movie endlessly. I thought it was so wonderful to be able to perform and be different people, which as I mentioned earlier, for shy child as myself, would help me break out of that. My father built a stage in our recreation room when I was six. The first thing we did there was "Sleeping Beauty" and I played "The Prince" and immediately got the acting bug. It just developed from there and became natural for me. My parents fortunately took me to Broadway shows when I was a kid and I got to see Barbra Streisand do "Funny Girl," Carol Channing do "Hello Dolly." It was all so fabulous to me and I wanted to do it. I was inspired by that too.

1a. The only two roles I've seen you do you've been playing women, do you consider yourself a drag performer? No, no I don't. It's just a role to me and it happens to be playing a woman. I don't have a drag persona like Lypsinka or Charles Busch, but if you give me a part, I can create a character as a woman as I did in "Devil Boys From Beyond" or as I did with Charles's shows where I played drag. Drag is not something I ever thought of doing. Charles wrote me a part years ago in "Sleeping Beauty or Coma" and it was to play a female secretary and it just felt natural. I prefer playing men, but if you are going to do this kind of the theatre, it's better to play a woman because the guys are usually boring. Years ago when we first did "Times Square Angel," I played "Eddie" the busboy which was fun, but now that I play "Helen," it's so much more fun.

2. What do you get from working in film and producing your own work that you don't get from theatre? Control. It allows me to play men. I love to write, I love to direct, and I love to perform and since I wasn't getting to do that, I had to do it myself. It allows me to write the kind of things I like to see or do. I primarily do gay films and I think the gay film market is swamped with coming of age and coming out stories and boys. It's all boys. It's frustrating because after a while it's so artificial. Isn't there's more to our lives than just coming out. You came out and now there is a whole world out there. It doesn't have to be about being gay all the time. I got so frustrated and bored with what was being released so I thought wouldn't it be fun to do movies about people my age in their 30s and 40s who happen to be gay, but focus on their relationships and their fear of intimacy. Topics like that. I did a short film called "The Five Year Itch" and I wanted it to be like a Woody Allen slice of life picture (because I identify with his movies so much) and I thought what if I had a simple movie that took place in one day at a party that this couple threw because they just celebrated their five year anniversary and it's been very rocky and now they feel that they've come to really good place and want to celebrate. So, they invite a bunch of different friends who are couples and you just see the different couples and each couple has a different issue. Some are happy, some aren't. The part that I played, was of one of the men in the couple who throws the party. My partner acted out a few times, but that didn't necessarily meant I wanted to dump him. It meant we had some issues to resolve and we made it five years. I loved doing the movie.

3. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? I haven't worked with a lot of people as my career has been pretty isolated. I did get to work with Charles Busch and everyone at Limbo Lounge for ten years, which was great. After that I gave up my acting career to focus on other things, so it's funny that just last year I was offered "Devil Boys From Beyond" and went back into it. It's been great. I'm so happy to be back in it.

I'd like to work with Kevin Bacon. I think he's so interesting and such a good actor. He can do anything. He's very sexy. I met him once. I saw him do "Album" at Cherry Lane and I saw him get on a bus and I got on with him and we had a really lovely conversation. Then a few weeks later, I saw him do a play my friend was in called "Poor Little Lambs" and I was waiting for my friend after the show and Kevin came out of the stage door and was like "Do you remember me?" and I was like yes, "Of course I do." He was just really nice. I always remember that. Me: Maybe he'll come back and do Broadway again or maybe you'll cast him in one of your films. Andy: Wouldn't that be lovely. Who knows. Me: You never know. Andy: I never thought I'd be back in the theatre and I never thought I'd be interviewed by you. Me: Hahaha...I'm glad you got back into it. Andy: I'm glad to hear that.

4. Who is the most interesting person you've worked with? As I've said my career has been kind of isolated and I've worked with many of the same people over and over again, but I find working with Everett Quinton really, really interesting. I can't do what he does. I'm in awe of his ability to just be outrageous. I would watch during rehearsals how he developed "Florence Wexler" in "Devil Boys" and how his character just grew and grew and grew until it became so outrageous and still totally believable. I don't know where he pulls stuff out of, but it's brilliant. 

5. What is the best advice you've ever received? There are a few. Think loud, act soft. Which makes a lot of sense if you're doing film. Another is don't rush, listen. There is trust your own instincts. Ken Elliot who directed "Devil Boys" has also been very influential in my career. He's told me many times, "Don't push, just be honest. You have to find the core of the character from that honest place and when you do, then you can be funny. When it's coming from somewhere else, it can be fake and audiences can tell that. If you are honest about it and you look into yourself and find characteristics that you can bring to the character, that's what the honesty is about. Then people will laugh at you and you can take it to whatever level you want."

6. If you couldn't be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? I'd like to be a film preservationist or a therapist. Me: What kind of therapist? Andy: A psychologist. I just find the field and people fascinating and why people do what they do. I would also love to be a forensic psychologist to get into the minds of serial killers to understand how they get to that point.

7. Favorite place to rehearse on your own? My apartment because you don't have to pay for a rehearsal space.

8. Favorite way to stay in shape? The gym. I've been working out with Jeff, one of guys from "Devil Boys" and it's been great. Jeff says this is the regimen and what to do. He pushes me, he shows up for me, so it makes a difference and it's great.

9. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs. White briefs. Definitely.

10. Favorite website? I like yours...haha. I like a site I found called Nitrateville.com. Nitrate is what old films were called and I'm fascinated with the preservation of films. I have a lot of old films in my collection on videotape and DVD. I find the whole "talkie-era" from 1928-1932 a fascinating time in film because so many actors couldn't make the transition to sound. Me: Did you and Charles talk a lot about old films? Andy: Yeah, we did. We were both so fascinated with that when we were kids. He was more fascinated towards women's pictures and I was more towards musicals. Charles and I grew up together. We met when we were teenagers at theatre camp. I came to NY to study acting and he studied with the same teacher and we became friends because he lived on Park Avenue and I used to walk to Grand Central to go home to CT and we just clicked. He was my first close friend to have the same interest. It was an incredible friendship to have. 

11: "Mary" or "Rhoda"? I like "Rhoda." In fact, Valerie Harper came to see "Times Square Angel" years ago when she was doing Charles' show "Tale of the Allergists Wife." I was standing there in my make-up and costume and she came cover to me and said, "Oh you were wonderful." I said, "You're wonderful." I was so flattered that she came over to me. She was so nice.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I really don't. I'm kind of out in the open.

13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I dream a lot about people who have passed away in my life, like my friend Jeff Veazy, and when I wake up after dreaming of him, I have such a nice feeling because it's like he's come back for a bit. 

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