Michael Urie On Stage, Screen…But Will He Do TV Again?

Michael Urie in Buyer Cellar

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, we were excited that actor Michael Urie was going to be back on our televisions in the CBS sitcom, Partners. Unfortuantely the series premiered last fall to not-so-great reviews and low ratings, so CBS pulled it quickly.

Not one to be down and out for long, Urie is busy promoting his directorial film debut, He’s Way More Famous Than You, which was written by  Halley Feiffer and Urie’s partner Ryan Spahn and co-stars Jesse Eisenberg, Vanessa Williams, Mamie Gummer, Ben Stiller and Ralph Macchio.  The former Ugly Betty star also is wowing audiences off-Broadway with his one-man show Buyer & Cellar. The Jonathan Tollins  play about a young man who takes a job at Barbra Streisand‘s underground personal mall (and meets the lady herself) did so well in its initial run that it’s moving to a larger theater beginning next month. Also next month, Urie will receive the prestigious Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Male Performer on the New York Metropolitan Scene.

I spoke with the always cheery Urie recently to talk about his current projects as well as if the experience with Partners is going to keep him away from TV for good.

Buyer & Cellar is a one-man show, so does that make your job easier or is it harder?

It makes it way harder, I think. It’s just like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Not only do you have to remember all the lines and all the moves and all the moments [but] you’re also alone. I think it’s lonely. On the one hand, I never have to worry about another actor blowing a joke…but on the other hand, I don’t know if you realize, but I play multiple characters, so actually, there is dialogue in the play but I’m both sides of the conversation. So sometimes, I get frustrated with the other characters and I have to remind myself that I’m them, too.

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That sounds like it could really mess with your head.

It does. It definitely does…[the play is] a very unexpected story about a very familiar thing. You know, it’s about Barbra Streisand which is very familiar to so many, especially the people that are coming because, well, pretty much everybody has an idea about her. So, it’s interesting for them to hear this crazy story. The story is fiction, but it is based on a lot of truths about her and specifically about this shopping mall she’s built in her basement. It’s a wonderfully ridiculous thing that inspired John [Tollins, playwright] to write about the guy who has to work down there. And, as far as we know, nobody has to work down there. There’s no shopkeeper in Barbara’s mall of shops, but in our little world there is.

Now, what was it about this project that attracted you in the first place?

Well, I love John very much. I’ve been a fan since I was in high school and I used to do scenes from his play Twilight of the Golds. And then we met and got to know each other in New York… and then we got to know each other really well during Partners. He was a writer on Partners, which you may remember was a television sitcom that was a big hit for about six weeks.

I remember it well. I remember it well.

Actually, my parents are in town and they came to see the show and we’ve been watching the lost Partners episodes. There’s seven unaired episodes of Partners and there’s some really good ones. It’s a bummer, it’s a bummer.

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