Photograph by Joan Marcus
Got a minute? David Hyde Pierce (a.k.a. Niles Crane from Frasier) sounds off on acting, aging, and his new Broadway play, Accent on Youth, which opens April 29.
Q: What drew you to the play?
A: I had worked with the director, Dan Sullivan, 20 years ago on The Heidi Chronicles. I read the play, and it kept surprising me. It's a 1934 comedy, but it wasn't just wacky or silly—it had a lot of heart and soul and takes a lot of weird turns. It's about a guy who was in his fifties and having a lot of questions about his age and his career. I turned 50 while we were in rehearsals for the play. I thought there was a kind of horrible synchronicity there. I don't feel like an old person exactly, but there's something about 50: You start to look ahead, look back, and wonder where you are.
Q: Your character in Accent on Youth is a playwright. Have you ever considered writing?
A: I don't think so. I respect writers too much. I'm good with words, but I have nothing to say. My partner writes a lot for television, and my nephew is a brilliant fiction writer. When I see people like that, I know it's one thing to have a way with words and another thing to be a writer.
Q: Since 2005, you've been in Spamalot, Curtains, and now Accent on Youth. Do you think of yourself as a stage actor now?
A: The only trajectory I have is trying new things. I started out in the theater and did television for a long time. I came back to the theater doing musicals, which was something I had never done before. And although I've done movies in the past, I hadn't quite figured out why actors do movies—I knew why directors did them. But I just shot an independent film [The Perfect Host] last fall. It was the first time I thought, I kind of get this now.
Q: When you got a Tony in 2007 for Curtains, you said it wasn't easy for an actor like you to find work as a leading man. Has that changed?
A: Because I don't look like Tom Cruise, I'll never get cast as that sort of leading man. But as we get older, we all become character types. There's been the opportunity for me to branch out from being in a supporting role, like on Frasier, to finding leads. But sometimes the lead is the blandest part, and that's not a lot of fun.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with the Frasier gang?
A: We see each other, e-mail, and talk frequently. That was 11 years we were together—a pretty strong bond. I just watched John Mahoney on In Treatment. He's great on it. Even if we're not able to see each other, I can see him in therapy, which is where he belongs. Ryan Wenzel