SHOW FOLK: Gavin Creel on Gay Marriage, Loving Audra & Very Bad Dogs
Two-time Tony-nominee Gavin Creel is on a roll–and it’s rolling him into a theater near you. Producers just announced that he’ll be playing the lead in the first national tour of the smash hit The Book of Mormon. But that’s just the latest in a string of bold moves for the charming and handsome Creel. From a new pop album to his groundbreaking work for marriage equality with Broadway Impact, he’s long been winning hearts and minds far beyond the Great White Way.
Two months ago (and sadly before I could grill him about Mormon), I caught up with Creel via phone to interview him for the May issue of “Passport Magazine” (hitting newsstands any day now). However, we had so much to chat about and so much that was too juicy for the print edition, it couldn’t be contained in one article–so I thought I’d share the extras here. Serious or silly, whether discussing his own wedding dreams or his codependent relationship with his dog, Creel proves why he’ll always be one of our favorite leading men…
Hi Gavin. How are you doing?
I’m good. I’m literally standing on a marina in Key West so I’m going to step outside so we can have a little chatty poo.
I’m sorry to interrupt; I didn’t realize it was vacation time.
I’m not on vacation; I’m doing a Broadway Across America concert. Doing a little presentation for eleven new musicals for next season. Just coming down to sing a song. I literally flew in an hour and a half ago and am flying out tomorrow morning.
Crazy. That’s the life of being a show business whore.
[laughter] Honestly, the first thing I have to do is thank you. My partner and I of eleven years just got engaged last week.
It truly is because of people like you that we were able to do this.
I appreciate that; it’s very kind of you but I’m not getting married or engaged yet so it’s people like you who are doing it. Even though we’re still fighting for the rights it takes people like you to do it, to stand up and face all the stupid that might come your way even though it’s legal.
Have you had a chance to attend any weddings since it became legal in New York?
No gay weddings yet.
None! Oh no…
I’ll be looking for the invite.
It’s in the mail now.
You know, a lot of people complain about actors getting involved in politics and “what do they know.” Have you had any regrets about getting involved [with Broadway Impact, the grassroots political organization he co-created] both personally and career-wise?
My only regret is that I don’t know more. I didn’t set out to be an activist and I certainly didn’t set out to be political. What I did set out to do with my friends…oh my god, there’s a huge shark in the water.
Oh my God. You’re kidding?
I’m not even kidding! (pause) Oh wait, those are fish.
Now that would be a scoop. Gavin Creel attacked by shark during interview.
That would be bad. I’m sorry. I get so distracted. Shiny objects in the water.
…our intent was to learn about how it all worked, and as we learned, tell people about it. I didn’t know how government worked. I didn’t know how things all balanced out. I just thought, I’ll learn about it, we’ll learn about it and we’ll tell people. And instead of going “what can we do,” find out one thing I can do and say, “This is what we’re going to do; do you want to join us?” And people do. Every step of the way we’ve found that people are just waiting for someone to tell them what to do or how to be effective.
I talk about theater as a family, a dysfunctional family, but a family…
They’re not even dysfunctional. What family isn’t. I actually find it a very supportive, amazing, amazing community. …In New York, I believe we have such a strong community because of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. I think nothing brings people together like trying to care for one another…Tom Viola and Michael Graziano and everyone at that building; they give a point to what we’re doing. Otherwise we’re just a bunch of people running around in costumes and saying nonsense.
One of the most moving things to me during the whole [marriage equality] process…was Audra McDonald tweeting about watching the vote in New York that night. It was so moving…
A straight woman who for all intents and purposes doesn’t need to be involved…I mean, she knows that being a black woman, it’s ingrained in her what it is to be a part of a civil rights movement. Being a woman with women’s rights, not that she was alive back then. But why does a famous, straight lady in the theater give a shit about us? Yes, she has gay friends in the theater but it doesn’t directly affect her life. And she’s probably our most vocal supporter of Broadway Impact. Everywhere she goes she talks about it, talks about the issue, fights for it, will not rest. She’s the most inspiring person.
What can we expect to hear on your new album?
I’m so excited about it. I collaborated with a new guy, a producer and writer in London named Ben Cullum. I’m really psyched. It’s really pop. It’s back uptempo and loud and produced. I’ve got a lot of songs about where I was emotionally. Also a lot of songs hidden and not so hidden about the movement and my rights and what it means to be a good person–in a rock/pop sense. It’s called “Get Out”.
Considering that Tony season is coming, what was it like for you when you got your first nomination [Outstanding Actor in a Musical for Thoroughly Modern Millie]?
It was crazy. I was 26 and it was my first Broadway show. The first time was not as fun as the second time because the second time–they were both unexpected and both beyond super appreciated–but the second time I knew what to expect and I didn’t take it all so seriously. The first time I was really insecure; I didn’t feel like I deserved to be there so I did that to myself. No one else did that. They treated me like a million bucks but I just felt like–you know how sometimes when you dream about something and it happens to you, you kind of push it away because you still need it to be out there to go for?
I think I hadn’t accepted the fact that one of my dreams had been achieved and it will never be again. I’ll never have it out there to go for. It’s a sad thing that I don’t think we talk about enough…so I’ll talk about it here with you now.
[laughter] Do you have new dreams to replace that with? Something out there career-wise?
They’re not so much career-wise anymore. I’ve got to be honest. I turned thirty-five this year and I think something just switched in me that I’m kind of breathing easier. As far as my career goes, I’m kind of smiling to the sky going, “Surprise me.” The minute I let go of it, it has continued to do that. I kind of don’t have a plan so much anymore. I want to be inspired and excited by something. I want to be in charge. I look around at the guys running the show and they were me once. They were just working or in the ensemble and worked their way up and they’re directing the biggest musicals on Broadway. That’s where I want to go. I want to start directing them and creating them and writing them, being in charge of getting the people together and making good art.
My immediate [dream], though, is being a father. I don’t even know if it will happen but I’ve got this dog and I beat him daily and think, “I don’t think I should be a father.”
I don’t really beat him but my dog is crazy. Literally the most high maintenance thing ever but also so beautiful and sweet at times.
He’s part hound, part asshole.
That’s the best way I can describe him. He has a lot of hangups and is a bad boy… He has taught me the two biggest lessons I can learn about human beings and life: I have to live completely right now; I can’t worry about “what if I get x,y or z.” And the other thing is he’s taught me I have to love him for who he is, not for who I wish he would be. Yes, I wish he were floppy and cuddly and loved everybody who walked in the door but he’s very serious and suspicious of almost everyone and sensitive and I can’t wish he was something else because that’s who he is. If I’m going to be in a relationship with this dog–God, I sound like a crazy person!
Those are truly the two most important things he’s taught me. That and that peanut butter is a very good tool for tricking a dog into doing what you want him to do.
Finally, I have to ask, do you have a wedding plan in mind?
I do but…When I get proposed to or propose to the guy, it’s going to change. It’s going to be both of ours. So I don’t want to say, “It’s going to be THIS way!” But I would like a destination wedding and I want twelve people there. I just want me, him, our parents, our siblings and that’s it. And maybe my best friend… The best wedding I ever went to was my best friend Celia’s. It was 45 people and we all stayed in this cabin in Vermont. We lived together and ate together and by the end of the week we were like, “We’ll miss you!” It was so unpretentious and heaven. It was the perfect wedding. Now watch I’ll end up with a guy who wants to blow it out in Dallas…