“All I can do is go in and give it what I have. I have my point of view on the character and what I thought about it and all of that.” – Marc Kudisch
For the past couple years, Marc Kudisch has been easily moving between starring roles on Broadway, TV and film and he told me that, it’s an interesting time in his career. From working with David Fincher on Mindhunter to his recurring role on Billions, “More and more people know my work,” he said.
And his schedule is as full as ever. He’s got a starring role on season 2 of Amazon’s, The Tick, his part on Billions continues and there’s also the new musical, The Flamingo Kid, at Hartford stage.
In this interview, he talks about his role on The Tick, auditioning for a Marvel movie, his career and being prepared for auditions.
Last time we talked, it was almost four years ago. What’s been going on? Tell me everything.
Marc Kudisch: Was it four years ago?
Yeah, I pulled up the interview this morning.
Marc Kudisch: Wow. I don’t know… what’s been going on?
You’re doing a lot of TV now.
Marc Kudisch: Yeah. TV, film. I’ve been recurring on Billions, which I love. It’s a great place to be. I’m on the new season of The Tick.
Please tell me you’re wearing a super-suit.
Marc Kudisch: Dude, I’m totally wearing a super-suit. I’m wearing a tight, tight outfit which a man of my age, in my opinion, should not be wearing. I don’t think I looked too bad.
That’s awesome. I can’t wait to see this.
Marc Kudisch: It’s totally cool. Like, I don’t know if you’re a Tick fan? I’m a Tick fan from back when I was in college. I loved the comic just because it was this wonderful satire on Marvel and DC and I just loved it for that reason. And Tick is the other side of the coin to Deadpool. It’s very meta, it’s very aware.
And it’s so cool because I’m like working with the Stan Lee of independent comics. I loved the first season of The Tick when it came on Amazon. Like every other comic book geek, I was tuned in the minute they released it. So I really liked it.
I want to say season one and season 2 are very different shows, they’re almost two different shows. Season one seemed, they were focused on character development, in terms of Arthur and his own sense of confidence and of course, the Tick being a reflection of that. Season 2 opens up with them fully embracing that they are super-heroes now. And then, A.E.G.I.S, the agency that overlooks superhero activity, which is sort of a spoof on S.H.I.E.L.D, comes knocking on the door and that’s essentially me.
And all of the characters in this season, all of the characters, go through some kind of arc in terms of self-identity, which is really cool. That’s the thing I’m kind of excited about. People who like to watch the show or people who’ve never seen it are going to get a kick out if it because you get close to all of them this time. They’re building on this ensemble that’s getting bigger and bigger. And as I usually do, I play a man of questionable intentions. It’s super cool.
When you’re auditioning for something, where you’re admittedly a big fan, does that put extra pressure on you? Because obviously you want to be a part of it.
Marc Kudisch: I tell you what, I remember went in and I auditioned for Cable for Deadpool. And of course, they didn’t tell you that. They gave you the sides and didn’t tell you anything but because I’m a comic book guy, I was reading it and I was like, “Oh, damn… this is Cable!” So, initially in my mind, I’m going, “Ain’t no way I’m getting this. There’s no way. They’re gonna find a star for this.” But then I’m like, “But it’s Cable and I’m pretty right for a character like that.”
So, you walk in the room and you focus on how you would do it, you know what I mean? All I can do is go in and give it what I have. I have my point of view on the character and what I thought about it and all of that. So, you just go in and do it.
What’s funny is with this particular role, my character’s name is Agent Commander Tyrannosaurus Rathbone. The longest name of a character and they put that shit on a chair, which cracked me up. But because he’s a new character, I walked in and I just had a very distinct impression of what I thought the character would be like and I went in with it. And I think it was very different than what anyone else walked in with. And that’s why I think I got the gig because I was a little more extreme. I just like made very sort of specific choices because I found, in my mind, him as a blend of different things. So, in that particular case, because the character didn’t already exist, I had the freedom to decide, ‘this is what I want it to be.’
I can only imagine when any of those guys walk in for a superhero role that exists, there’s already a big audience out there that has a certain expectation. Even with The Tick, you have to play it in a particular way and Peter [Serafinowicz] is genius at it. He’s just wonderfully good. But there’s a very specific energy and tonality to that role that you have to play to some degree. And I certainly think he’s made it his own now because he’s such a good actor.
I think you have for every audition for any role, you have to bring your point of view to it, no matter what. In this particular case, because it didn’t exist before, it gave me more freedom because I made whatever extreme sort of choices and I think that made a difference.
Is doing all the TV and film work, is that now by choice or is that how things have evolved for you?
Marc Kudisch: I think it’s a little bit of both things. I found that the theater business was changing a lot. We may have talked about this in the past. Music theater particularly just sort of changed and started going in a different direction, not a bad direction but not necessarily one that I find that I fit into. I’m from an older generation where that kind of classic Broadway is still around, a more classic sort of singing. Even with something that is more pop-oriented. We’re talking Frank Wildhorn or Andrew Lloyd Webber. Even those things that are more pop-oriented still has that we’re talking or we’re talking things that are more pop oriented still has a classical technique behind them. But now I’m finding that music theatre is going fully pop. So, it’s full pop now which is a very different organism then writing for the theatre in my opinion. And the technique behind that is very different and amplification is has become even stronger. There’s more of a millennial mindset.
Regardless of those things, I just found that… Not to say that there wasn’t job opportunities, but just nothing that really spoke to me, personally. The kind of stuff I was doing in Music Theater, which, even if it was sort of up and fun, still sort of had edge and bite and drive to it.
I was also getting tired of Music Theater. Musicals are hard man, they will exhaust your ass. I just finished a run of a piece called Girl from the North Country, down at the Public Theater, this past fall. We’re hoping that we’re going to be looking at it coming to Broadway next fall. It was more a play with music than a musical. It was written by Conner McPherson, an original story with Bob Dylan’s music to it. Dude, it’s amazing. Again, it defies genre, which is what I really loved about it. It’s sort of not any one thing, but it’s everything. But it’s this great story that’s really character driven, it’s ensemble, it’s great writing, it’s deeply relevant. It has shades of Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neil, Jack London. It’s deeply steeped in our own Americana. It was written by this Irish guy who has a better sense of Americana than most of our American writers, dare I say. But even eight shows a week of that was bloody exhausting, man. Emotionally and physically. That’s what a musical will do to you, it’s tiring.
So, there was a part of me after doing 9 to 5, which was exhausting, that I was like, “I just maybe need to not do Music Theater for a while.” So, I started doing more plays. I started working off Broadway more. That’s how Hand of God came along because I was really focused there. And it was a bite in the pocketbook, but I don’t know, it was an investment in my soul.
Then from there, the television industry really changed over the last seven years. That’s another part of it. So much stuff is shot in New York City now and the kind of material that I was doing on the stage started showing up with new media, and the outlets, and cable. All of these weird, odd, edgy kind of quirky character roles and that’s what I did on stage. I always played the “and” role. I was always “and” in a play. I always played the foil. I always played a questionable man with questionable choices. Then those things started showing up in the television and film world more and more often. Instead of it being a two hour film, now it’s a 13 hour film. ‘Cause all of the stuff on Netflix, and Amazon, and Hulu, it’s all cinema even though it’s television. But there’s a freedom there because you don’t have commercial breaks so you have this great through line per episode. So you’re really doing film.
And suddenly, opportunities that way started to come. I booked Billions, which I loved, it’s amazing. At the same time I booked Mindhunter for David Fincher, someone I always wanted to work with. To work on a recurring character on that, where you’re really getting into character. For stage actors there’s nothing better, ’cause that’s what we’re used to. [Brian] Koppleman and [David] Levien on Billions and Fincher. That’s what they like, that kind of character work. Most of the people on their shows, even though you may know them from film, are from the stage. So, suddenly, there was like this great stage work on film. That’s what sort of got me in there.
I mean, I’d always done guest spotting and stuff like that along the way. But then that side of the industry took off and there I was just finding myself shooting as much film as I was doing stage work.
Even right now, I shot a couple more episodes on Billions this season. I’m doing a guest spot on Blacklist this week. The Tick is going to premiere. I’ve got this film that I shot last year called Late Night that I have a nice role in. I have a fun feature role in that. I have a really nice feature role in that. I shot all of that last year. So, all of this stuff is coming out in between the theater work.
Then from here I’m going to Hartford Stage to do the tryout for Flamingo Kid. So, it’s going to be my first musical in a long time.
Marc Kudisch: Yeah, like my first true musical in a long time. It’s been great. It’s been a lot of plays dude, a lot of television, and film… and opera. I’ve been doing modern opera since last we talked. I was in Amsterdam two years ago, working for the Dutch National on new piece. Really cool. Wild, wild new opera. I’ve had my foot in, truly my foot in straight plays, and musicals, opera, television, and film. All of it at once.
That’s awesome, though. That’s living the dream. My dream too.
Marc Kudisch: It is. It also raises the question of me kind of still figuring out who the hell I am. Because I’m dipping my foot in everything, it makes me go, “Oh, but over here… And over here.” And that can confuse people because they’re not sure what to do with me.
Where you are in your career, producers know you, casting directors, directors… They all know your work. Besides doing interviews, do you still have to market yourself or anything like that? For me, I still send out headshots or postcards and all that nonsense. What do you have to do or is that sort of a thing of the past for you?
Marc Kudisch: I mean, look, it all depends on where we are. This is going to send weird, but it depends on the economy, if I’m being really blunt. It depends on where we are in terms of what the bottom line is to how the business is essentially running.
I can tell you before 2008, I was barely auditioning. I was just getting offers. I was a guy you went to for things. Then the recession hit and suddenly I found that people were asking me to audition for workshops. I’m like, “What?” Or to come in and audition for out of town tryouts. I was like, “What are you talking about?”
But it was because they needed a certain bankability that wasn’t around anymore. It wasn’t enough to have a great show and great people in it. Now it was like they wanted to make sure that those people would give them some security that they were hiring, so that were then stunt casting even more. They were looking for guarantees.
The way people produce, producers on Broadway after 2008, 2009, the formula for doing a play on Broadway was: stars, limited run, sell out your show before it even opened so that the reviews don’t matter. So then, there you are auditioning for roles you once might have automatically gotten but suddenly now everyone’s looking for work because of the recession.
So, I mean, I don’t know… I don’t send shit out any more like that. I haven’t done that in forever. But I also have an agency, I have a management team that do things. But am I still out there plugging away, and still pumping, and still pushing? Yeah. Am I out there still trying to sell my own projects and things like that? Yeah, but I think you should do that anyway.
It’s interesting to find out that people are fans. When I went in and auditioned for the film Late Night, and I got hired…. on the first day the director was like, “I’ve been a fan of your work for so many years.” It’s like, “That’s wonderful, thank you,” but then you want to say, “Why is this the first time we’re working together then?” But then, again, bottom line, if they were in LA they would hire someone local in LA. They were shooting in New York, so they were hiring great quality in New York. That’s more of what’s happening now is there’s so much work in New York that way.
Knock on wood, more and more people know my work. Now even in television and film because I’ve been doing a good amount of it. It’s very easy, you can just say “Doctor Gus on Billions,” “Oh, him.” Obviously, with The Tick, I’m fully excited for this season to release just because I think it’s really good and super fun.
I’m definitely looking forward to it. I can’t wait to check it out.
Marc Kudisch: I can’t complain, dude. It’s an interesting time, but in truth, I’m really still trying to figure out what I actually want to do, more than ever. Because every time I think, “Well, I think I’m done with stage.” Then something comes along that makes me go, “Well, damn.” When Girl from the North Country came along I was like, “Well, shit. It’s Conner McPherson and it’s Bob Dylan music. It’s such a unique piece. I mean, shit, this is a once in a lifetime, so I gotta do this.”
Knock on wood, I’ve had a lot of once in a lifetimes. I’ve had some really interesting plays like, Hand to God, that was a once in a lifetime. There’s not going to be another play like that. Nor should there. Everyone should write their own thing, right? Like Girl from the North Country is a very similar feel to me. It’s like, this is something that people will try to copy and they will not succeed. Flamingo Kid is sort of the first commercial piece of musical theater I’ve done, and I’ve genuinely avoided it… But, I don’t know… I really like it.
Are you the Richard Crenna role?
Marc Kudisch: Yeah, dude.
Nice. Oh, man. You’re perfect for that.
Marc Kudisch: Yeah, but I mean in the film… What’s interesting is the story was originally written about a Jewish beach club. Because back then, in the early 60s, Jews were not allowed in. There were Italian beach clubs, and there were Irish beach clubs, and there were wasp beach clubs, and you couldn’t get in if you were Jewish. So they created their own club. That’s what the story was originally about. When they brought the story to, I think it’s 20th Century, I could be wrong? But when they brought it to the film company, they were like, “We’re afraid Jewish is a little too specific.” So that specificity, which is the driving force for a lot of the characters, was not a part of the film. Which is why doing it on stage, they’re reintroducing that whole color of it. It’s really a story about the family, and it’s a story about assimilation.
Playing Phil Brody is great because he talks about his dad. He talks about the old ways and it’s interesting because then you understand what drove him to be where he is today. When you get behind that you can understand why this kid, Jeffrey, would really sort of fall in, because it’s like, “Yeah, I want that too in my life. I’m a young kid and do I want to live in Brooklyn my whole life? Do I want to sweat my ass off, getting sun on the roof that’s got tar all over it? Or can I be out at the beach and have a great life?” What is a great life? What is success? I mean, if that’s not relevant now, the values that we hold dear? Are you willing to bend the rules? For what end? Is it really worth it? Anyway, my point is. If there’s a show that has that in it, commercial, non-commercial, I don’t care. I like that message and I like being a part of it.
It’s the same creative team from Gentleman’s Guide. It’s great. Music is rockin’ good. It’s like 1963, so it all has that great swing, sort of big orchestra feel to it. So, it’s sexy even though it’s retro. Again, the book, and the themes, and the script, it’s interesting. It’s really good. And yeah, it’s a great role.
But you know, my feeling is I just want to engage the audience. I like people walking out asking more questions than when they came in with.
The Tick is streaming on Amazon