On a Tuesday morning, I found myself discussing the New York Times crossword puzzle with three-time Tony nominee Brandon Uranowitz. “I started with the minis too because I was afraid of the big one. What you should do is start with the Monday,” the actor, who is at a solid Thursday level, advised me. “Just keep doing Monday puzzles and then you’ll graduate to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday, and to Thursday.”
The crossword enthusiast is currently starring alongside Adam Driver and Keri Russell in the first Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson’s Burn This. He plays Larry, the openly gay roommate of Anna (played by Russell), who, through smart quips and insightful musings (many times also veiled as equally biting remarks), offers comedic relief that helps defuse tense moments in the play (including one brief moment that involves a pair of white underwear).
Along with the crossword advice, I asked Uranowitz five questions that led us to discuss his admiration of Danny Burstein, his favorite Brooklyn eateries, and the Holy Trinity (Peter Pan, Gypsy, and Funny Girl).
1. What inspired you to become an actor?
Well, I was terrible at sports and I couldn’t really draw very well as a child. [Laughs.] I grew up in New Jersey, right outside of New York City, and I guess Peter Pan was playing at the time when I was like 3. And so [my parents] just, on a whim, took me to see Peter Pan, and my mom says she’s never seen my face like that before when I was watching it. So, you know, they were like, “Maybe this is something he would enjoy?” And they put in extracurricular theater stuff. So I think it was, I mean, if I really were to boil it down to one specific event, it was probably Peter Pan. As a child, it was a combination of Peter Pan, the Bette Midler version of Gypsy, and Funny Girl. It really is the Holy Trinity.
2. Who in your field inspires you?
So many people! Well, at the moment I am very much inspired by Adam Driver and the work that he’s doing in Burn This. A little bit more specifically, I’m really inspired by Danny Burstein, Reed Birney, and Laurie Metcalf. And I’m also very much inspired by a lot of the directors working right now, like Joe Mantello and David Cromer, who have sort of crossed the threshold between acting and directing. But as an actor, and as for people who I look to to forge a path that runs parallel, I would say people like Danny Burstein and Reed Birney. And, I mean, Laurie Metcalf is a national treasure.
What is it specifically about those three people that has left you so inspired by the work they do?
It’s their work and their abilities and their talents, obviously, but with someone like Danny Burstein, it’s his longevity and tenacity and his ability to remain a steadily working actor in a very difficult business as someone who is not necessarily considered the leading-man type. I’m just very much inspired by how he dives into every role he’s given, gives it his all, and then moves on to the next. And just sort of seamlessly transition from job to job. You know, for me as an actor, the goal is not to be famous. That has nothing to do with anything for me. It’s just about working consistently and doing consistently good work. Danny is someone who, you know, I guess there are people who go from job to job and who consistently work, but I don’t know that the work is necessarily consistently good. Which is not necessarily their fault, but someone like Danny Burstein does consistently good work and consistently works in film and TV and in theater. I should also add Brian D’Arcy James to that list.
And also, I should, this is very important too, all of those people are also overwhelmingly kind and wonderful people off the stage and are wonderful people to be around and to work with and work alongside. They are just respected in the community because they are kind, generous people.
3. What do audiences love about Burn This?
I think people are pleasantly surprised by how funny it is. They are expecting to come into this sort of steamy, sultry, sexy drama, and they get that, but Lanford Wilson wrote a very truthful, honest, and human story. Within that there is a lot of humor and wit, and I think a lot of people are finding that surprising and extremely relatable. People are shocked by how hard and how often they are laughing.
4. If you didn’t need to sleep at night, what would you spend your time doing?
If I didn’t need to sleep at night? Oh, my God, ugh, you’re talking to the wrong person. I love my sleep.
OK, then, I’ll ask a different question: If you had more free time, how would you spend it?
I’ve been trying to write a lot recently. I’ve been trying to get out some ideas that I’ve had in my head for a long time. So I’d probably do that just because that’s my latest exercise in creative expression. What else would I … I mean, I sound like such a boring person, but like the problem is, whenever I’m doing a show and whenever I’m doing something, I like give my entire being into it. And I sort of disappear as a human; just ask my friends and boyfriend. [Laughs.] But yeah, I’d probably be writing. Not necessarily to share, it’s not stuff that I’m looking to turn into anything. It’s just sort of my way of getting things out of my head and into existence. So I’d probably do that, and I’d read a lot and probably play a lot of crossword puzzles.
5. What is your favorite restaurant in New York City?
My favorite restaurant? Oh, my God. Wait, give me a second because I’m going to have to think about … OK. So, one of my favorite places for brunch? How about that?
I love brunch, so I’ll take it. We can do that instead.
OK, so my favorite brunch place is Jack the Horse Tavern in Brooklyn Heights. But my favorite restaurant …
Well, let’s go by meals, if that’s easier. So we have brunch covered. Where are you going next? Is this easier?
That does not make it any easier. [Laughs.] Oh! For dinner, I am going to go to Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn. Yeah, let’s go to Buttermilk Channel for dinner.