Ugly Betty predates Glee as one of the shows that made mainstream gay OK in TV-land. The now iconic ABC one hour dramedy stayed on top of the ratings for years, and launched the career of America Ferrera in to overdrive while giving Vanessa Williams another star turn. It also brought Michael Urie to fame as Marc St. James, the bitchy gay friend that everybody wanted; one with a golden heart under it all.
Urie played St. James from 2006 to 2010 and received a SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in Comedy Series.
Along the way, in 2009, he went back to the theatre (having trained at Juliard) in The Tempermentals and in 2012 played Bud Frump in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. But it's 2013's Buyer and Cellar which is creating a stir, and which has kept him extremely busy. It just finished a sold-out run in San Francisco Aug. 31st. It moves to Urie's hometown of Dallas Sept. 3 through Sept. 6 and then Nov. 11 through Nov. 30th to Toronto. Tour details are at Buyer and Celler's official website.
The play is a hilarious look at an out of work actor finding a job in the most unlikely of places: Barbra Streisand's basement mall. Yes, her basement mall. How on Earth did he come up with this?
"I did it the smartest way an actor can, which is by letting a writer come up with it," he laughed on my international Karel Cast recently. "Jonathan Tolins told a joke at a party about a guy working in Barbra Streisand's basement mall. That developed in to a blog about a guy that worked down there, Alex Moore, gets hired to work down in the her basement. And of course, the basement is real!" he exclaimed.
What? The Diva of all divas has a mall in her Malibu cliff home basement that she shares with Mr. Brolin? The one she wrote a book about decorating and renovating?
"Oh my dear yes," he laughed. "She has a mall in her basement! It's where she keeps her collectibles, old dresses from movies, antiques, there's a gift shop with a wrapping station with bows and boxes. There's a root cellar, although I"m not sure what one does in those," he laughed.
Streisand is an enigmatic figure for sure; a diva who has been famous for over five decades and one whose place in gay culture, until recently seemed solidified. However, a recent poll of users of the app Jack'd put her, Garland and Minnelli as three icons to be retired. When Urie heard that the icon he actually portrays at one point in the show was up for retirement his reaction was sudden.
"Gasp! Oh my, I don't agree at all. I mean, I'm only 34, I"m a younger gay with an old soul but I don't think an icon ever retires," he stated emphatically, "An icon never stops being one. They may become less relevant, but they remain iconic. Judy you can never remove from the GLBT movement as an icon for Stonewall alone," he continued.
"Young people need someone to identify with, it's why icons are important," he added. "And yes, we need to have new ones, like GaGa and others, Beyonce in some ways, and even Katy Perry, I love her and she seems very supportive. We need the new ones for sure, but we must never, ever forget the ones that helped make it all possible. Streisand has been a huge GLBT advocate and remains one, as well as a good citizen in general. She is someone to be admired, even if she does have a mall in her basement, ESPECIALLY because she has a mall in her basement!" he laughed.
As for whether or not the diva has seen the play?
"She hasn't seen it but she has said she's looking forward to seeing it," he said. She's amused that between our show and Bette's show about Sue Mengers she finds it amusing to be on Broadway without ever going on a stage. Even though ours was technically off Broadway," he chuckled.
Urie has toured with the play almost since its initial run, something an actor seldom does. And while his late scheduled date is November, he definitely wants to do more.
"I love this work. I'd love for it to be even bigger, on Broadway, not just near it!" he joked. "And who knows where it could go, but it's so much fun to do, exhausting, but fun."
And, at the recent television up-fronts in Pasadena, CA USA announced it's 2015 schedule with a Michael Urie sitcom tentatively titled Majordomo on the schedule, so it's back to TV for him.
"TV is an iffy game, I've found," he added. "It's hit and miss. You never know why shows make it. So, you get a great team and give it all you got and see. So, obviously, we have high hopes. But it's a long way from here to a finished and aired show, but the journey really is the best part," he concluded.
For more on Urie go to his website.
To hear Karel and Michael Urie get the Karel Cast App, subscribe in iTunes to the Podcast or simply go to the most incredible website on all the planet, save this one, iamkarel.com. He appears in the August 8th Karel Cast.