Steve Kazee Interview: Actor Talks 'Once' The Musical Versus The Film

This is one in a series of Tony nominee snapshots in the lead-up to the awards Sunday night.

You may recognize Steve Kazee from one of his various guest starring TV stints, largely on crime dramas (exhibits A, B, C and D), or his classic good looks might just make you think you've seen him before. This year, a Tony-nominated role took him from vaguely familiar face to an A-lister in Anna Wintour's rolodex.

Nominated for leading actor in a musical alongside fellow rising star Jeremy Jordan and veterans Norm Lewis and Danny Burstein, the 36 year old has a fair shot at a win. It doesn't hurt being the star of this year's Broadway darling "Once," which leads the charge into the Tony Awards with 11 nominations, its stiffest competition coming from that other movie-to-musical adaptation, "Newsies." "Once," adapted from the equally beloved film, stars Kazee as the Irish busker Guy who falls for a Czech-born pianist (played by Cristin Milloti).

Kazee sat down with The Huffington Post to talk how his Guy is nothing like the film version's, falling head over heels for somebody and his favorite show of the year.

What do you think about this trend of taking rock n' roll musical movies and turning them into a play, especially something you would not expect to see on Broadway?

I have to say I think we're an exception to the rule in the sense that our creative team is so, and I use the word genius, and I use it honestly. They had a way of creating something from the beginning that was just simple, so I knew from the beginning that we were going to be something completely unique. I didn't know if it was going to be received in the way it's been received, but I knew at the end of the day artistically I'd be proud to be a part of it. I can't really speak for other movie-musicals that have come in, because I think oftentimes what happens is you get a movie that doesn't have any songs in it, and you just put songs into it, and it doesn't really work. I think we see that more often than not.

The subject matter of "Once" is really fascinating. Have you ever experienced a story like that yourself?

I think we've all sort of experienced that, meeting someone who affects you in such a profound way. Maybe you know them for a week, maybe you know them for a year, maybe you know them for 20 years, and maybe you fall in love and stay together or don't stay together. But yeah, I've been in those situations. I don't know if i've been in that type of situation. I've been there before though when you meet somebody and you really fall head over heels for a like a week, and then reality comes crashing down and you're like, urrr.

Did you study the film role?

No, because I'm not Glen [Hansard]. Glen is one of my favorite artists, and that movie is one of my favorite movies. I thought if I go into this trying to recreate that, I'm done, dead in the water, the show's dead in the water. I'm just not Glen -- Glen is a very unique human being.

How would you say the theater production is different from the movie?

I think we are clearly more dramatic in the sense that there are many more characters, and the film is really about the two of them. What Enda [Walsh] did, which was so brilliant, is he took little moments like, in the film... when they first go into the piano shop, there's the guy who works at the piano store, he's like, eating a sandwich. Well, Enda turned that into a whole character, like, what kind of a guy [is he], what does he eat -- chicken salad, tuna salad -- what is this guy's daily life, and built that into something, and did that with the banker character and so on. So we're just a broader version of the film. Also, in the film, the guy is the one sort of driving [the story], like let's go do this album, and the girl is the more willing participant. We've sort of flip-flopped roles, which I think makes it much more interesting to an audience, to see someone who's struggling with a decision in their life that needs someone who can then help them figure out how to make that decision.

Is there a show you've seen this year aside from "Once" that you'd recommend to our readers?

"Peter and the Starcatcher" is the most amazing piece of theater I think I've ever seen. It made we want to be a kid again and made me want to pretend, which I do on a nightly basis. (laughs)

Brad Balfour and Mallika Rao contributed to this interview.

Watch highlights from "Once":