Cover Story: Bryan Greenberg
Bryan Greenberg, star of HBO’s “How to Make it in America,” currently calls Hollywood and NYC home. But St. Louis, still his hometown, gets to see him this month as he brings his talents to The Old Rock House Stage December 18.
When we last touched base with Bryan Greenberg in 2007, the actor/musician (and Parkway Central alum) was a busy guy. After some minor TV roles (“One Tree Hill,” “Boston Legal”), and a 2005 big-screen part in “Prime,” his career was gaining momentum, and he was prepping for his starring role in the ABC drama
Three years later, it’s only gotten more fast-paced, with two films released last year (romantic comedy “Bride Wars” and Wall Street flick “The Good Guy”) and two more coming out in 2011.
But in the new “golden age of television,” the small screen is where he’s currently making the most buzz—his HBO drama-comedy series “How To Make It In America” airs its second season this spring. The series, executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, follows two twenty-something fashion designers trying to hustle their way to the top of the NYC fashion scene—one of whom is Greenberg, an NYU grad who himself had to hustle his way around as an up-and-coming actor, working multiple jobs while auditioning for roles in his first years there.
It seems that juggling multiple gigs suits him; in the midst of all his acting jobs, he continues to work on his music as well. His second album, “We Don’t Have Forever,” is ready to drop and he begins a 13-city tour December 1, with the final show happening in his hometown at the Old Rock House on December 18.
ALIVE: You’re getting ready to start a winter tour. Are you going to have any time to spend here in St. Louis when you come through this month?
Bryan Greenberg: It’s the last night of the tour, so we’re going to have a good time afterward I’m sure! I’m really excited to come back. I have a lot of love for St. Louis. It’s home, and I try and come back a few times a year.
ALIVE: You’re touring with a band this time—what do you think that will be like?
BG: It’s going to be fun because I’ve never really done that, I’ve always toured acoustic. It’ll give the fans something different.
ALIVE: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
BG: Elliott Smith is probably one of the biggest on this record, and the Black Keys. I love hip hop, so that’s always there in my songs—not overtly, but there’s a sense of rhythm I like to adhere to. I definitely have an indie singer/songwriter influence, too.
ALIVE: On your first album, “Waiting For Now,” you wrote all your own material. What about on this album?
BG: For the first time, I collaborated with some other songwriters. I was really apprehensive about it, but it was great. Sometimes, I’ve had a hook in my head for years and couldn’t put a verse to it, so it was good this time to be able to bounce ideas off someone else. I’m definitely open to doing more of it in the future.
ALIVE: Do you ever worry about being labeled as “an actor who dabbles in music” or vice versa?
BG: I do, kind of. But I approach both acting and music from a place of love and passion, and I’m not trying to micromanage how people see me. I’m just creating, and people judge it how they judge it. Hopefully, if it’s all coming from a real and honest place, then it’ll be accepted. I’m not trying to be anybody but me, not a rock star or a movie star. I’m just trying to do good work in both arenas.
ALIVE: How do the two things influence each other—your music and your acting?
BG: Sometimes a character I play will influence a song I write. And sometimes after being on tour and performing in front of hundreds of people with just a microphone and a guitar, going into a room with 10 people to do a scene doesn’t seem so scary. When I’m in the trailer shooting a movie or a TV show, I’ll have my guitar with me. They both help each other in a sense.
ALIVE: You just finished work on two new films—what are they?
BG: I have “Friends With Benefits,” with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, which is a romantic comedy. It should be out next summer. And I just finished a dark comedy, an indie called “Normals,” and they may try to take it on the festival circuit. The life of an indie film is crazy. They can sell it, take it to festivals, so I don’t know the future of that.
ALIVE: You’ve done a lot of network TV, and now you have a successful HBO series. How is it different working for HBO as opposed to a network?
BG: I prefer HBO, because they don’t have any advertisers they have to answer to. They just make decisions based on content. They do whatever they think is good, and it’s great to work like that. I’m just honored to be on a great network and a great show.
ALIVE: Would you consider doing another TV series after this project is over?
BG: Sure. I don’t judge what context the material is in, I just go by the material. Wherever there’s good writing, that’s where I’ll be. I’d never box myself in and say I wouldn’t do TV again. I feel like we’re living in the golden age of television right now, with shows like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” and “Boardwalk Empire.” People are watching more TV than movies.
ALIVE: At this point in your career, is it easier to get roles?
BG: It might be easier to get roles, but the more work you do, it’s harder to change people’s perception of you. That’s what I’m running up against now, trying to get roles that people wouldn’t necessarily see me in. I like doing the romantic comedies, but I also like doing the indie stuff where I can be a little more challenged and test myself and the audience’s notions of me.
ALIVE: What’s next? Do you have a “five-year plan”?
BG: No, but for the first time I have my year planned out, which for an actor or musician is pretty good! I can honestly say I know what I’m doing in six months, which is an accomplishment! The music for me is definitely much more of a passion—when you go around the country in a van, it’s more than dabbling—but at the same time, I’m not trying to get signed to a major label or anything. I’m doing it because I love it, so I really don’t have a plan when it comes to music. As far as acting, I’d love for the show to continue and for fans to rally around it for a second season. In the meantime. I’d just like to challenge myself and work with great directors and great actors on great projects.
Greenberg on the set of HBOÀ_s À_How to Make it in America.
Photo credit: Photography by Christopher Beyer