Ep 107: ABC Scandal's Jeff Perry, on Acting, Love for the Work and the Origins of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Many of you likely know Actor Jeff Perry as the strategically conniving, power-hungry, Cyrus Beane opposite Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn on Shonda Rhimes' smash it, Scandal or as Meredith Grey's father on Rhime's other smash hit, Grey's Anatomy. What you may not know is that he is one of the founding members of the famed and respected Steppenwolf Theater Company, alongside High School pal Gary Sinise and college friends John Malkovich, Terry Kinney, Joan Allen and Laurie Metcalf. One of the many things I learned from working with Jeff on Scandal is that he is deeply passionate about the work. This conversation is full of his love for: stories that matter and a craft that he respects deeply. Lessons on perseverance, following your bliss over a paycheck, and how to stay true to one's self are littered throughout our chat.
How a passionate and encouraging Acting Teacher in HS launched Jeff and Gary Sinise's journeys as thespians at age 15, (2:43). The origins of Steppenwolf Theater Company, (4:03). More origins of Steppenwolf, "Seven of us got in a few cars and drove from Normal, Illinois to Highland Park..."(8:51). The effects of one passionate HS teacher on American Culture, (11:23). How the faculty of Illinois State influenced some of the greatest American Actors we have by training them not only to act, but to decide on which material they wanted to produce, (12:11). Being led by love of the work versus making money, (15:06). How lack of work led Jeff (and John Malkovich) to teach, which he loves, (17:06). How things shifted once Jeff started making bigger money, (21:11). The differences between stage work and camera work, (25:49). How disillusionment with a high-paying TV show that he didn't love sparked Jeff to launch the teaching arm of Steppenwolf 23 years ago, (28:06). How Steppenwolf's success in having shows moved to Broadway led to its members making a living as actors. (31:41). "Also in those years, from '82 to '89 the original, sort of people from the first and second generation of the company, started to get television and film work. And I felt like I was one of the last to crack that,"(33:04). "After many attempts at landing that kind of job, that's when I finally landed one: when, when I knew that psychically and emotionally I had just said, 'I don't care'," (36:31). How Jeff got Scandal by way of Grey's Anatomy, (40:00). The Scandal Experience, (51:06). Shonda Rhimes' brilliance in her quiet introduction to Jeff's character Cyrus' homosexuality after several episodes on a mainstream hit show, (54:26). The power of television and film in representing the under-represented, (56:51). Jeff's go to mantras and ways of thinking to help himself, (1:03:33). "Took a lot of decades to be calmer and not second guess so many things", (1:06:12).
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