By Christopher A. Pape
Sometimes you speak to someone that you intrinsically connect with. Perhaps it’s similar personalities or interests or some vague feeling of simpatico. Whatever the unnamed feeling, it’s what I experienced when I interviewed Chris Bauer, of True Blood fame. He was witty, fascinating, engaging and completely straightforward.
I appreciated the time I spent with him and hope you like the interview as much as I liked speaking with him. Look out for an article written by him and I can’t wait to meet him again at our big party.
Resident (R): Are you a native New Yorker?
Chris Bauer (CB): No, but I have lived in New York for 20 years with a serious departure going to LA to shoot True Blood.
R: So now you live in LA?
CB: Yes, for the first two years of True Blood I commuted. We have a place in Dumbo and in Sag Harbor. We then we moved out to Sag Harbor; imagine my commute, it’s bad enough to have to commute from LAX to JFK, but you have to throw that extra two hours in to get out to the end of Long Island. It was such an ordeal that after two seasons I figured out a way to get my kids in school here in LA for when we shot and when I was off, they would come back to New York for school here.
Common sense eventually took over and because we are a family that likes to stick together we relocated out to LA. It’s only temporary, for as long as the show goes. But let me tell you my kids will not let a day go by without letting you or anyone else know that New York is home.
R: Are they at an age where they can identify which place they like better?
CB: They are and it’s such a tribute to New York. My children are transient; children of the circus because my job has taken us all over the place. New York has always been home and it has always been where we return, it has such a strong pull that I can’t blame them.
R: Where did you grow up?
CB: I was born in LA. The only thing rarer than a native New Yorker is a native Los Angeleno; the only reason people are in LA is because if they kept migrating they would be in the ocean.
R: What are the qualities that make up a New Yorker?
CB: What I love about New York is the only obligation I have every day is to leave my apartment and within five steps of walking out the door I will have an encounter with humanity that makes me feel like my life has a purpose. Whether it’s on the subway or the bus, the connection that people talk about definitively is the New York experience.
What I have learned from New Yorkers it that we have been sensitized to a real sense of priority. We have to get where we are going and generally the reason we are going there is to make money or get food or have fun. We aren’t the only ones doing it so we have to figure out how to do it in a group. My favorite thing to tell people when they say New York is unfriendly is to get on the subway and ask for directions and see how many people fight for the chance to help.
R: How often do you come back to New York?
CB: I come back every chance I get; I spend every holiday and summer here. And I am really excited because I am coming back to do a play at the Atlantic Theater Company.
R: Tell me about the play.
CB: It’s called What Rhymes with America.
R: And what does rhyme with America?
CB: So far I haven’t found anything, which makes me think the title is intriguing.
R: Tell us about your role and what the show is about.
CB: I play a divorced father of a 16 and half-year old girl. The character tries very hard to connect with her, but they are estranged. He is floating around trying to affect his world and is unable to do so. It’s just kind of a human take on people’s desire to succeed and have an effect on their world. I can’t wait to get started.
R: Let’s turn our focus to True Blood – how is it behind the scenes of the show?
CB: True Blood is the 5th show I have worked on and it’s the most pleasant working atmosphere of any job I have ever had. For a show that has been as successful as True Blood has it wouldn’t be uncommon for people to start acting like assholes. And that’s not the case for this show.
I have been on the show since the pilot and there are only a handful of us who have been on the show that long, I think we all feel responsible for retaining that gratitude for the fans. Everyone shows up every day and works hard; I am very lucky to have the job.
R: Obviously, you don’t have a Southern accent – how did you learn to speak with such a strong Louisianan accent?
CB: When we first started we had a dialect coach but now it’s been so long that it’s second nature. A year before I did True Blood I stared in A Street Car Named Desire on Broadway and we had a dialect coach. It takes place in New Orleans, so it’s not the same part of Louisiana as where the show is set, but it was close enough so I tinkered around with my Street Car accent and I watched a lot of Youtube videos of law enforcement in Louisiana and I stole everything from them. •