Michael Park has had a successful career on Broadway and TV for years, but it’s his role as Larry Murphy in Dear Evan Hansen that has thrust him into the spotlight. Michael is someone who has the utmost respect for every human he meets, and it was quickly apparent to us how much admiration and love he has for the Broadway community. We spoke to him about his career and the journey leading up to Dear Evan Hansen.
You have a degree in art and originally intended to be an architect – what made you want to be an actor instead?
When I was a sophomore in college my wife (at the time my girlfriend) said, “hey, let’s audition for the college musical Guys and Dolls. That would be really fun. We would be able to do our homework in the back, probably get ensemble roles and stuff like that.” So I thought yes, that would be really fun as well, I guess, – but I am not going to get cast as anything because I am not a theater major, not a music major. And I was cast as Sky Masterson and she was not cast. I started really that love for theater my sophomore year of college and then soon after college I started doing a lot of community theater. We have got a great community theater kind of life in Rochester, New York with Blackfriars Theatre and the JCC is fabulous there. I did A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum by the JCC and again was asked to do another show and another show, and pretty soon, I wound up in New York.
It’s really kind of cool. That’s not a normal kind of path to New York, but John Bolton has a similar story. Started out doing community theater in Rochester, New York with Blackfriars. We were so surprised to find that out about ourselves on the street last week as a matter of fact.
You were on As the World Turns for 13 years – how does it feel to work on a show for so long?
Well, at first it’s a little daunting because the history of As The World Turns runs deep. I tried my best to follow the lead of Martha Byrne who played Lily and the guy who played my cousin Jon Hensley and the late Benjamin Hendrickson. You get to be friends with these people and they become family and getting to do a different script every day was a lot of fun and exhausting. It really honed my skills as an actor because I don’t have any kind of formal training. I was able to learn through osmosis if you will, or kind of leach the techniques of other people. Benjamin was in the first class at Juilliard. Martha Byrne was a child actor. So many people had worked on Broadway. Scott Holmes worked on Broadway. Liz Hubbard went to Harvard.
So you are the only one who didn’t have training as an actor?
I went there wide‑eyed and I just kept my head and learned so much in the process. Thankfully when they shut their doors 13 years later, Rob Ashford, who directed me in an Encores! show called Bloomer Girl was there to say, “hey, I hear you are done with the soap opera. Now we can welcome you back to theater and that’s when I did How to Succeed.
Do you have a preference between film or live theater as an actor?
There is no preference. I mean, they are completely different skill sets in a way. Very small way, but the technique is usually the same. I have three kids. Now it’s about putting them through college and making sure that everybody is happy and healthy.
Do any of your kids want to follow in your footsteps?
You know what? I think it’s too early to say because keep in mind my footsteps didn’t start really taking off until I was out of college. I would be more than supportive of that. My daughter Kathleen does community theater with Rosie O’Donnell’s daughter.
In How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying you shared the stage with Daniel Radcliffe, Darren Criss and Nick Jonas who are so well known and have massive fan followings. What was it like to work with them on that show?
It was great being the go‑between between John Larroquette & Daniel. The three of us would take our breaks out in the alley and just hang out and John Larroquette dubbed us the alley boys. I learned a lot from Daniel Radcliffe who happens to be the smartest person just in about any room you go to, as is John Larroquette. So being this fly on the wall, hanging out with those guys, listening to those great storie