A Titanic Star: Victor Garber

Photo: Patrick McMullan

He’s probably best known for his roles as Jack Bristow on TV’s Alias, or in Titanic, which is a shame: Victor Garber has decades of stage work on his résumé (not to mention his breakout screen role as Jesus in Godspell, in 1973). Now the 60-year-old is displaying his spectacular range in a revival of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, a breakneck farce in which he plays an aging matinee idol coping with a hysterical group of friends. Garber spoke to Rebecca Milzoff.

Your character, Garry, is a great sketch of the stereotypically egotistical actor. Did you, um, relate to that?
All Garry’s confidants tell him he has to grow up, and I related very personally to it because I know what it feels like to be getting older, still being attracted to younger people, and realizing that’s passing. It’s hard. I really think of it more as autobiographical.

Garry says he wants to “grow old with distinction.” It seems like you’ve been able to.
It’s hard for me to believe I’m as old as I am!

He’s also quite fussed over—do you experience that?
I am completely uncomfortable with people taking care of me, so no. Which is good, because I don’t get a lot of fussing.

Also, unlike Garry, you still have your hair. And speaking of hair, I watched some of Godspell last night …
Oh God, I’m sorry.

That was an amazing wig.
That was totally my hair! I’m shocked that you thought that was a wig. I had an Afro into my twenties.

You have a wonderful voice—I was sad you didn’t get to sing when you appeared on Glee, as Matthew Morrison’s father.
Ooh! I was sad, too. I’d hoped it would work out, but I only did one episode and they haven’t called me back. I love Matt like my son. The irony is that Debra Monk [who played Garber’s wife] was staying at my house when she got cast. They didn’t know we were friends. We’re best friends.

Your comedy is often deadpan, but in Present Laughter you’re flat-out funny.
Of course it’s comedic, but I think of it as just another role, ’cause I don’t want to get caught up in the laugh machine, which I can do. I’m a laugh whore—something Judy Ivey accused me of.

Do you keep in touch with Jennifer Garner?
We’re very close. Not so much father-daughter, but, well, she takes care of me.

Present Laughter
The American Airlines Theatre.
In previews for a January 21 opening.

A Titanic Star: Victor Garber