21 questions

Julia Stiles Thinks NYC’s Rats Are Getting Bigger and Bolder

Photo: Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images

Name: Julia Stiles
Age: 33
Neighborhood: East Village
Occupation: Actress. Beginning next Monday, July 28, you can catch her in a production of Scott Organ’s Phoenix at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
There are so many great New Yorkers! Maybe Keith Haring? I have a fondness for graffiti art, and he’s just such an iconic artist, and part of a specific time in New York. I still get really excited when I see the Crack Is Wack mural. Also Dorothy Parker, who was just a badass woman. And you know, I’ll add Bette Midler because of all the trees that she planted in the East Village. And Cynthia Nixon. She’s a great talent, and I think it’s really great her kids go to public school here, and she seems very much involved. That’s four.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
A dear friend of mine is a chef at this restaurant Cómodo in Manhattan, and just opened one in Brooklyn called Colonia Verde, so I like that I get the feeling of a home-cooked meal, but in a restaurant.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I play dress-up, say my lines, hit my mark, and tell stories.

What was your first job in New York?
I was in a play with a theater company called Ridge Theater, when I was 12. I got paid $100, which wasn’t bad considering I was underage.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
The last piece of theater I saw was Shakespeare in the Park. The last thing on Broadway was Of Mice and Men. I’ve been on a little bit of a theater binge recently, which usually happens before I’m about to do a show.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Yeah, I do. And I’ve noticed that recently, on First Avenue to be specific, it seems like there’s more and more people asking for money than I remembered. I was in L.A. for most of the winter so maybe it was because I’ve been out of the city for a little bit, but it seems to be more now.  It’s such a weird city. It feels like in New York we’re all on top of each other, and we become immune to other people’s struggles. You become numb, but it’s because it’s so overwhelming.

What’s your drink?
So, after that question, how do drink I my sadness away? [Laughs.] My new favorite drink for the summer, actually — and I’m not just plugging my friend’s restaurant — is at Colonia Verde, this delicious tequila, jalapeño, cucumber, and lime thing called La Picosa, which is their version of the margarita. But my drink of choice is honestly seasonal. In the wintertime, I like whiskey and Scotch. I just get bored with one drink. I like to make my drinks specific to where I am and what the weather’s like.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Often in Los Angeles, less so when I’m in New York. I go out more here. It’s part of our social scene! It’s a funny thing about New York — I feel guilty for staying home.

What’s your favorite medication?

What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
I look out the window and can see a lot of trees.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen on the subway?
I was on a rush-hour train, the kind where everyone is packed like sardines in a can, and there was a woman who decided to have a conversation with me nose-to-nose, while she was eating McDonald’s French fries. I don’t know what we talked about — I was kind of blocking it out as it happened. But it was surreal.

When was the last time you stayed out past 3 a.m.?
I’m kind of a night owl, I gotta say. But past 3 a.m. was a couple of weeks ago on one of those wonderful, spontaneous New York nights. I went to a party for this magazine, and then a bunch of us from the party decided to go out dancing afterward.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
Definitely not the new Times Square, but the old Times Square was when I was a kid, so I didn’t spend much time there. I have a cartoon actually of the old Times Square that was drawn in like 1978. I think it was in The Village Voice. It looked pretty insane.

What do you think of Mayor de Blasio?
I don’t know yet! It’s early.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
I definitely don’t like the rats, who have gotten large, and bold! That was another thing I saw on the subway — street rats just hanging out on the platform. I always thought they were supposed to go down into the tracks and leave us up on top, but now they’ve gotten so nonchalant about humans. I also don’t appreciate that it is getting more and more expensive to live here, because the danger is that it makes New York more homogenous.

If you could banish one person from New York forever, who would it be?
Aggressive canvassers.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
March, when I was in L.A. I learned how to drive when I was 22, so I wouldn’t have to bring my passport to bars in order to get in.

Finish this sentence: The NYPD _____.
Showed up at my building last weekend. They wanted to ask my neighbor questions, but it was very bizarre: They rang my buzzer and insisted that I open the door, which of course I didn’t do, but I went downstairs and as soon as I opened the front door of our building they barged in and I couldn’t stop them. Then they started banging on her door and I have no idea why, but I went back into my apartment and they left. It didn’t seem very official to me. There was something off about it.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
Times. And if the Post is in front of me I’m not gonna not look at it. I do like the horoscopes in the Post.

Where do you go to be alone?
I mean, kind of, my apartment. I think there’s an importance in making your apartment kind of a sanctuary. I think that’s really where I get my peace and quiet.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
Well, there’s time spent: You have to pay your dues by spending a certain number of years here. But I think it’s also that there’s the common characteristic of being direct. Also impatient. That’s a fundamentally New York trait. Nothing happens fast enough.

Julia Stiles: NYC Rats Getting Bigger and Bolder