Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Interview with Josh Malina - In Florida Thursday

Josh Malina will speak this Thursday at The Kravis Center to start the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County's 2006 Annual Campaign.

From the Palm Beach Post:
"Q: Switching gears, I read when you were hired for The West Wing, someone on the Internet referred to you as that "horrible little man who's replacing Rob Lowe." What was your reaction?

A: Well, I'm one of those people who has as thick a skin as you can have. I sometimes get a kick out of reading the horrible, horrible, awful things people write about me. If you Google yourself, you have to be willing to take what you find.

Q: Was Rob a tough act to follow?

A: He was in one sense. I definitely didn't go into it thinking 'Oh my God I have to turn every Rob Lowe fan into a Josh Malina fan.' I had no angst about it. But I did know that he was very popular as an actor and his character was hugely popular, so I didn't really concentrate on whether I could replace him, per se. I also think if you look at the two of us standing next to each other, it's quite clear who's the good-looking leading man and who's more the supporting actor type of player. I don't think there's any danger of me really replacing him.

Q: Why does everyone talk so fast on The West Wing?

A: (laughs) That's a good question, too. To start with, if you compare one of our scripts to your average one-hour drama, we have more pages. We have to fit more dialogue into the same amount of time.

Q: Your first day on the set of The West Wing fell on Rosh Hashana. You chose to observe the Jewish holiday. Did that cause any problems?

A: It really didn't ultimately. I was aghast when I found out. This is one job I certainly didn't want to jeopardize. But by the same token, I knew I wasn't going to work that day. I had never before in my life. Being Jewish is who I am, being an actor is what I do, so the priority was clear to me. I gathered my courage and called the producers and said while I was delighted to be offered this role, I had a problem with the first day of work. Luckily they couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating. I definitely got a little bit of ribbing from the cast when I showed up.

Q: What'd they say?

A: I remember Allison Janney saying, 'Oh, so today is not a Jewish holiday? You can actually do some work?'

Q: So, who do you want to see win the election on The West Wing?

A: That's an interesting question, too. After watching the debate, I thought they both came off very, very well. Vinick (Alan Alda) is a rare Republican I could feel good about voting for. And Santos (Jimmy Smits) is a terrific candidate. I guess being a real Democrat and a fictional Democrat, I'd have to lean towards Santos.

Q: If the show is picked up next season, what's your deal?

A: All I know is that I don't have one. If they wanted to write me in somehow and make me part of the Santos administration, I'd be delighted. I get the feeling if the show continues, they're going to move on and try to get some fresh blood. My guess is they won't ask me to be a part of it, but it's been a very, very good run for me.

Q: Is it true that you got your start in show business by performing the Heimlich maneuver on Aaron Sorkin? Tell me about that.

A: That actually is true. I knew him a little bit as a kid. He went to high school near me with my cousin with whom I was very close. When I graduated from college in 1988, I moved to New York City and he was living there and I called him and we got to be good friends. He hosted a poker game every week, and we got to be very good friends across the poker table. The first job he offered me was (the Broadway play) A Few Good Men. We used to go bowling once a week with the rest of the cast, and one night (Aaron) was choking on a piece of hamburger and I'm not sure I really knew what I was doing, but I got behind him, picked him up off the floor and I Heimliched him and in the process cracked a few of his ribs. But ultimately I saved him.

Q: So does he feel beholden to you? Is that why you're in every Aaron Sorkin production?

A: It's a fair question. I'd like to think that he thinks I'm a good actor, but I'm comfortable if he just feels he's paying off some sort of karmic debt. That works for me too.

Q: Do you have a favorite Sorkin project?

A: It's very hard to answer, but (the short-lived ABC show) Sports Night has a very, very special place in my heart. I was there from the ground floor. Sports Night was my first television series as a regular and it was a lot of fun being on the ground floor watching (Aaron) create this whole world. Golden memories for me.
Q: What are some of the cool things about looking nerdy and book smart?

A: (laughs) Aaron has helped me out by creating characters that are smarter and better than I am. Some of that bleeds over. People attribute to me greater intellect than I actually possess.

Q: You made your film debut with Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. What was that like?

A: I learned a lot, although literally in that movie I had five words — and three of them were 'yes' and two of them were 'sir.' I learned a lot simply by observing Nicholson. When it was time to shoot my single — the shot of just me at the door talking to Nicholson — the camera is only on me and anybody could've been off camera reading his lines and very frequently big stars will go to their trailer or go have a bite to eat and have somebody on the crew read the star's line. But Nicholson stood their off camera, did all his lines and did a full 100 percent performance. I was really struck by that. I was a nobody and he was a giant star. He didn't have to do it. But he takes his job seriously. It reminded me always be professional. If Nicholson could do it and go above and beyond what you have to do, I'm always going to be there and giving what I can give."

Josh Malina will also be participating in the Alamo Poker Tour Celebrity Tournament at Casino Morongo, benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on December 8 and 9. The first place winner of an online poker tournament this Sunday can win a place at this tournament. More information from the Desert Sun.

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