When you think of SXSW, the image of indie bands, movie premieres, tech talks where the word “innovative” is used a lot, and of course, those famous Austin breakfast tacos immediately springs to mind. But television has also become one of the key components of the festival, with panels and screenings becoming a one of the must-experience destinations of the event. It’s no surprise really, considering the quality level of television out there right now.
Just ask Aaron Tveit, the bona fide Broadway star who had his big screen breakout as Enjolras in the Oscar-winning adaptation of Les Misérables. The 29-year-old actor who has Hollywood knocking, went with a small screen project, the upcoming USA procedural Graceland, which had its world premiere at the Austin Museum of Art at SXSW on Monday night.
Hollywood.com caught up with Tveit at the roof party that followed the Graceland premiere (which featured, among other highlights, a digital paint display) and cast Q&A explained his reasoning for choosing to do television after the success of Les Mis was simple: “I think the best writing right now is in television.” He continued, “I’m a huge television watcher, I’m a fan of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Those shows I think, but obviously starting with The Sopranos and The Wire, are why you’re seeing film actors who would have never done TV before, all of a sudden want a series. The stigma [about TV] is gone.”
While Tveit is by no means a stranger to television (he’d had minor roles on Gossip Girl and Law & Order: SVU), it’s his first lead in a series. In Graceland — which seemed to play well to the SXSW audience who laughed along with all the quippy, USA-brand of dialogue in the pilot — Tveit plays a rookie FBI agent named Mike Warren who lives in a dream-like beachfront home with other FBI officials, like hotshot agent Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata).
“Other television work that I’ve done has been a lot of guest star stuff, so you’re kind of the not-important person on the schedule when you’re shooting as a guest star, but with this I’m working all the time. I love being at work everyday,” Tveit said. The actor said that he was up for the “six month grind of non-stop” television shooting, thanks largely in part to his Broadway background. “Being on stage all the time I know you have to keep yourself in shape, so I just treated it the same way.”
Tveit not only credited the USA network for making his transition to TV leading man an easy one (“When I found it was USA, I could instantly picture how they were gonna do it and it was going to look like and fully supported. They give their shows every opportunity to succeed,” he said), but his castmates, including Sunjata, Vanessa Ferlito, Serinda Swan, Manny Montana, and Brandon Jay McLaren, who were all on hand for the SXSW premiere.
“It’s a group of actors that, from day one, everyone was just ready to play ball with each other,” Tveit said. “Telling this story is a very collaborative effort, our writers encourage us to bring our ideas and we have a lot of influence over our characters and the story that we’re telling. In that same regard, there’s a lot of improvisation and stuff is very free-flowing. It lifts the material off the page, because we all do really get along. I think the material can crackle when you have that kind of rapport.”
But Broadway fanatics who want to see Tveit back on stage singing again (and there were quite a few in the crowd at SXSW, as the actor received the most questions from giddy audience members during the post-screening session), don’t worry, so does he. During the Q&A, the actor said there’d be “no scripted singing in the season” on Graceland, but when Hollywood.com chatted with him, he said he’d still find an outlet for it.
“I really, really wanna get back on stage. It’s like an addiction you can’t get anywhere else. That energy you have on stage, you can’t find it anywhere else. I miss it, I miss singing,” Tveit admitted. “[I'm] in the early stages of putting a concert to do in New York. I’ll hopefully be diving in to that [when I get back], so hopefully that will satisfy my desire to sing, even if it’s just for myself.” Unlikely case.
Graceland premieres this summer on USA.
[Photo credit: USA]