The Hot Seat: John Larroquette
The TV star gets his big Broadway moment in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Mon Mar 21 2011
Illustration: Dan Park
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
You're originally from New Orleans; how do you like NYC?
New York is much more like my hometown than Los Angeles is. The first time I came here, I was like 17 years old, to try and sell a record album I had made in New Orleans.
Did that work out?
It never happened. It was an album of poetry set to bizarre synthesizer music and things. It was called A Gift of Tongues.
Sounds like you were inspired by William Shatner's spoken-word work.
Oh God, no. Matter of fact, it was before that: 1966.
He had "Mr. Tambourine Man"—
Good God, and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." I talked to him about that when I worked with him [on Boston Legal]. I went, "Boy, you just love money, don't you, Bill?" And he does. But who doesn't?
You still write poetry?
I wouldn't say that, I wouldn't say I still write. But I write like a man who occasionally has a seizure, in that it doesn't last long but it feels good when I do it.
You posted poetry on your Twitter feed, and Deadspin teased you about it. Is that why you took it down?
[He clears his throat and pauses.] How can I say this without embarrassing anyone? The whole Twitter thing started by accident for me. I sent a note to a very famous person I know to ask about their child. I didn't know how it worked; I thought I was sending an e-mail, but I sent it and it appeared on this person's page and the next day I had, like, 10,000 followers. Then I felt obligated to somehow communicate with them, and it got to be too intrusive for me, so I killed it.
But you started it up again?
Yes, when I was thinking about doing this play. I bought a [broadcasting] package on Live365.com. I think once this show opens and I have time to sit down, I'll start building a radio station. Not as my name or anything—just to be out there and hopefully play really good music.
Your music or music you like?
Music I like. Partially because I was so into it in the '60s and because I have two sons who are musicians who have kept me up to date, I don't think I'm the typical—and it hurts my balls when I say this—60-year-old who only listens to the music you listened to when you were young. I listen to everybody from Squarepusher to Radiohead, you name it.
What drew you to this particular Broadway play?
It was the first one offered to me, quite honestly. When I realized Boston Legal was going to be ending, I said to my, um, my peeps, "Let's not pursue another television series right away. I'd like to go to New York and meet some people and see if that's a possibility in my life. I'm not getting any younger." Then the Off Broadway show was offered, and [I thought] Off Broadway would be a good way to bust half my hymen with New York. So I did that and then went back to L.A. and kept saying no to bad television series. Then, all of a sudden, the call came and said they're going to do this show with Daniel Radcliffe, and I immediately said yes.
Because of D-Rad?
Partially because of that. I love cute young men, [Laughs] and I was infatuated with the play. As a child I remember seeing it. I love [original leading man] Robert Morse, and my wife and I happened to be in New York during the last revival with Matthew Broderick and saw that. And I thought, with Dan, this was going to have some run. My sister-in-law and my niece saw him in Equus in London, and they said he was very good.
Because he was naked.
Exactly. Two English girls looking at Daniel Radcliffe on stage naked, how objective are they, really, about his acting abilities? But it's an adventure that I must have at my age. The only thing I haven't done as an actor, other than Thai puppet theater somewhere, is act on a Broadway stage.
You have such a voice for radio. Has that helped your acting career?
When you look at the number of lawyers I have played in my career, I would say it has stereotyped me in a way. One of the first jobs I had was on Dallas as a lawyer.
I read that you're an avid book collector. What do you collect?
I say I'm a collector; my wife says I'm a hoarder. I collect books, primarily first-edition 20th-century fiction. I'm an addict, I'm an alcoholic, so I have this tendency to want more and more. I mean who needs 20 cameras? Who needs 300 pens? I hoard.
What's the difference between a collector and a hoarder?
I hope the difference—and I've told my wife—is that the stuff I'm collecting we'll be able to sell for more money than we bought it for when I'm dead. I've got books that have escalated in value 1,000, 2,000 percent over the years that I've held them. Because I find the best book I can: the most pristine copy signed by the author; the rarest; the smallest printing. I go for the best. I have 800 books of just Samuel Beckett's work, tons of his correspondence, personal letters that he wrote. I have copies of plays he used when he directed, so all of his handwritten notes are in the corners of the page. I did it right. If someone wanted to do a study of Beckett, they could do it with my collection and figure out most his life very easily.
If you had to pick three books to make sure everybody read, what would they be?
Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon; A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole; and A Gay Place, by Billy Lee Brammer.
Do you think you'll publish anything yourself?
I think eventually I will. It's the biggest hurdle that I've been stumbling over since I was 16 years old, and I think it's possibly because of my need for strangers praising me that I find it difficult to stay in a room—although I love being in a room by myself.
Then Twitter's perfect for you. You're in a room by yourself, but everyone's listening.
The Twitter thing was a whim that should not have gone on as long as it did.
JohnLarroquette.com is kind of bare. Is there a plan to put something more up there?
Again, as egotistical as I am, as self-centered as I am, and as much as I love strangers idolizing me, I find it very crass to be self-promoter in a way. And that's what those things seem to me. And that's why—I'll tell you this but you'll never find them—there are a couple places I'm using where I am completely disguised and I spew forth some bizarre sort of...I would call it art, but that would be presumptuous of me. That's another thing I collect, actually, domain names. I've got maybe 500 domain names that I own, that I've just made up or words that I like.
Because you plan for your family to sell them when you die or—?
Nope, I would never sell them. I just like having them.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opens Thursday, March 24.