Stephen Schnetzer, “Another World’s” Cass Winthrop, is alluringly kissable.
Schnetzer is making his first appearance at the Guthrie as the patriarch in “Tribes,” a play about a deaf man’s intellectual but boisterous family. It runs through Nov. 10.
Lately seen playing a shrink on Showtime’s hot “Homeland,” Schnetzer is surprised that Twin Citians are recognizing him so easily since he hasn’t been on a daytime soap in a few years and “Another World,” where he played Cass for 17 years, hasn’t been on TV since 1999. This Christopher in “Tribes” is a tough character, but Schnetzer said Minnesotans are still being very nice to him. He’s fairly nice and not at all bothered by fans who notice him swimming at the YMCA. He was extra nice to me, as you will see in my startribune.com/video during which my lips said one thing and my actions quite another to make a point.
Probably something to do with the familiarity of hearing this accomplished voice-over actor in commercials for Aleve, RoC facial, Buitoni, Mercedes-Benz, among many others.
Q: “Tribes,” according to the New York Times, is about the passive and aggressive forms of listening or not within a family of intellectuals. Has the play made you a more passive or more aggressive listener in real life?
A: I think it’s made me a more sensitive listener. I try to be aware of an individual’s distinction, the difference in people. There are major differences within this family. Sometimes their hearts are in the right place, but they really aren’t attuned to the needs of other people in the family or with strangers in public.
Q: Would your sons say you are a good listener?
A: Yeah. When I met you in the elevator on the way up, I was still on the phone with my son Max. And I was just listening. [Laughter] OK, Max.
Q: Who in your family would say you are a poor listener?
A: I think my girlfriend, my partner, would say sometimes I don’t listen.
Q: If you’ve got a girlfriend, then your Wikipedia page is inaccurate because I think it says you’re still married.
A: Never believe everything Wikipedia [says]. I don’t even go online to see what my information is because I know it’s going to upset me.
Q: Have you ever caught yourself acting for TV, small, when you are onstage, where you need more grand gestures?
A: It’s not a matter of catching myself. I think I’m trying to work the best of both worlds. When I’m on TV, I do have to be mindful of the fact that it’s really a still medium. If you see the style of acting now, on “Scandal” for example, it’s a lot of intensity but there’s a lot of immobility, as opposed to gesticulating all over the place when you are flying out of frame. On stage it’s made me aware of theatricality and I don’t want to be aware of theatricality. When I come and see a play, I don’t want to see somebody making broad faces and gestures that go beyond the bounds of believability. So it’s hopefully refining [my skills]. Although Christopher is a very flamboyant, expressive character physically, I try to keep it organic and real. I think sometimes I try to get theater jobs because of that, quite frankly. People think Shakespeare should be SHAKESPEARE and I think Shakespeare should sound conversational.
Q: What is the most unbelievable story line you recall from “Another World”?
A: [Laughter] A couple come to mind. I do love the fact that the show went off the air in May 1999 and the last episode was my character’s wedding to Lila, and for back story reasons I won’t go into, the gorilla at the zoo named Carolyn has a crush on me. She catches my scent again, just before the wedding, and she gets loose from the zoo. As we’re at the altar in an outdoor setting, I am kidnapped before I say ‘I do.’ That and the other one was they came to me and said, We’re thinking of doing a ‘Tootsie’ story line but we want to check with you and make sure you don’t mind wearing a dress. I said, “It makes me nervous and anxious but if the writers are 100 percent behind it, sure.” The story line was I owed a loan shark named Tony the Tuna. I couldn’t go out as myself because he put a hit on me, was going to kneecap me. I dressed up in my friend Felicia Gallant’s, played by Linda Dano, clothing. Then Tony the Tuna meets Krystal Lake, the female incarnation of me, and falls in love with Krystal. So the loan shark starts pursuing me.
Q: I can’t suspend that much disbelief. I always have thought soap operas were so ridiculous, why do they have such a huge following?
A: It’s completely entertaining. The fans had such fun with that. You take life too seriously, C.J.; you’ve got to lighten up. [Laughter]
Q: I’m a little upset about your beard because I’ve always found your lips very interesting [Schnetzer laughs], not that I have any interest in kissing them. I think it’s because you had pouty lips naturally before they exploded on women as a result of these products.
Q: Did you pass these lips on to your sons?
A: Ah, yeah. [Sustained laughter]
Q: Is it distracting to kiss the lips of colleagues who have filler injected into their kissers?
A: I’ve not had a Botox kiss experience, fortunately.
Q: Can you cry on cue?
A: If you say “Cry,” it would take me a minute, but yeah, I can access that.
Q: What do you have to think about to bring tears?
A: It depends on what’s making me sad lately. [Laughter] Lately it’s been pretty easy. [More laughter]
Q: You’re a dancer?
A: I never really was. When I was at Juilliard, I was a scholarship student at Alvin Ailey. They needed men. For six months I got in great shape. I took three classes a day — ballet, jazz, modern. It was a wonderful experience. If anybody in the range of this interview has never seen Alvin Ailey, you must see it.
Q: When you are familiar with those three areas of dance, don’t you kind of look at some of the moves that now pass for dance and think, come on now? I don’t know why The Dougie comes to mind when he’s not the most egregious.
A: Is that … [and he proceeds to Dougie in his seat]? I taught that to the cast. We do The Dougie. We did it opening night at the party shenanigans backstage.
Q: What is the most frightening gesture a fan has made in your direction that turned out to be nonthreatening?
A: Before TV I was doing a play in San Francisco. A young girl was waiting for me at the stage door. I was probably 25, 26. And she was so excited; it was not a hostile gesture, but she went “Oh my god” [and she flung out her arm and her fist went] right into my solar plexus and I went down on the sidewalk. [Laughter] I’ve been very lucky with fans, especially Minneapolis fans. They haven’t attacked me for playing Christopher, a tough guy, a real tough father. Been recognized quite a bit around here. I’m surprised. It’s been a lot of years now since I’ve been on and out of sight, out of mind, usually. A lot of people recognize me vocally.
Interviews are edited. Contact C.J. at email@example.com and see her on Fox 9.