'You get used to having an audience' _ Michael Cera on Broadway, Brooklyn and music

  • Article by: MARK KENNEDY , Associated Press
  • Updated: September 3, 2014 - 5:23 PM
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Michael Cera

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NEW YORK — Brooklyn currently has a love affair with facial hair, is awash with hipsters, tons of kale — and now 100 percent more Michael Cera.

The 26-year-old star of "Juno" and "Superbad" has relocated to the cool New York borough after several years in which he would visit the city and then feel sad when it was time to go home to Los Angeles.

"I was not really enjoying living in L.A. Aside from all my friends out there, the city didn't really fit me, I thought. And vice versa," he says. "I always loved New York. I always wanted to live here since I was a kid."

The move makes sense. If you think about it, Cera has always seemed more of a New Yorker — intellectual, arty, low-key, slyly cynical — than the plastic pretty boys over on the other coast.

The move coincides with Cera exploring new artistic expressions — the release of an indie folk album and his Broadway debut, all this summer. "Yeah, it's a few things happening at once," he says, humbly and yet guarded.

The play he's chosen is as comfortable a fit with many of Cera previous film roles as an old T-shirt. It's Kenneth Lonergan's "This Is Our Youth," a portrait of adrift, privileged post-adolescents that co-stars Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson.

Cera plays Warren, a nerdish rich kid who shows up at his friend Dennis's Manhattan apartment in 1982 with $15,000 he has stolen from his menacing father. They come up with a dangerous plan to not only return the money and avoid punishment, but also to party.

The script calls Warren "a strange barking-dog of a kid with large tracts of thoughtfulness in his personality" who is "just beginning to find beneath his natural eccentricity a dogged self-possession." In other words, not too much of a stretch.

Cera says he had no doubts he could work onstage. "I would have doubts if it were something different, something completely outside of my wheelhouse. Like a musical, or something. Or, I don't know, Shakespeare."

The play over the years has featured such actors as Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, Chris Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. Cera and Culkin first performed the play in Australia in 2012 and added Gevinson and director Anna D. Shapiro for a pre-Broadway run at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company this summer.

"It was definitely really scary the first few times at Steppenwolf," he says. "But that kind of goes away. You get used to having an audience, I think. Your body gets used to that in a weird way."

To find himself on Broadway, Cera admits, is "pretty far-fetched," especially in a play that centers on the dialogue between disaffected, drug-addled young adults.

"I think it's fascinating that this has no bells and whistles, really," he says. "The value of the experience is this emotional arc and that, for a mainstream thing, I think that is significant."

Shapiro, a Tony Award-winner who directed Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," calls Cera "really quite honestly one of the most naturally gifted theater actors I've ever seen."

"I adore him. I can't say enough about him. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat. I love what he brings. I love the way he behaves. He makes me laugh," she adds. "I love the guy."

A lot of people share the feeling for this former child star from Canada whose fame grew while playing the low-key, slightly awkward George-Michael on "Arrested Development." He's made stabs at spreading his adult wings lately in such fare as "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," ''The End of Love" and "Magic Magic."

He's also revealed his inner songwriter, quietly releasing an 18-song album on his Bandcamp website on Aug. 8. It's a collection of airy, folky tracks, some just wordless fragments, some more fully fleshed out.

"The music thing is not a particular ambition or something. It's just something I do at home," he says. "I didn't think that many people would find it or hear it because the Internet is such a sea, a blizzard of stuff."

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