Christopher J. Hanke has been extremely busy since exiting the successful Broadway revival of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING last year. The actor recently wrapped filming on an episode of Lifetime's new series 'The Client List', which will air this Sunday, June 10. Tonight, he opens at Washington DC's Arena Stage in the Broadway production of Larry Kramer's 'The Normal Heart' in the role of Tommy Boatwright.
Hanke has played leading roles in various Broadway and off-Broadway productions. His roles have included Ethan Girard in the national tour of The Full Monty (2002) and Nick Piazza in Fame on 42nd Street (2003, off-Broadway); and on Broadway as J.T. in In My Life (2005), Mark Cohen in Rent (2007) and Baldwin in Cry-Baby (2008); and Claude in Hair (2008 -Central Park production). He has also appeared on television in recurring roles on Three Rivers and Big Love and had a recent guest-starring role on ABC's Brothers & Sisters.
Hanke took time out of his final rehearsal in DC yesterday to chat about what it was like to work opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt and why he believes the Tony Award-winning Normal Heart has as much relevance today as it did when it was first written.
Can you tell me a little about your role on the Client List which will air this Sunday?
Well first of all, it’s a very sexy new hit show for Lifetime so that’s cool. And growing up knowing who Jennifer Love Hewitt is, and having this huge idea that, “Oh my God, Jennifer Love Hewitt!” - I mean to be able to sit in scenes and to be acting opposite her was very surreal and a very cool thing. She is a dream and an ultimate professional and was so giving and wonderful. My whole experience of my shoot was really kick ass!
Did she tell you to call her ‘Love’?
(laughing) I do call her Love. She didn’t say to, but I just picked up on it. Everyone else called her ‘Love’ they were like ‘Hey Love, would you mind if I try this? – so yeah totally, it's her nickname and she embodies it perfectly.
But as far as my character, I play Luke Jergenson, a new love interest, or possible love interest for one of the character’s in the show. He’s a yoga instructor and a kind of spiritual, zen, free flowing guy who really connects with one of the girls on the show. And there’s a bit of a twist with Love’s character - we actually know each other from earlier in our lives and that comes out in the episode and it's about how they’re connected and what their relationship is. Even though Luke’s love interest is with another character, most of my scenes are with Love’s character.
Is this possibly a recurring character for the series?
You know, it's a new show and no one quite knows yet how the storylines are going to go. But definitely, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see my character come back in a couple of episodes to kind of further that story along. I’ve not been told that for sure but my fingers are crossed. As I said, everybody was so lovely to work with I kind of feel like we all felt a really good chemistry. I hope that happens. It would be fantastic!
Do you have a preference for TV over theater?
I get asked that question a lot and I kind of feel like when I’m doing TV I prefer theater and when I’m doing theater I prefer TV because I just feel like I miss the other medium. But I’ve done a lot of TV and a lot of theater and I’m just happy to be able to do both, to be able to switch back and forth – that’s a huge plus and I just want to be working as an actor wherever those jobs come from.
I wanted to ask you about The Normal Heart which you open in on Friday in DC.
Yeah, we’re doing the Broadway production with this amazing cast (see photo below!) for the summer. Larry Kramer said that it’s really important for this play to be done in Washington for him since it has never been done before here. Washington plays a big part of this story and Larry had tried to get the play to come here three times and on each occasion was thwarted for one reason or another at the last minute. So it’s really important - he’s very excited that it’s finally being done and therefore I’m also just elated to be a part of this Washington debut.