Today is a rare mellow day for Finn Wittrock. On the schedule is a photo shoot and packing up the New York apartment he’s lived in since early September with his wife and seven-month-old baby, which doesn’t exactly sound like a low-key run of things. But considering Wittrock’s usual schedule as of late — completing a reading for a project in the Berkshires, embarking on the press tour for his Oscar bait film “Judy,” and a second film, “Semper Fi,” then shooting a new indie film in New York opposite Amanda Seyfriend, all with an infant in tow — the day he has planned begins to seem more and more like a spa day.
“He’s actually sleeping really well,” Wittrock says of his son, Jude. “He’s sleeping, like, 11 hours a night. But you know, he goes to sleep at 6:30 or 7 p.m. and if you want to go out and be adults for a little while, it could sneak up on you when he’s up at 6. ‘Wait, I was out late last night man. Can’t you give me a break?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t care. I don’t give a s–t.’”
The 34-year-old actor is dressed casually — boots, jeans, a T-shirt — and is equally relaxed in mannerisms. He shows no signs of his success having sunk in (humility, a Hollywood white whale!) and has a genuine sense of enthrallment with his life: his roles, his costars, his new life as a dad.
“It’s hard, yes, but it’s pretty fun most of the time,” he says of fatherhood. “It’s just nice to come home to or wake up to. Even if it’s been a late night or early morning, this little guy’s there. And the way your kid looks at you, that’s the unique thing.” The glamour of new parenthood also keeps him centered during the awards-season circus. “You take off your tux and you get puked on,” he says with a smile. “It’s like sort of like living two lives. But it’s nice. It keeps you grounded.”
Wittrock, who is from Lenox, Mass., got his start early. His dad was an actor and voice teacher working at Shakespeare and Co. in the Berkshires; Wittrock was born around the same time as four other Shakespeare staffers’ children, and the group have remained close friends.
“We kind of grew up among this acting company,” he says. “I moved away when I was like 6 but I would go back every summer. I lived a very normal public school life during the year, and then I’d go back and I’d be, like, the messenger boy in the play with young Prince Richard III.”
During these summers, he and his friends started to put together their own productions of scenes from Shakespeare. Being so surrounded by Shakespeare, and by working theater actors, gave him a sense of what the reality of an actor’s life was like.
“It was different than being a child star or working in film when you were little. It wasn’t so much about the glamour of it,” he says. “I think I actually learned the most just watching actors do it night after night after night. The kind of workman-like quality of it, and the discipline, and the daily grind of it. And I think doing Shakespeare kind of opens you up in a different way. It stretches you as a human and as an actor.”
Wittrock graduated from Juilliard, and prior to “Judy” he is best known for appearing opposite Lady Gaga in “American Crime Story” in 2015, and for “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway in 2012.
“It was like my first time being around celebrity of that caliber,” he says of his Broadway debut. “It was a good way to do it because I was very quickly not starstruck anymore. And it was a good lesson in how to look at people as people. I met Daniel Day-Lewis, he’s married to Rebecca Miller, who’s Arthur Miller’s daughter. Heroes were there, like Paul Thomas Anderson. Meryl, I met Meryl, quickly. I’m sure she doesn’t remember.”
In “Judy” he is Mickey Deans, the fifth and last husband of Judy Garland (played by Renée Zellweger). He landed the part off of a self-tape audition — “it does happen!” — and says he was drawn to the part because of the nontraditional nature of the film’s script (focusing on the final chapter of her life, versus the usual biopic approach of telling a whole life’s journey), and on the opportunity to work with Zellweger, who is earning Oscar buzz for her performance.
“I feel like people that are really at the top don’t really need to be a–holes. Like Renée was this amazing lesson in that, of how to be able to be so immersed in a part but also just be a nice, open, friendly person at the same time. It is possible. You don’t have to be a d–k,” he says. “I think there’s a perception among young actors that you kind of need to throw fits and treat people like s–t a little bit. Because that makes you a good actor. And actually no, it doesn’t.”
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