Bryan Greenberg Steps into the Kitchen

Published August 8, 2012

ABOVE: BRYAN GREENBERG WITH LAURA PREPON IN THE KITCHEN.

There are plenty of “nice guys” on Bryan Greenberg’s résumé—Ben in How to Make it in America, HBO’s homage to young, floundering New Yorkers; Uma Thurman’s earnest lover David in Prime; and, if you go back to the beginning of his career, the oddly responsible teenage father Jake Jagielski in the teen soap One Tree Hill. Greenberg’s character in The Kitchen is not one of these nice guys. He is, in short, a cad.

An indie ensemble comedy—and the headlining film at the GenArt Film Festival—The Kitchen takes place in the kitchen at Jennifer’s 30th birthday party, and things are not going particularly well for the birthday girl (played by Laura Prepon) or her sister, Penny (Dreama Walker). Greenberg plays Jennifer’s ex-boyfriend, Paul, a ludicrous lothario to rival the likes of Jon Hamm in Bridesmaids. And Greenberg plays him with relish.

Interview met the actor and musician yesterday over coffee to talk about GenArt, party tricks, his upcoming third album, and aging.

EMMA BROWN: I saw that you tweeted a photo of Mike Tyson’s one-man show on Broadway. Did you go to that? How was it?

BRYAN GREENBERG: I went to the premiere night. It was cool. It’s more of an event to say I went the premiere night, he’s not an actor. I mean, he’s great—he’s one of the most fascinating sports figures I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, I’ve always been interested in him and followed his career—and with Spike Lee [directing] you’re like, “Okay, what are they going to do?” But I was sort of underwhelmed, to be honest; Mike Tyson is very charismatic, but he’s not a stand-up comedian, so it’s kind of like watching somebody try to be a stand-up comedian, I didn’t see a whole lot of direction. But it was cool; some of the stories were great.

BROWN: What about the audience—were people laughing?

GREENBERG: It was lively. There was a lot of interaction, a lot of people talking to him. 50 Cent was in the audience, and [Mike Tyson]—I think he was nervous—he was talking to 50 the whole time saying, “You know how it is, 50.” And Puffy was there, and Kanye. It was a scene.

BROWN: Do you enjoy Twitter?

GREENBERG: I do. I go hot and cold with it. My music manager is the one that got me into it; before, I was like, “I don’t need to reach out to my fans, I don’t need to have that dialogue with them.” But [as a] musician, you have to constantly—especially since my music is not on the same level as my acting—you have to connect with your fans. I actually feel like I have developed friendships through Twitter, people that I’ve worked with I can kind of keep up with them. I’ve totally turned a corner. I get it. And Instagram.

BROWN: I hear that you have a third album coming out soon. 

GREENBERG: Yeah, I’m just mixing it right now, that’s what I’ve been doing all morning. I’m excited about it. It’s different, fuller; the people who I’ve played it for say it’s my best. I just feel like I sort of let go of any need to impress. I’m not really trying to sell records and there’s a lot of freedom with that, not having the burden to give your fans a certain sound. A lot of my previous stuff was singer-songwriter, but I don’t really listen to that stuff. I listen to more rock-‘n’-roll—more bands. So what we did was, I’d lay down the guitar and vocals, and then we’d bring bass and drums and a keyboard player and take all my guitar out.

BROWN: What’s a band you wish you’d been in?

GREENBERG: I was a big Oasis fan.

BROWN: The third Gallagher brother.

GREENBERG: Yeah, or the Beastie Boys. [laughs]

BROWN: You’re putting this record out independently. Were you signed to a label before?

GREENBERG: No, I never wanted to have one. I’ve always been scared of somebody telling me what to do with my music. What if a great acting opportunity came up, and they were like, “No. You have to go tour and open up for this band,” that I’m just not that crazy about? I made a decision a long time ago [that] I’m doing it because I love it, because it’s fun. If I break even, that’s a good thing.

BROWN: Do you feel more exposed through your music than through your acting?

GREENBERG: Yeah, for sure. It’s more personal.

BROWN: Were you disappointed when How to Make it in America was canceled in December?

GREENBERG: I was, to be honest. I was. I thought we were on the verge of really tipping, and I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t get a chance do it all the way, there were so many cool ideas for the next season. [But] at the end of the day, I don’t regret anything, I had a lot of fun, and every day fans come up to me: “What happened? It was a great show.” My fans are probably largely female, it wasn’t until How to Make it in America that guys started coming up to me: “You’re Bryan Greenberg,” “Yeah… Don’t hurt me. What do you want?” “Love the show.” [laughs]

After it ended, I just wanted to lay low in LA and work on music. So I gave up my place [in New York] but, now I’m back here, staying in people’s houses, and apartments and hotels, and I’m like, What am I doing? I need to move back!

BROWN: Have you ever been to the GenArt film festival before?

GREENBERG: No. I don’t know what to expect. It seems pretty cool [and] curated, I’m honored to be on closing the night. [The Kitchen] is a movie that we did for zero money, the budget was like, 50,000 dollars. And that’s awesome that you can make a movie for that much money. I just thought the writing was great, and I thought my character Paul was such a douchebag, and it was hilarious. I love Paul because he didn’t realize what he was doing was wrong, he can justify everything he’s doing, “What? I was honest with you. Why are you harping on all the bad stuff?” I never really got a chance to do anything like that; I always play really nice guys. Paul’s just flippant, but I still played him like he thinks he’s a nice guy.

BROWN: Do you know people like that?

GREENBERG: Yeah, people that are so unaware, self-involved. Not to that extreme, but I know guys who have girlfriends and then they’re constantly stepping out on them and justifying it to themselves and everyone around them, telling me about it to make themselves feel better. [laughs] There’s a lot of that going on. But [Paul] felt pretty extreme, the upper echelon of the douchebags [laughs].

BROWN: Do you think you’re comfortable playing such a caddish character because you’ve already played a lot of nice guys, so people won’t think you’re actually horrible?

GREENBERG: I don’t know. It’s fun to change people’s expectations

BROWN: Did you know any of the other actors from The Kitchen before you started filming?

GREENBERG: Laura [Prepon] and I had worked together before on October Road on ABC a couple years ago, so it was great to work with her again because we’re old friends, she was the only one I knew before. But I was really impressed with Dreama [Walker] and Tate [Ellington] and Matt Bush and Pepper [Binkley] and Amber [Stevens]. I had a lot of fun doing that. There was zero ego on that set, it was like we just rented a house in Pasadena and were literally all hanging out in the backyard waiting to go into the kitchen to shoot.

BROWN: What did you do for your 30th birthday?

GREENBERG: I was in New York. I think I just had dinner with a bunch of friends at that French Moroccan place in SoHo, L’Orange Bleue, and then we went to a club. [laughs] Nothing that crazy. It’s a birthday that I was reluctantly celebrating—when you’re a kid, you’re like, “Oh, man, 30. Fuck. That’s old.” But when you get to that age you don’t feel that way at all. Birthdays now, I’m less and less excited about. I don’t really need to celebrate being 34. [laughs] It’s weird, too, when your parents had you when they were 27 and you’re long past 27. But I live a different lifestyle.

BROWN: Are you parents asking, “Hey Bryan, when are the grandchildren coming?”

GREENBERG: They’re not overt about it, but they’re definitely like, “David just had a second baby…” and I’m like, “Yeah, I know. You should go visit him.” [laughs] But I think they’re cool and they understand, I’ll find my way eventually. There’s no rush on that.

BROWN: When you first started auditioning, what did you put as your “special skills” on your résumé?

GREENBERG: I think I just put my hobbies. It’s like the carryover from your high school and college résumés, so I think it was “Lacrosse! Skiing! Wrestling!” [laughs] Any of the sports I did. “Putting dental floss up my nose and out my mouth.”

BROWN: You can do that?

GREENBERG: I did when I was younger, it was my trick. I’d snort it up my nose and then cough it out. It was really gross and kind of painful.

BROWN: How did you figure out that you could do that?

GREENBERG: It was a bored-at-camp type trick. At my bar mitzvah, my friend was like, “Do the trick for the camera! Do the trick for the camera!” Like I’m ever going to watch my bar mitzvah video. [laughs] They didn’t have dental floss, so they gave me a spool of thread and I did it and it got stuck for, like, an hour. I was coughing in the bathroom trying to get it out. [laughs]

BROWN: Are you the only one with the tape?

GREENBERG: I don’t think it made the tape. [pause] The tape does not exist.

THE GENART FILM FESTIVAL STARTS TODAY, AUGUST 8, IN NEW YORK. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT ITS WEBSITE. BRYAN GREENBERG’S NEXT FILM IS THE NORMALS, WITH DAN HEDAYA. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GREENBERG, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.