Sebastian Stan on the Challenge of Going Shirtless in Picnic and Going Mad on Once Upon a Time

You definitely know Sebastian Stan. The 29-year-old rising star turned in memorable TV performances on Once Upon a Time, Gossip Girl and Political Animals, and he’s graced the movie screen in hits like Black Swan and Captain America. On top of that, Stan is an accomplished theater actor, having appeared on Broadway in 2007 in the Tony-nominated revival of Talk Radio. Nowadays he’s heating up the stage as a handsome, troubled drifter in Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of Picnic. Broadway.com chatted with Stan about learning lessons from Ellen Burstyn, growing up in theater and finding what it takes to make it on Broadway.

You play a classic “bad boy” in Picnic. What drew you to the role of Hal?
When I was studying acting at Rutgers, I was obsessed with actors from the ‘50s. I wanted to emulate them, the Montgomery Clifts and James Deans of the world. Everything they did seemed so iconic and so romantic in some broken, terrible way. And this play is, at first glance, an opportunity to explore that world. The challenge was to make that real.

You and Maggie Grace just ooze chemistry. Did that come naturally?
I would say so. Maggie’s incredibly sweet, very generous and there’s a very open communicative relationship between the two of us about what it is that we need to do every night. I can say the same about the rest of the group. I feel very lucky that it’s a welcoming, warm, friendly group. You don’t always get that.

Do you see yourself as the sexy, shirtless type?
[Laughs.] Don’t we all try and think of ourselves like that at some point in time?

You grew up doing theater, and you went to [the famous summer camp] Stagedoor Manor. Would you describe yourself as a “theater kid”?
Oh, for sure! I went to a tiny, tiny high school where kids weren’t competing with each other for a part in the musical because there weren’t enough people. It was Stagedoor Manor that advanced what I thought doing theater was—the process, the rehearsal, the costumes and what goes on backstage and everybody’s part in it.

What is it about theater that you fell in love with?
There’s something very arousing about having an immediate response from people, right then and there. Theater really is much more of an actor’s medium because you’re in control of the editing of what the audience is going to see. You’re the one making those choices. There isn’t somebody else up there cutting the moment together for you.

You’re also gearing up to play the amped-up role of Bucky Barnes in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Excited?
I’m completely excited to venture down that path. This is why January 1, 2013, was a glorious day to wake up to [laughs]. I’m very grateful and very lucky for what’s going on right now. I think you have to allow yourself to be excited about the magnitude of something like [Captain America].

Check out Sebastian’s entire interview over at BROADWAY.COM

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