Troy Garity walked in to the Toys for Boys boutique a svelte 6’2 alongside his beautiful wife Simone whose smile literally lights up the room (we’ll soon find out that she beat out a French circus performer for the leading lady role in Garity’s life.) There’s an ease about his demeanor—shades on and backpack in hand that says he’s done this before. The iPod he’ll play his music on shortly there after speaks more to, for how long.
Given his family’s position as an acting dynasty including such name-in-lights, award-winning stars as Henry, Peter and Jane Fonda, one could say that Troy’s got it’s in his blood. Except we didn’t really speak so much about the Fonda legacy. Instead we spent a truly exceptional day shooting around parts of Miami, where Garity is currently residing while filming the second season of HBO hit series, “Ballers” in which he plays NFL agent Jason Antolotti opposite Dwayne Johnson. From cruising through the Wynwood Arts District in a 1965 Mercedes-Benz SL230 to taking down a plate of pasta at Cipriani, we even shot Garity practicing waterside tai chi—complete with shocked passers by. It was better than having shadowed him on set. It was improv acting at a moment’s notice. And he was cool and easy and funny!
He told us about his role selection process and how it was one of matching. Almost like a hopeful doctor pairs with his or her dream hospital for residency purposes, it just works: “Reading the character’s voice for the first time will usually ring some kind of inner bell. Then, for lack of a better description [the character] kind of wakes up in me. Which is lovely, because you then get to excursus parts of yourself you normally wouldn’t.”
He’s clearly matched well through the years, because he has a diverse body of work under his belt that ranges from a breakout film performance starring opposite Bruce Willis, Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thorton in Barry Levinson’s “Bandits”, to his role as Isaac in the “Barbershop” film franchise, which he will reprise in 2016. Similarly, he acted in the Danny Boyle sci-fi thriller “Sunshine,” “Gangster Squad” directed by Ruben Fleischer and the critically acclaimed television series “Boss” directed by Gus Van Sant. The Santa Monica born, California native also earned both a Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nomination for his performance in the Showtime original film “Soldier’s Girl” where he plays a young soldier who falls in love with a transsexual. The film also garnered Garity a Peabody Award and the AFI award for excellence in film.
We joked about a video interview I watched where they gave him a hard time for saying “film is the least useful art form.” In his same unaffected ease he responds: “God I hope I didn’t say that, ‘cause that’s some dumb shit. I love film.”
– Q&A –
You’ve said, “film is the least useful art form”, if you weren’t an actor what would you be?
I’m laughing because I can envision myself being in one of my moods when I said that. If I even said that. God I hope I didn’t say that, ‘cause that’s some dumb shit. I love film. Film can be hella frustrating though. Especially acting. There is no correct answer to the art. There is technique and feeling. And both are subjective. Acting deals with the conjuring of spirits and ego; vanity and make up; doubt and power. There is no end in growing a character. You can always be better. But it is always grey. Very seldom is it black and white. It can be wrong but I’m not certain if it can ever be truly right. So if you have the tendency to second-guess yourself, which I do, film acting can be maddening. I want to know, if what I’m doing is translating in telling the story in it’s best light. I want to know if it’s right or wrong. And the answer is always, you can go deeper. It can be funnier. Sadder. Sexier. Whatever. And then at the end of the day, after all the work, frustrated in not knowing if what I did was right or wrong, the darker questions can arrive… what is this I’m doing with my life? Is this just an escape for people? Is it more than commerce? Why am I putting up with the humility required to act? What the f*ck am I doing this for? And then, in these tired moments, I say stupid shit like, “film is the least useful art form”.
It’s just not tangible. Sometimes I wish it was. For a short time in my life I wanted to be a ceramicist because the art was at least utilitarian. I could make a bowl. You could eat out of it. Drink out of it. I could create something and you could apply use for it in your life. Simple. Done. Black and white. Film does not work that way. It relates to a different part of our brain. Story telling is the most ancient of entertainment. It’s where legends are born, lessons taught. It brings a community together. It cherishes both our commonality and differences. It engages us deeply. Accessing any emotion is accessing all emotion. It engages our imaginations; which allow us to believe anything is possible. In NYC’s the American Academy for Dramatic Arts, my teacher taught me that our nervous systems cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality. That’s why dreams can feel so real. Or why we are afraid of the dark. A well-trained actor can exercise their imaginations to conjure feelings like fear or love for use in scenes. Film engages the imagination of our selves. Our imaginations are powerful. They speak directly to our reptilian brains, which operate the fight or flight controls of our beings. Brilliant minds, often corrupt leaders, knew this and employed film as propaganda. It didn’t happen by accident. Film is an important art form within modern society. It’s our duty to respect it, teach it and enjoy it. And never ever allow it to become black or white—pun intended. I am very happy to be working in film.
How do you select your roles?
If it’s a good script, reading the character’s voice for the first time will usually ring some kind of inner bell. Then the character for lack of a better description kind of wakes up in me. Which is lovely, because you then get to excursus parts of yourself you normally wouldn’t. To quote Tropic Thunder, “I don’t read the script. The script reads me.”
What is your favorite movie genre?
I love all genres equally.
What is your favorite book?
At the moment, Watership Down.
One most important thing you’ve learned about yourself while playing other people?
I do a terrible German accent.
What would you tell an aspiring actor?
There is always more to learn.
On “Ballers” you play NFL agent Jason Antolotti, if you were actually a sport’s agent whom would you like to represent?
Of all of the characters you’ve played, whom most resonates with you?
They’re all parts of who I am; so they all resonate. It’s interesting for me to watch an old film [of mine] because it conjures memories of what I was going through at the time, or where I was in life.
Tell us about your anti-gang violence efforts and how people can join the movement?
Too many kids are dying from gun play in this country. Kids need greater opportunity to grow and safer environments to learn in. Gang violence was and still is big problem in LA and now across the country. I’ve worked over the past 20 years with ex-gang members to help squash beef and serve as mentors to youngsters who need a little help. People did a lot for me when I was young so I try to do what I can for the youngsters in my city.
If you had a son whom would you name him after?
Henry Allen Jack “Pico Boulevard” Bent Garity – The names of my family’s grandfathers and the most prominent street of my youth.
If you had a super power what would it be?
I would be the genie from “I Dream of Genie”. I wouldn’t actually be Barbara Eden, the pretty blonde lady; I’d still be a dude but I’d run around in silk robes granting people wishes.
What inspires you?
What do you think the world could use a little more of?
You ran away with the circus; tell us about that!
To be honest, I didn’t really run away with the circus. I fell in love with a girl that performed in the circus. I was an awkward fourteen year-old and the circus was three blocks from my high school. I used to skip class and go hang out at the circus. It took me a while to figure out how I could actually get through the fences and onto the circus grounds to meet her. This was back when the performers still slept in small trailers behind the tent and their camp was surrounded by fencing, so getting through the fencing and into their social group involved a fair amount of stalking. I befriended the janitor that worked the circus grounds. I would sneak out of my house at night and go pick up bottles with him to resell. He was an odd duck who would always ask me if I knew dead movies stars like John Wayne or Elvis. Anyhow, my ploy worked because through him I gained access to the circus property and eventually was able to ask my lil’ fantasy girl out on a date. She barely spoke English so I had learn a couple lines of French. Can I take you out? Do you eat churros? Etc... I may or may not have traveled to San Francisco to see her without my parents’ permission so that may constitute running away in some romantic sense.
Looking back, I think it was the allure of the circus, it’s magic and the performance that I fell in love with. The girl just happened to be its physical embodiment. It may have been this experience that lead me to theater later in life.
Favorite childhood memory?
Hanging around the Santa Monica pier with my best friend trying to break into the circus. Good times indeed.