Television star Chris Wood (you might recognize him from “The Vampire Diaries” and “Supergirl”) returns to the stage and his musical theater roots with a starring role in “Almost Famous” this fall. The show begins previews on October 3, and we had the chance to sit down with him and chat about his stage background, his role as Russell Hammond and coming back to New York City.
Chris Wood Stars as Russell Hammond in "Almost Famous"
WT: Tell us about your theater background.
Wood: I grew up in the theater; it was sort of the only career path that I knew to get to be a performer. I started when I was around six years old, doing local community theater, playing a rat in “The Pied Piper” and a dwarf in “Snow White.” And, you know, I slowly worked my way up. I studied theater in college, then I left school and went on tour with “Spring Awakening,” playing Melchior.
That was a whirlwind experience touring the country and part of Canada and doing a show eight times a week for almost a year. That was pretty intense. Then I came back to New York, and I did some more shows. I was in some early workshops for Broadway productions.
And then my TV and film career started happening. Those contracts tend to be six years or more, occasionally shorter if it’s a film, but the TV contracts are so long that you lose the flexibility to schedule theater stuff. So it’s always been on my radar; I’ve been saying for so long that I want to get back to the stage. I feel like it’s long overdue, but I’m so glad that it’s this show. It feels like a lot of kismet.
WT: How does it feel to be back on the stage and be on Broadway in such an iconic production?
Wood: I think that’s part of the enjoyment of it. Hopefully, people are going to come to the theater with a love of the film already because there’s a built-in adoration for the property of “Almost Famous” as a name.
The show is really special, and I came into the process a bit later and started earlier this year with it. Coming in from an outside perspective from a show that’s been workshopped— it was in San Diego before COVID shut down everything—getting to come in and see this artistic representation that really is true to the original but is its own thing and has its own magic. It was really special. And I think people are in for exactly what they want this to be when they see “Almost Famous.” I can’t wait to get back and share it with the world.
WT: Are you bringing your own spin to the character?
Wood: Yeah, I think so. Billy in the film is so exquisite and so captivating and just the best that I think it would be a foolish path to go down trying to replicate that. We have similarities like we’re doing the mustache, and my hair is getting longer. So we’re halfway there in terms of look, but I think, for me, it’s humanizing these rockstars, these people who seem untouchable and seeing them in moments where they’re highly flawed and guarded. And then including the Golden Goddess sequence where the veil disappears, and you just see a person. I love playing the realness of the man behind the mask, if you will. I think everyone carries a certain amount of that, but with rockstars, it’s such an iconic world and the pedestal that we put them on, quite literally, on a stage with smoke and mirrors and flashing lights.
To kind of get behind what’s there and the artist behind Russell, that was kind of my mission. And yeah, I wouldn’t say that I’m doing what Billy did; I think Cameron so perfectly captured this guy’s essence. There are going to be similarities just because of the material and the descriptions and the guys’ truth. I definitely haven’t tried to do a copycat, but hopefully, people still like it.
WT: What are you looking forward to doing in New York? Are there any places you want to visit that you used to love when you lived here before?
Wood: I’m a massive Yankees fan. I watch every single game, and if I’m not watching it live, I go back, and I watch later; I’m hugely passionate about baseball, so I cannot wait to get to some Yankees games. I don’t know how it will work with my show schedule. I’m going to have to figure that out. Central Park, I haven’t been back to. I just got back last week from home, so I’m still unpacking. I love the bike paths that go around the city and just like being on the west side bike path going all the way up and coming back around the south part of it. I’ve always loved going over the Brooklyn Bridge, and I just feel like certain parts of the city have not changed at all, even though it’s been almost ten years.
WT: You’ve lived in New York before?
Wood: Oh, yeah, I moved to New York straight out of college. I started rehearsal for the “Spring Awakening” tour about a month later. I sort of shared this tiny room with my college roommate and my best friend, and then I went on the road and came back a couple of times for short stays. But then, after the tour, I moved back to New York, and I lived here. I can't think of how many years, but yeah, New York was home first out of college, and I still feel like a part of me has always identified more with New York. I live in LA now permanently. But getting back here and feeling the energy of the city, even in the middle of a pandemic. It's just there's nothing like anywhere in the world. And I feel so fortunate to get to do this show in this character in this city. Checking all of my lifelong dream boxes. It's pretty stupendous.
WT: What’s next for you after “Almost Famous?”
Wood: There's a bunch of stuff that is, simmering on the stove, if you will. Nothing I can tell you specifically about, but I've been working really hard in different areas of my career. It’s nice to get back on stage because I've been writing for a while and have some projects that hopefully on the behind-the-scenes stuff can come out soon, but I have some exciting projects that I've been working on, and hopefully, by the time I'm done with this, those will be set up and going.