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Dec 20, 2011

ARTICLE: Gerard Way Interviews Johnny Galecki in YRB Magazine

Feature: Johnny Galecki    Interview by Gerard Way

Even though he’s still getting laughs out of an audience every week from those turned into his newest TV venture, Johnny Galecki has come a long way from his Roseanne days and shows the world why geek has become the ultimate chic.

When Johnny Galecki was three years old, he knew he wanted to be an actor. Born in Bree, Belgium and later raised in Chicago, this self-proclaimed geek has paved a way for himself within Hollywood on his own terms. After memorable roles in notable films such as Suicide Kings, Bounce and The Opposite of Sex and his portrayal of David Healy on the ever-popular television show Roseanne, Johnny has once again struck a chord on the small screen, keeping millions tuned in each week. Earlier this year, his performance as Leonard Hofstadter – an experimental physicist (whose vulnerability and sweetness has made him alluring to fans) on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory – landed him a Primetime Emmy Awards nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Although the trophy went home with co-star Jim Parsons, the mere nod was a clear indication that there’s a nerd infatuation among the masses.

A chance encounter on the Warner Bros. lot where The Big Bang Theory tapes brought together two different types of talent who have been fans of each other for quite some time. Johnny has been an enormous supporter of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way – not only for the music, but his writing ability, too. MCR’s lead vocalist and writer of the Eisner Award-winning comic book The Umbrella Academy, is just as familiar with the comedic actor’s body of work and has always wondered what motivates this guy from role to role. On the surface, this may seem like an odd pairing, but when you get to the heart of the conversation you realize that art is art.

Gerard: Were you always drawn to acting and knew this was something you could do well?

Johnny: I inherently knew it. It’s a bit freakish, but I honestly don’t know how the word “actor” was in my vocabulary. No one in my family or surrounding family was an actor, but that was my answer whenever I was asked what I wanted to be. I didn’t know that early I could be good at it, but I knew it was for me.

Gerard: How did a choice like that at such a young age go over with your family?

Johnny: Although they were supportive, initially my family tried to distract me with sports and things like that to take my mind off it, but that was primarily in part to them not knowing anything about agents, managers, auditions and the industry as a whole. Eventually, they found an article in the local paper for an open call for Fiddler on the Roof, and that’s how the journey began.

Gerard: What was that first audition like?

Johnny: The idea was for me to go and just watch what actors do in an audition, but I remember jumping onstage and singing “God Bless America” or “Happy Birthday” without even taking out my mouth full of gum, and the people liking it. At this point I was seven, and I think it’s a whole lot easier to take risks and follow what you love when you’re that age versus being an adult.

Gerard: In your experiences thus far, from say the days of Roseanne to your current successes now, how would you say the craft has changed?

Johnny: As far as the medium of acting goes, I personally don’t act any differently on television versus film. Of course, I take the tone of what I’m telling into consideration. If it’s a drama versus a broad comedy, that’s quite obvious. I think the independent film movement of the ‘90s really changed how people behaved during film performances. If you watch some of the great movies of the ‘80s, they just don’t hold up anymore. Look at a film done a year before Reservoir Dogs that was applauded at the time for its genuine, earnest performances, and in a lot of ways it just doesn’t cut it. There was a very different way of storytelling and expressing a character, and that has changed now.

Gerard: I know you take what you do extremely seriously. How much do you find you have to sacrifice on a personal level to add some sort of authenticity to a character?

Johnny: That’s a scary question. I’ve been in situations before where the role available to me not necessarily made me question the sacrifice I had to make, but what the people around me may have to do because of it. I have never gotten to a point where I felt the need to pull back. I feel no matter how far I go, the people around me in my life can help me get back. When playing a role, you want the full experience of the character to come across when you show up. I want to live vicariously through these characters. Would you say you feel the same way when you’re performing certain songs on stage?

Gerard: Sometimes it’s similar to acting, and other times it isn’t. I like to think when you’re up there, it’s you, fully authentic, but really cranked up. As if it’s a version of your real self in the third person.

Johnny: I agree. The authenticity and honesty still has to come from you.

Gerard: When you’re done with a scene, what are you usually left with? Is there an immediate high, are you drained? What’s that feeling when it’s over?

Johnny: It depends on what we’ve done that day. I approach Big Bang Theory as live theater. There are 400 people in the audience just as there would be in a live theater, except there are four cameras between us. You feed off the crowd, and therefore, give it your all. Depending on what the scene is, I usually must do something to take my mind off the character and bring me back to real life.

Gerard: Is there something else besides acting you would like to do within the public eye?

Johnny: I’ve always been interested in producing. To be a part of something from its inception would be a great move on my part. Also, the idea of music has been a big passion of mine as well. I’ve strived for many years with different instruments to get something out, but that has never happened.

Gerard: Is there some sort of ideal character that you would like to play or create?

Johnny: It’s ever-changing. Ninety-five percent of it is based on doing something drastically different from the last role that I may have just finished playing. The older I get, the more I would love to explore the family dynamic of fatherhood and things of that nature. That’s the other five percent. Whatever I may be struggling or fascinated with in my own personal life would be either thrilling or cathartic to have a role like that to portray. A lot of that has to do with the planets aligning. I have no idea what was going through Dustin Hoffman when he played in Kramer vs. Kramer, but I bet his approach to the role would have been totally different if he would have done it two years prior to his original performance.

Gerard: How does it feel to have your character, Leonard Hofstadter, accepted by so many people that he represents?

Johnny: Considering the early misconceptions that we were going to make fun of intelligent people, the reception has been amazing. There’s so much gadgetry and technology that we depend on in our lives that these people are now fashionable and interesting to us. They are molding our culture and the future of our society, and because of this, they are now almost lauded as rock stars. I mean, look at Steve Jobs. It has made me look to it in ways that I have never looked at it before. When you’re essentially not happy with your reality you immerse yourself in fantasy. As you know, in the comic books for example, so often the characters were people who were not empowered until all of a sudden they were able to develop some sort of power that showed their value and strength, and for us to be able to unify with that feeling of interest and loneliness is deeply touching. Every Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne has felt that way.

Gerard: Did you think early on people would connect with these characters?

Johnny: I wish I could say yes, but the acceptance of these characters I could not foresee.

Gerard: How much of Johnny do we see in Leonard Hofstadter?

Johnny: My own life experiences definitely color the character. They must, or it wouldn’t be grounded anywhere or portrayed with any honesty. That’s about it.

Gerard: In your personal life you keep a very low profile, what do you think about generating things from your personal life as part of entertainment?

Johnny: There is a part of it that’s good for business, I suppose, but that’s the business of being a television star. When one thing starts to overwhelm or distract from the other, the work suffers, and eventually no one is gonna want to photograph or interview you anyway. There are some people in our industry that seem to operate outside of the business in a way that I feel is more for a personal sense of value, and having that doesn’t validate me. From an audience member’s perspective, you are almost ripping yourself off. I don’t want to see someone on the screen and all I can think about is the divorce they’re going through in their personal life at the time.

Gerard: What do you do in your downtime?

Johnny: I get the hell out of Los Angeles. If my break is too brief to allow me to leave, I write somewhat well, play music and paint poorly. I think it’s important to have hobbies you are awful at. It takes the expectation off the finished result and allows you to fully enjoy the process.

Gerard: What’s the best advice given to you?

Johnny: Most recently, it was something my current boss and producer Chuck Lorre said: ‘Never ask a question when you know the answer is going to be dishonest.’

Gerard: Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

Johnny: I’d like to have retained the happiness I feel today. It may organically grow, I wouldn’t be opposed, but to hope for such seems greedy. I am extremely blessed for many, many reasons.

Gerard: As this year closes, do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2012?

Johnny: I’d like to drop these damn cigarettes, man.

Gerard: When it’s all said and done, what would you like people to know about you?

Johnny: I try – in every moment, with all I have and with all the tools I’ve been given up until that moment.



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