Metro Weekly

Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn: An Interview of Shakespearean Proportions

Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn on "Jane Anger," life since the pandemic, playing gay roles, and the iconic Harrison Ford.

Ryan Spahn & Michael Urie -- Photo: Thomas Brunot
Ryan Spahn and Michael Urie — Photo: Thomas Brunot

“Who do you know that is most likely to not change their underwear daily?”

Michael Urie doesn’t miss a beat.

“Colin Bates.”

Urie, along with his partner and fellow actor Ryan Spahn, are engaging in a quick round of random stupid questions during a recent Zoom interview.

“That’s what I was going to say! Colin Bates!” says Spahn.

“He’s a former classmate of Ryan’s who we really love,” says Urie, who then turns to Spahn and, with a note of concern, says, “Is it okay that we’re throwing him under this bus?”

“Yeah,” replies Spahn. “He’s like a perfect person — but he’s also a backpacker and travels and carries a week’s worth of clothes in a bag. He’s like a ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll just shower later’ kind of a guy. He’s got the old-school camping mountain-man vibe.”

Urie and Spahn are back at The Shakespeare Theatre in Jane Anger, playing through the first week of January. They were last here in 2018 in Hamlet, in which Urie played the lead, giving an indelible, rich performance that left both audiences and critics breathless. Spahn played Hamlet’s friend, Rosencrantz, a smaller part but one critical to the drama’s plot mechanisms.

This time, however, they are sharing the stage much more equitably, with Urie as an excessively vainglorious, preening William Shakespeare, and Spahn as his buffoonish yet cunning apprentice Francis Sir, both trapped in a London apartment during the 1606 plague.

Shakespeare is struggling to write — or steal, rather — King Lear, and Sir is antically attempting to ingratiate himself to the bard using any and all possible means. Into their quarantined existence — through a window, no less — arrive two additional guests: Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s ditzy wife, and Jane Anger, a fiercely determined woman with a single-minded goal.

The comedy, written by Talene Monahon (who also plays Hathaway), reaches the upper echelon of comedy so frequently during its brisk 90-minute running time, it’s a wonder it doesn’t rupture the atmosphere. It’s a riotously funny, bawdy, shockingly insane show that calls on nearly every comedic trope imaginable — from Abbott and Costello to Monty Python — to whip audiences into froths of laughter (and, even, participation). The humor skyrockets largely because of the performances of Urie and Spahn, both exceedingly gifted actors whose sense of timing is greatly enhanced by the fact that, in real life, they’re a couple.

“Both of them are so ferociously talented in such different ways that I think they really complement each other. They both have insane timing,” says Monahon, who wrote the play with the pair in mind. “I think it’s made these characters so much more vivid and specific because I’ve built them with these amazing actors. I think different playwrights have different ways of writing, but I’m really a playwright who writes for specific people. So that has been really amazing. And they’re like my best friends, so it’s very moving to get to see them play this.”

A joint interview with Urie and Spahn is refreshing, honest, and effortless. The pair constantly fill in each other’s sentences, as couples who have been together for 14 years often do, and there is an obvious love, admiration, and affection that can’t help but reveal itself, organically and naturally, at key moments during the conversation.

Of course, it helps that both have been associated with the magazine in several ways over the past decade — Urie has been on the cover three times, once with Spahn during Hamlet‘s run — and Spahn, also a gifted filmmaker, pens an occasional Metro Weekly movie column.

So they really don’t mind being asked random items out of a book of stupid questions.

“Ryan, in a bar fight, would you be more inclined to break a beer bottle to use as a weapon or pick up a stool and crack it over your opponent’s head?”

“I wouldn’t be drinking a beer, I’d be drinking a tequila soda,” says Spahn. “And I’d be sitting on a stool drinking a tequila soda. So I would not have a beer bottle. Therefore…”

“Stool!” interjects Urie, finishing the sentence. They pause. Glance at each other. And smile.

Jane Anger -- Photo: DJ Corey
Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn in Jane Anger — Photo: DJ Corey

METRO WEEKLY: Let’s start with the genesis of the play itself. My understanding was that it was written during the pandemic and the two of you played it initially together on Zoom.

MICHAEL URIE: Yeah, that’s right. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were a lot of people on social media reminding each other that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine, as sort of an inspiration to artists stuck at home to go write their masterpiece.

RYAN SPAHN: “Let’s not sit this pandemic out.”

MICHAEL: Yeah. And Talene thought that that was annoying and hilarious. She thought, “What if Shakespeare had a lot of trouble writing King Lear, and actually was quite blocked?” So she wrote this hilarious 20-minute short play imagining that William Shakespeare was a misogynistic, petulant man-baby, and that an apprentice was stuck quarantined with him.

RYAN: She wrote it with us in mind because she knew us and liked us, and was excited to write for us, but also because it was May or April of 2020 and we were in the middle of lockdown. And so she had imagined, “Could I write something for two actors who actually are living together, and it could live as maybe a radio play?” Digital theater wasn’t a thing yet. Zoom — most of us had never even heard of that word prior to the pandemic — Zoom theater was not a thing. And so when it was originally written, it was not written with streaming in mind. It was written for audio.

MICHAEL: But then after we did Buyer and Cellar in our apartment, and we figured out how to —

RYAN: We live-streamed it from our apartment.

MICHAEL: We cleared out a corner and made it a stage. And then on the other side of the apartment, we put up lights and created a two-camera shoot using two phones as our two cameras and switching back and forth. It wasn’t just reading. It wasn’t just talking heads. We were fully staged. A lot of people watched that and we became sort of the people that everyone wanted to talk to about doing Zoom Theater. Artistic directors were calling us and they were like, “How do we do this? We want to pivot to do theater like that.” And so, Talene started to think about her short play as being something physical.

So it became Jane Anger and we workshopped it with the Red Bull Theater Company and with Play-PerView Theater. Eventually, it got produced at the New Ohio Theater by Jen Campos. And now we’re here. I mean, it’s had this crazy little life.

MW: I could see it as a two-person play but I was glad, ultimately, it was four characters. It gave it more depth, and more opportunities for humor.

MICHAEL: Something Talene said to me is that she couldn’t believe how easy it came to her to write misogynist men. And she thought, “I’ve got to counteract that somehow.” She did research about the time period, trying to figure out “What else could this play be? How do I make this play more than just two guys in a room?” Because the short play, Frankie and Will, the Short Play had a little bit of a Waiting for Godot thing going on.

RYAN: It was very existential.

MICHAEL: Yeah, an existential little “Who’s on First,” which is all still in there. But then these other characters show up join us in quarantine in this room. And when she was trying to figure out who that might be, she came upon this person, this character from history who we don’t really know anything about except for this pamphlet that was written by someone called Jane Anger.

And that was the jumping-off point for Talene to imagine who Jane Anger might have been. Did she know Shakespeare? Would they have crossed paths? So she imagined that not only did they know each other, but she was a muse of his. And maybe he could be the one who helps her get published and maybe she could be the one who helps him get out of his writer’s block….

Jane Anger: Amelia Workman, Talene Monahan -- Photo: DJ Corey
Amelia Workman and Talene Monahon in Jane Anger– Photo: DJ Corey

MW: I don’t want to give too much away about the plot because it has some really hilarious surprises. But I think I can say that I love that you all break the fourth wall. The minute you walk off the stage, up to the audience, you give permission to us to be part of the show. I don’t remember the last time I heard an audience boo as loudly as they did — they were booing Shakespeare and then somebody actually yelled “Jerk!”

RYAN: That’s what they said — “Jerk.”

MW: It’s interesting because the play gives permission to the audience to interact.

RYAN: When we break the fourth wall and step down, the audience uncontrollably without thinking just starts clapping. Which I’m so fascinated by. Their bodies just start clapping. Because I think it’s so thrilling and unexpected and yet inevitable, it just causes them to have a physical reaction that makes them applaud. Which I think is very fun, because they’re arguably applauding themselves.

MW: Do the boos happen every night?

MICHAEL: Not every night. But yeah, it happens. It’s very satisfying to be booed. It’s very exciting. And also, it feels like there’s something about the audience being brought into the play at that point after it has been so silly, so vulgar. They become the groundlings of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. It feels to me like what it might have felt like back then. I mean, Shakespeare’s plays were all to the audience. Any soliloquy was to the audience. They were always included in the play. And they would speak back. They would participate in the play.

And we don’t do that anymore. There’s this etiquette now. Unless it’s a special kind of piece, you don’t include the audience in that way. You don’t ask them to join you. And so we literally ask them to join us. We literally pull the lights up and say, “You’re in it now.” So it feels what it might have felt like to be a groundling.

MW: Ryan, your character, Francis, constantly poses in this sort of slinky, seductive, feminine way. Do you see Francis as gay?

RYAN: I see Francis as opportunistic. I don’t think his sexuality is relevant to him. I think his goals are relevant to him. And I think that that means it could be whatever he needs it to be.

MW: He seems to be seducing Shakespeare at some points.

RYAN: Well, he is. Because he knows what he can get out of him. But I don’t think it’s actually specific to Shakespeare.

MW: You’re a couple acting together in this play. What is that like for you?

RYAN: It’s super fun.

MICHAEL: It’s really fun to act together because it’s very safe. I feel very at ease. I don’t always know what he’s going to do in this play, because he’s insane. But I know his rhythms well enough that I know when he’ll be finished or I know when he’ll start or I know how loud it’ll be. I understand his instincts instinctually, and vice versa. So it makes for a really easy scene partner.

RYAN: We also can have about 15 conversations nonverbally when on stage together. We can look at each other. I can see him itch his leg a certain way, and I know how he feels about something. I know him so well that we can monitor and sort of mold each performance based on an acute understanding of everything that the other one is feeling and thinking.

MICHAEL: And that’s true with Talene too, who plays Anne Hathaway and who wrote the play. We know her very, very, very well. She’s a dear friend. And then Amelia [Workman], who plays Jane. We didn’t meet until we did this play in New York, but we have become very close — especially here, because we’re bubbled together since we don’t want to get COVID. So we hang out with her all the time. And now I feel the same with them on stage as I do with Ryan. I know what they’re going to do and they know what I’m going to do and we know how to help each other and we know when to be quiet. We know when to be still.

RYAN: I think it’s also helpful that while this show is very broad at times — noisy and loud and colorful and fun and chaotic — I don’t think any of us are stage-hogging people by nature, in the sense that we always give space for the other people. There are some actors who I think could find themselves in this play and it would become purely about them and the chaos that they create on their own. And they don’t actually fold in anyone else in the cast because they’re too interested in their own performance and their own jokes and their own moments. And I think that we don’t do that naturally.

So it’s created this very thick ensemble of people who understand when a moment is not theirs, how to give it over to the other people, even if it’s inside of your line, if the joke is actually over here, even though you’re talking, we know that that’s what it’s about. And we know how to give that away and we know how to not be frustrated or annoyed. We know how to not try to steal focus. I think for a lot of people, the trap of this play would be that everyone’s stealing focus from each other and that therefore the play has no focus. I think we have benefited from being a cast who doesn’t do that.

MICHAEL: And I think it’s really smart that we four are very different. I mean, on the surface, Ryan and I are similar. We’re the same age. Similar heights. We’re both white guys and —

RYAN: We’re both stunning-looking.

MICHAEL: Queer handsome dudes. And we —

RYAN: Former Calvin Klein models.

MICHAEL: — and we both do comedy, but —

RYAN: But the way we get into comedy is very different.

MICHAEL: — but what we’re doing in this play is very different from each other. I mean, we can be in sync at times, but it’s very different. And the same is true of Jane and Anne. They’re very different characters. So we have four very different characters, which makes creating stuff so much easier because there’s no envy, there’s no competition. You’re not like, “Well, I thought if you’re doing this, I would be doing this.” It unfolds very naturally because we’re four very different characters.

MW: Well, you all are knocking out of the park. It’s a very strong ensemble — everybody gets their moments and you still work as a cohesive unit. Is there any talk about a future for this moving around the country or doing anything with it?

MICHAEL: A little bit. There’s other theaters that are interested in doing it. We are interested in doing it in other places. Going back to New York maybe. I mean, we love doing it, all four of us. And I think it’ll be done a lot once we’re finished with it. I think people will want to do it. I think students will love working on this. The ages of the characters are great for colleges and stuff.

But we love doing it and, I mean, I don’t want anyone else to do it until I feel like we’re done with it. And I don’t know that we’ll feel that way at the end of this run. I’m hoping we can do it again somewhere.

Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn -- Photo: Barak Shrama
Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn — Photo: Barak Shrama/Newfest

MW: So beyond the play, how’s life? We’ll just dive straight into the personal side, People Magazine style. How is everything?

MICHAEL: Things are good. We’re a little older. We survived the Pandemic. We moved into a new apartment, we’d been living in the same apartment for 12, 13 years. And it was a beautiful apartment. We loved it very much, but it was time to move on and grow up a little bit. We spent all of the lockdown in this place. We did several plays in this place. We had filmed movies there before.

RYAN: We were on a television show together where we shot the TV show in our apartment.

MW: The Bite by the Kings. I watched it, it was great.

MICHAEL: Yeah! So I think we didn’t want look at our apartment and think about the pandemic anymore. We also wanted to invest in some real estate. And so we were able to do that. And we wanted to, as the world began to open — because where we lived, it was in Manhattan, but it was —

RYAN: It was all the way on the Hudson, all the way west, west, west.

MICHAEL: And once things started to open up again, like restaurants and stuff, we realized there’s nothing near us. We liked it before because we could get away, but once we wanted to get back into life, we realized it’s too far from things. The closest restaurant was too many blocks away. And now we live in a neighborhood where there’s just stuff everywhere and we’re very happy there. So that was a big transition, a big change in our lives, I guess.

RYAN: Michael did a television show for a few months out in L.A. And so I think coming out of the pandemic, giving us both opportunity for independence was really nice. Like him going to California for a few months and me going every few weeks out to be with him was really nice just to have a pause from being on top of each other after two years of just constant connection. That break is nice. And it’s also introduced an interest in us trying to be more solidly bicoastal, which is something we’ve talked about for a decade. And now we’re like, “Maybe we should actually really consider this.”

MW: Have properties on both coasts?

RYAN: That’s the dream.

MICHAEL: That’s the dream. And also, yeah, I mean, we have history with L.A. Ryan lived there for 10 years. I’ve worked there a bunch of times. And this time, when I was working there shooting this show Shrinking, it was the first time I ever fell in love with L.A. itself. I think a lot of that is because I spent an entire two years in an apartment and now suddenly outside house life, yard life suddenly appealed to me. And L.A. is pretty, and there’s hiking, and there’s sun. And I enjoyed driving around and being in a car and things like that.

So I think as we get older now — we’re in our 40s — maybe we don’t want our life to be the same forever. For years and years I thought, “I’ll never not want to live in an apartment in New York City, that’s my life. That’s what I want. I’ll always want that.” And I think I will always want that, but we want more things now too.

MW: What can you tell me about Shrinking?

MICHAEL: It’s going to be on Apple TV+. It starts on January 27. And it stars Jason Segel and Harrison Ford and me and others. It’s from the people who make Ted Lasso. And it’s a really wonderful, funny, and sad show about mental health, about loss, about people trying to connect.

Jason Segel plays a therapist whose wife has died and when the show begins, it’s been about a year and he’s trying to put the pieces of his life back together. And so it’s really about him and his daughter, and his workmates, and his best friend. I play his best friend. It’s about this sort of group of ragtag friends that are connected by him and how they navigate the loss of this really wonderful bright light in all of their lives who has gone. And it’s lovely. Really lovely.

RYAN: The show is excellent. I have one episode left to watch. The tone is really wonderful and the ensemble is really fantastic. If you’re a fan of independent film, it has a sort of independent film energy to it. It doesn’t feel like comedy television sometimes feels — it feels more natural and more real.

Jane Anger -- Photo: DJ Corey
Spah, Workman, Urie, and Monahon in Jane Anger — Photo: DJ Corey

MW: Do you have scenes with Ford?

MICHAEL: Yeah, I do. I play his lawyer. And he was awesome.

MW: What was it like meeting Harrison Ford? I mean…

MICHAEL: It was cool.

MW: I want to meet him.

MICHAEL: I have such a pure love of him, I guess. And also I was meeting him as an actor. I was meeting him as a scene partner. I always just loved him. Indiana Jones and Star Wars, of course, but also The Fugitive and Working Girl. I just loved his movies. I was more like a pure fan.

And I remember working with him on Shrinking, which is a comedy with a lot of real pathos, and people would come up and be like, “What’s this like for you, Harrison, doing a comedy after all these years?” And I just wanted to slap them and say, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

RYAN: He’s in so many comedies.

MICHAEL: Indiana Jones is a comedy, Han Solo…

MW: Right, he plays the character very comedically in Star Wars.

RYAN: Working Girl.

MICHAEL: This guy’s hilarious. He’s hilarious. And of course, he can do comedy. Now, he goes to some real dark places on Shrinking, which is wonderful to watch. But he’s very funny also.

MW: He’s having a moment. He’s in the new Indiana Jones. And that 1923 series that everybody is buzzing about. He’s everywhere.

MICHAEL: I think it was called 1932 at one point. And then they changed it, and we were working together when they changed it. And I said, I was like, “Harrison, I saw that they made your TV show 1923 instead of 1932.” They changed it like 10 years. And I was like, “Harrison, does that mean does you’re older now?” And he goes, [Harrison Ford growl] “Thanks a fucking lot!”

One more thing that you might like about Harrison Ford is that I had the privilege of telling him that Working Girl was gay canon, which he did not know. And he was like, [Harrison Ford growl] “What? Why?” And I was like, “Well, of course, there’s Joan Cusack and the hair and the clothes and everything like that — the women are all drag queens.” And I said, “But also because of you, because you’re such a sweet character, you’re a man, but you’re a sweet man.”

RYAN: And he takes his shirt off in the office.

MICHAEL: And he takes his shirt off in the office.

MW: You were last here at the Shakespeare in Hamlet. Is there a specific Shakespearean role or play that you would each like to do in your careers?

RYAN: I mean, I would like to play Hamlet at some point, but I also have been fascinated by Measure for Measure as a play and that it’s considered a comedy. I want to be in a production of that in which comedy is what they’re thinking about because it’s such a dark story and just I’m so curious about a production in which comedy is what we’re focusing on. And so those are the two that come to mind immediately.

MW: What about you, Michael?

MICHAEL: Mine is Leontes in The Winter’s Tale. I think The Winter’s Tale is the most beautiful play and has the best language of any of his plays. And this guy, this Leontes character, who is so paranoid and so jealous and has behaved so abominably, has to somehow come around in the final scenes. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

MW: So, recently, this horrible thing happened to your friend and fellow actor Drew Droege out in L.A. He was on a date and they were asked to leave a restaurant for being too outwardly affectionate. Have you spoken to him? What’s your take?

MICHAEL: First of all, we love Drew so much. I haven’t talked to him. You talked to him.

RYAN: I’ve talked to him since this happened.

MICHAEL: And obviously, the outpouring has been immense for him and the story has gone far and wide. I think that person was fired from the —

RYAN: The man was fired.

MICHAEL: We went to that restaurant when I was in L.A. and sat at the bar….

RYAN: Like five months ago! We were at this restaurant as a couple.

MICHAEL: We sat at the bar, had drinks and dinner with legs entwined, sitting next to each other at a bar. And this is one of those restaurants where somebody comes around and takes photos of you. They took an arm-in-arm photo of us, which we bought from them.

RYAN: It seems like the opposite establishment that would have this kind of a thing. And what I think Drew was reminded of is that, “Oh, yeah. I am still a queer, a gay man inside of a world in which I have to be aware of the things I’m doing in public situations.” Because as far as we’ve come, we’re still people who have to monitor what we say, how loud we say it, when we say it, in what company we’re saying it, because people like that still exist. And at the end of the day, those people are often people in a place of power or in a place of control.

MICHAEL: But he showed them. I mean, Drew has celebrity.

RYAN: Yeah, that person probably didn’t recognize him. And so he wasn’t aware that Drew could just go to the internet and —

MICHAEL: And get the advocates on board.

RYAN: — get him punished.

MICHAEL: I think the decisive and quick reaction to Drew’s story was heartening. The restaurant basically groveled, Drew got so much media attention for it. Drew definitely came off very strong and heroic when he went to social media.

MW: On the topic of social media. I don’t know if you followed what happened with the show Heartbreaker, but Kit Connor, one of the young stars, was literally forced out of the closet as bisexual by his Twitter fans who accused him relentlessly of gay-baiting. How do you feel about the fact that fans can have that kind of power and sway. It’s like a pressure campaign.

RYAN: I think I have many thoughts. I think if you’re a person who relies on social media heavily, you’re sort of making a deal with the devil. It is a dark and unsafe place. And if you’re somebody who is relying on it for — I mean, I don’t follow this person on social media, so I don’t know what he was posting. But if you’re somebody who relies on it for either affirmation attention or celebrity, you’re inevitably setting yourself up to be treated in an unsafe way.

I’m not justifying any of it, because I think it’s gross it happened to him, especially since he’s so young. But I think that that’s why I personally have trouble with social media, in general, because there’s no world in which it’s a pure place. And you’re making a pact to be in a very delicate and unsafe environment for whatever benefit you’re getting out of it.

Amelia Workman and Michael Urie in Jane Anger — Photo: DJ Corey

MW: So answer this as out gay actors. Why are there major actors who are still closeted in Hollywood? What keeps them so afraid to be publicly out?

MICHAEL: Stigma. The stigma of it. The lack of opportunity. The fact that a Drew Droege gets asked to not be affectionate in a bar. I think you can’t get around to the fact that the privilege leans towards being perceived as heterosexual in this society and one hundred percent in our business.

MW: Has being gay impacted either of your careers?

RYAN: Oh, yeah. For sure.

MICHAEL: Well, I mean, for the better for me. It’s not being gay that’s affected my career, it’s that playing gay has made my career. If I had at any point said no more gay roles, or if I had stayed in the closet, I just wouldn’t have worked nearly as much, I wouldn’t have gained notoriety.

I won a role at the Red Bull Theater Company from an audition of a pretty effeminate-type character, or at least that was the interpretation. I was replacing somebody and that was the interpretation. It was sort of like a glam character. And it was that play the casting director of Ugly Betty saw me in. And then I got Ugly Betty. And then once I was on TV, Red Bull Theater had me come back and do the Government Inspector, which was this big straight part. And Talene, who wrote this play, was in that with me. And then she wrote me this part, which is a straight-ish part. He calls himself pansexual.

But even before I was out, I was getting cast in gay roles for the most part. And I was encouraged early on after Ugly Betty, “Don’t take anymore, don’t take anymore.” And that’s crazy. I wouldn’t have a career. I wouldn’t have a career. I mean, I have this job because of Ugly Betty, essentially. And it all goes back to that. So it’s like it’s definitely helped me, but that’s because I was out and because I was willing to play more gay roles. If I had been trying to play leading men, then I would’ve probably left the business or found something else within the business to do.

RYAN: I have found that people who are just known as gay actors just building their career and haven’t had any tangible and obvious success — like on television — there are many more doors blocking you from moving forward because of the gatekeepers — which are casting directors and people who make appointments. I have found that their ability to see outside the box of their own understanding of something is limited.

I feel like if you’re a gay person, the casting director’s going to be like, “Oh, I know Ryan, he’s gay. Throw him in that role.” They’re not going to think, “Oh, but he’s talented and he can do a lot of things, so maybe let’s bring him in for the other role that’s not listed as just the words G-A-Y on it.” They don’t think like that. And I think that that creates just a lack of opportunity. And so yes, I would say that that has tremendously impacted things.

I think if you’re just moving on up, it’s still a slippery road, which is why there’s so much fear in coming out.

MICHAEL: It’s also our reps. Anytime there’s an audition for a gay character, it’ll come my way. Any of them. And I finally had to tell people to stop asking me. I mean, it doesn’t happen anymore. But a few years ago, I long ago said, “I’m not going to play a trans character because I am not a trans person.” And they would still submit me for trans roles or ask me to audition for trans roles. And I was like, “I am not a trans person. This audition has to go to a trans actor.”

Here’s a perfect example. They came to me with an audition a few years ago for this gay character in a Christmas movie called Single All The Way. And he is this hot brooding handyman or something like that. And I was like, “Hot brooding handyman? That’s not really me.” And I was like, but Christmas movie sounds fun. Gay Christmas movie. And I knew the writer. And I opened the script and the first thing it says is “Peter, a gregarious, charming guy looking for love.” And I was like, “Well, why don’t I go for this role instead of this hot handyman?” And so I reached out and I was like, “Hey, guys, I know this writer. I’m obviously not going to get the hot handyman in a gay Christmas movie. What about this gregarious, charming guy? That seems like something.” And suddenly, they’re like, “Let us look into it.” And before you know it, they asked me to do it. I didn’t even have to audition. And so that just shows you that somebody in an office somewhere is just looking at lists and they see gay, gay, gay, gay and they’re just putting those things together. And I don’t blame them. I mean, there’s a million things going on in an office and we’re all conditioned to do that. We’re all conditioned this way. So it’s really systemic. It’s like a systemic problem.

RYAN: Totally. Totally.

MICHAEL: I mean, Ryan made a whole movie about this, as you know.

RYAN: I know it’s not the same thing, but now because of COVID auditions have gone virtual and you just make self-tapes and you don’t go into an office and you’re not put in front in a room as often with a stranger. And I think that ultimately in the long run, it’s going to have tremendous benefit for opening the door for people that a snap judgment is made about them when they enter a room before they even start acting that that is no longer able to be a thing. Now, they have to actually look at them as an actor and make that judgment based on what they’re watching, but not based on how they took off their coat, whether they crossed their legs, whether they —

MICHAEL: How they say hello.

RYAN: Whether they shake your hand and it’s a firm handshake.

MICHAEL: Small talk.

RYAN: Stuff like that. That is judgment.

MICHAEL: When I was doing Buyer & Cellar, I had an audition for something and I went in and the casting director made me do Barbara for the creatives. He was like, “Oh, gosh. This guy’s in a great show. Do Barbara! Do Barbara!” And I’m auditioning for a TV show for these producers and these directors who have no idea what this play is. I’m auditioning for a role that is nothing like Barbara Streisand at all. And suddenly, I’m being made to put on a Barbara Streisand impression in this audition. I did not get the job.

MW: We need to wrap up. I don’t remember, are you both married?

MICHAEL: We own property together. Is that close enough?

MW: Has there been any talk of tying the knot?

RYAN: There’s talk of everything. The problem we have is getting it together and organizing it and whether or not we want that.

MICHAEL: We’re too busy building our record collection, Randy.

RYAN: We aren’t feeling a need to necessarily declare our life together as something different.

MW: Sorry, I felt like I needed another People Magazine moment.

MICHAEL: Thank you for putting us on People and not on OUT.

MW: So the next People Magazine question is how do you keep the passion in your relationship alive?

MICHAEL: We have similar interests. We like doing the same things. I mean, our taste in music and our taste in movies are different. But we love going to the theater. We love going to the movies. We do love going to concerts, we love going to restaurants. I think that’s a big thing is we really like to do the same things. And we still enjoy each other. I mean —

RYAN: Michael’s attractive. [Puts head adorably on Michael’s shoulder and smiles.] He’s handsome.

MICHAEL: And so is Ryan. And funny! I mean, he did something the other night — I’m not going to repeat it because it’s not appropriate, but he’d said something the other night that made me laugh for a day — for a full day. And it was something that… It was just a perfect little comic moment and things like that, I guess, that’s how.

RYAN: It’s wild how much we still surprise each other. I think that’s part of it, too. There are things that he’ll do or say and I’ll be like, “Whoa, I thought I knew everything,” and then you do this thing or say this thing or feel a certain way. Because as you get older you start evolving, and so you have different feelings about things that you had a certain feeling about 10 years ago that now is so different. And I think that that keeps things lively.

MW: So what are you getting each other for Christmas?

RYAN: Love and respect.


Jane Anger runs through January 8, 2023, at The Shakespeare Theatre’s Klein Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Tickets are $35 to $125. Call 202-547-1122 or visit

Ryan Spahn’s film, Nora Highland, is available for viewing on Pride Central’s YouTube Channel. Click here to watch for free.

Shrinking, starring Michael Urie, will premiere on Apple TV+ on January 27, 2023. Visit

The gay holiday movie, Single All the Way, also starring Michael Urie, is available for streaming on Netflix. Visit

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