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Pizza and Pop with “The Power of Duff’s” Brendan Griffin and Maurice Williams

Ah, the age-old question: Where to get decent pizza in Los Angeles? It’s three o’clock on a typically sunny day in quaint Westwood, and actors Maurice Williams and Brendan Griffin are hungry and on the prowl.

The two have become fast friends. Sure, they’re both actors who will appear in the Geffen’s upcoming production of The Power of Duff, but the bond goes deeper: Williams was born and raised in New York City, Griffin lived there for 10 years. Which brings us to the task at hand.

Talking to each other as giddily as boyhood pals do, our little expedition wanders until Williams spots a rustic-looking restaurant with red-checkered tablecloths — the international symbol for “pizza served here” — and an unbeatable midday lunch special. Over sodas and two cheese slices apiece, we chat about pre-show rituals, dream jobs and the biggest disasters of their careers.

Alas, the “brick” walls are plastic, and the guys bemoan the lack of authenticity in L.A., which leads to another rapid-fire discussion of their old haunts in NYC (you can take the boys out of New York …). But hey, at least the pizza gets their thumbs up.

pizza

Maurice

Maurice Williams
First Play I Saw: The Lion King, or a church production of The Wiz.
Who Would Make Me Starstruck: I would try to outcool everybody except … meeting the President would be crazy. I would have to give it up to Will Smith because The Fresh Prince raised me. I’d be starstruck over characters, say if Ferris Bueller came in right now.
When I Grew Up, I Wanted to Be: It changed for me a bunch, and I think that’s why I’m an actor. I would see my dad put on a suit everyday and I wanted to put on a suit everyday. So when I was really small, I wanted to be a lawyer because they wore suits on TV. When you grow up and want to be anything BUT your dad, I was like, “I don’t wanna wear a suit, I wanna be a comedian!” I was talking about being an actor, and this girl was like, “It was never about fame or money to me, it was about the craft.” And that’s really beautiful and I appreciate it, but little black kids can’t dream without financial ties. Hell yeah I wanted to be famous. I wanted to change my position in life. Firemen and cops didn’t look like they made money.
Guilty Pleasure: I like really silly pop songs and I watch cartoons. And I don’t feel guilty about either of those things! I love romantic comedies that are really bad. I’ll watch Friends with Benefits over and over and over. I know all the words to a lot of movies I shouldn’t.
Pre-show Ritual: At the end of every warmup, I rap Jay Z’s verse from “Go Crazy,” and do the intro monologue from Henry V. Then I eat lemon and either raspberry or mango sorbet. It’s a sugar high right before going on. I do my vocal warmup every show. Every show.
Biggest Show-Must-Go-On Moment: I was doing Danny and the Deep Blue Sea in college. I started smoking for the show and I’d never had a cigarette. The smoking was something I was doing during rehearsal, but you’re [on and off rehearsing]. So the two-hour show happens, when I’m chain smoking, and I didn’t know the effects. I pounded five cigarettes in the first act of the show. I lost feelings in my hands. I was shaking and had the sweats.
Dream Role: I wanna play Hamlet and Romeo, ’cause I don’t know if I could pull off either. I wanna do something about Bert Williams.

Brendan

Brendan Griffin
First Play I Saw: A Chorus Line
Who Would Make Me Starstruck: Paul Newman
When I Grew Up, I Wanted to Be: A ferris wheel of different sports. I’m such an Opie Taylor. I had a sheriff’s badge and a little holster, and one day Gunsmoke was on, a very specific scene of guys on horse horses galloping. I took a steak knife and for a second thought, “If I can cut open the TV screen, I can get in and be there.” And I jabbed the screen and it was a moment of being so crestfallen.
Guilty Pleasure: The show Nashville. My father-in-law walked in on me watching it one time, and he’s the coolest guy in the world. I was like, there’s nothing I can do. He sat down and tolerated it. And if I didn’t feel guilty about it, I would drink beer all the time.
Pre-show Ritual: I used to do yoga before half hour, but then I felt like an actor who did yoga before half hour. Rituals make me feel as though I’m trying to recreate something.
Biggest Show-Must-Go-On Moment: I have the generic forgot a line, cell phone goes off. I choked on a sunflower seed once.
Dream Role: It doesn’t exist, that I know of yet. I like doing new plays. I’m just excited when somebody calls and asks me to do anything.

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