For ex-”Wings” star Steven Weber these are pretty good days. Sure, ”Once and Again,” the Emmy-winning TV show he costarred on, got a hard-luck cancellation last week. But at least Weber has a helluva night job to fall back on: He’s just taken over Matthew Broderick’s coveted role of Leo Bloom in the hit Broadway production of Mel Brooks’ ”The Producers.” EW.com caught up with the 41-year-old actor and discussed everything from Gene Wilder’s ”Producers” combover to a pass he made at Oscar winner Marisa Tomei — 18 years ago.
First off, tell us how you got the ”Producers” gig.
I just auditioned for it. At first I thought, ”I’m not even going to go up for it.” I was used to the cushy, lazy-ass TV lifestyle. But then a friend said, ”Don’t be a schmuck,” so I came out and auditioned. Maybe it helped that I knew every line of dialogue [in the movie version] and I quote it all the time. It was pretty much the reason I got into show business. Then I worked with Mel Brooks on a film and I grilled him about it. Even back then, he was talking about making it into a musical. Seven years later, it popped out of him.
Gene Wilder played Leo Bloom in the movie and Matthew Broderick played him on stage. How’s your version different?
He’s a combination of Gene Wilder, Matthew Broderick, and myself. I’ve stolen all my favorite bits of shtick from those two guys. For example, I adopted a Wilder-esque hairdo as a homage to Gene — a slightly radical combover that helped me get into the character physically. I started with a very extreme combover, but it was too uncomfortable to look at. People weren’t listening to what I was saying because my combover basically started at my jaw, so I’ve scaled it back to a more believable styling.
Did you get to talk to Matthew or Gene before doing this?
I’ve never met Gene, but Matthew and I have become friendly. There’s a nice kind of genuine camaraderie and enthusiasm there. He’s very gracious and even a bit relieved to hand over the role he’s been doing for a year and a half. It’s very strenuous, so I think he welcomes the break.
The show really took a toll physically on Matthew and Nathan Lane — have you had a checkup lately?
I’m much younger and more fit than either of them. They’re all decayed, and pretty much husks of what they once were. I’ve been doing this for three weeks and my throat feels fine. I feel very hale and healthy. But talk to me in three months when I begin to corrode.
How long do you think that strapping body of yours will hold up?
I’m signed on for nine months, but I’m having such a good time that — barring Nathan or Matthew coming back — I could see myself doing this for a while. After spending such a long time doing TV, the difference is stark for an actor. TV now is so goddamn ridiculous. There’s been a lot of really rotten TV lately, so it just feels very good and very refreshing to be able to come into a great play.