14 questions for Philip Earl Johnson

Next up in our series of interviews with the remarkable six-actor cast of Danny Casolaro Died For You: Philip Earl Johnson. (Catch up so far with these interviews with Kyle Hatley, Mark Richard and Demetrios Troy.) Phil is making his TimeLine debut in this show, portraying multiple roles, including the sinister Robert Nichols.

1 — When did you first know you wanted to become an actor? I smashed a tomato in my face in the second grade. That was it.

2 — What is the strangest thing a role has required you to do? In Dance of Death by August Strindberg at Writers Theatre, I had to passionately pick up my scene partner and kiss her neck and then rip out her throat. Up to that point, I was a completely nice and helpful guy. Completely out of the blue.

3 — What has been your favorite moment working on this show so far? Working with all the artists involved with this production. From day one to the present it has been a joy. A great group! Everyone involved from top to bottom.

4 — If Danny came to you, would you believe him? I would believe him, because I am a trusting person who gives people the benefit of the doubt.

5 — Danny stumbles on to a government conspiracy and finds he has to make choices about how far he’ll go for answers. What would you do in Danny’s position? How far would you go for the truth? I would not have done what Danny did. But I’m not a journalist. He did what he had to do. The truth is important but reality is relative. The two go hand in hand. One must weigh out how they work together in every aspect of one’s life and then make decisions. I wasn’t there. I don’t judge him, but I don’t think what he did was prudent.

Kyle Hatley (left) and Philip Earl Johnson in "Danny Casolaro Died For You."
Kyle Hatley (left) and Philip Earl Johnson (as Robert Nichols) in “Danny Casolaro Died For You.”

6 — Do you trust the government? I trust the government to be the government. Yes. Do I trust that it wouldn’t hurt me if forces aligned? I trust that it would be the government.

7 — You portray multiple characters. Which one do you most enjoy playing, and why? I like playing Bob Nichols. He has ultimate power in the scenes. At least he believes he does. Which is all he needs.

8 — Would you want to be friends him in real life? I would love to hang out with Bob Nichols. He isn’t a killer because he likes to kill. He is a business man. But I would definitely not want to do business with him. But to go fishing with him. Hell yeah!!

9 — What other experiences have you had portraying real people? I played Jesus at Court Theatre. He’s famous. The thing about famous people is, everyone has an opinion about them already. Don’t fight that. But I do think you have to challenge it. My Jesus liked ice cream.

10 — What’s your favorite moment in this play? The very last line:You can get the fuck out of my house.”

Philip Earl Johnson (as Joseph Cuellar) and Kyle Hatley in "Danny Casolaro Died For You."
Philip Earl Johnson (as Joseph Cuellar) and Kyle Hatley in “Danny Casolaro Died For You.”

11 — How does being in TimeLine’s intimate 99-seat space affect your engagement with the audience? I wish it were closer. The closer the better. It’s like a challenge for the audience to stay close and involved.

12 — Is there a conspiracy in the world that is most intriguing to you? JFK

13 — Of the conspiracies in the show, which one fascinates or concerns you the most? The conspiracy that they aren’t really criminals. That they are just doing their jobs. But clearly selfishness and greed play a major role. They are no longer serving the people. The conspiracy that the politicians at that level are innocent. When they are not. However. Decisions must be made.

14 — What’s a fact or quirk about you that could be fodder for conspiracy theorists? There are certain windows I rarely look in, but am regularly looking out. And I do not plan to change that regardless.

Join us today, Sunday, December 7, 2014, for a special post-show performance and event featuring Phil, MooNiE the MagNif’Cent, and a conversation about the history and relationship between vaudeville and “legit” theatre. To read his biography, visit our website …

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