Interview With Actor Craig Bierko, “UnREAL”

By Ruth on January 17, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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Back in the summer of 2015, I was directed to a new Lifetime show called UnREAL, and because one of my favorite actors, Brennan Elliott, was going to be on it, I knew I had to be an active member of the audience. Although I was aware that I was leaping out of my comfort zone to watch this show, I didn’t plan on becoming quite so invested in the characters and the storyline that I anticipated season two (and soon, season three) with great delectation. What began as a sort of grandstand for “Host Graham” evolved into so much more. In the role of the devious, manipulative Chet, I was introduced to the stupendous work of Craig Bierko. Due to our busy schedules, we only recently had the opportunity to exchange a simple Q & A, and I am immensely grateful for Craig’s willingness to unmask the man behind this diabolical, but charismatic character.

RH: ​Why did you decide to become an actor? What kind of training have you had?

CB: I have no memory of ever considering another way of life. My mom ran the local community theatre and my eight-year-old brain absorbed the reality of professional lawyers, doctors and whatever’s rehearsing a show after a full day at the office. I associate that feeling with what I do. When I see people who aren’t happy to be there it doesn’t quite compute.

Tell us about your experience with the show Sydney. How did you get involved with it?

Well, that was just an audition, and I happened to connect with Valerie Bertinelli. We still have a great chemistry – and she fought to cast me. I adore her.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

Scary Movie 4 with Debra Wilson

You are known for your roles in three films (The Long Kiss Goodnight, Cinderella Man and Scary Movie 4). How does the experience of films compare with that of filming for TV?

Same thing really. Less time in TV. And sitcoms are just a different animal–hybrid theatre/film.

 

 

 

What special training did you do to prepare for your role in Cinderella Man?

Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Brian Grazer, producer, Craig Bierko, Ron Howard, director, Paul Giamatti and Akiva Goldsman, screenwriter
Cinderella Man New York City Premiere 

Oh, boy. Three to four hours, six months, five to six days a week. I really pushed myself.

Please tell us about your Broadway career .  How did that come about?

Honestly, I auditioned for Harold Hill and one audition later, Susan Stroman called to tell me I’d gotten the part. That’s when the dread kicked in.

Please also tell us about playing Harold Hill in The Music Man. How long did you play him? What kind of recognition did you receive?

I did it for a year, and I think anything longer is because you just love it so much or there aren’t other offers. Stroman asked me to do another play called Thou Shalt Not and it just didn’t work. But I have no regrets. A year was nice, a very full experience.

as Harold Hill in The Music Man

How did you land the role of Chet in UnREAL? Were you surprised at the success of the show?

I was doing a new play with John Patrick Shanley that summer and the producers offered me the role – said that they’d written it for me. I didn’t expect to relate to a Lifetime show, but this wasn’t like any show. It was about so many things I find interesting – cynical people making a patently false show about romantic love who are so broken they seem only to have one another.

While Chet may appear to be the villain in the show, how do you view this character?

I play a lot of villains and I think it’s important to find a legitimate argument that they cling to so tightly they lose sight of the bigger game. With UnREAL, I trust the writing and just jump in and do my best to connect to the parts of him I get.

“Chet”

Of course, there was much buzz about your weight loss in between the two seasons of UnREAL. How and why did you do it? 

I missed being lighter – so I just ran my ass off after the first season.

Chet had a significant contribution to the finale of season two. What are you hoping for season three for your character?

With Kim Matula in UnREAL

I don’t think it’s my job to speculate or hope – I get paid to show up and inhabit what they create. I write other projects with a partner – and this year I suggested a running idea for Chet they want to use – but I’m very happy to just let Chet evolve and go for the ride.

 

 

With Constance and Shiri

The show seems to connect with a wide variety of viewers and age ranges. Why do you think UnREAL has had such unparalleled success?

I think shows about people we recognize work – in the end it’s not really about the setting as much as the way each character responds to this bizarre world – and one another. I love to overthink things, but this one doesn’t require too much thinking – it’s got terrific actors playing juicy roles in a show that takes big and powerful, but honest swings – and I just feel so lucky to be a part of the thing. I love Constance {Zimmer} and Shiri {Appleby} a lot.

 

Any other recent/upcoming works you can mention?

I’m writing some stuff that I’m really excited about – I’m bursting to share it, but it’s never a good idea to do that.

There is nothing I enjoy more than discovering the minutiae that go into making someone–and in this case, a performing artist–who he is. While many actors may often wonder if their fans will find their story entertaining, I rarely find a tale that doesn’t resonate with the fans, myself included, to some degree. And in the case of Craig, that is precisely the case. I never would have pegged him as a musical sort of person (I am still in the early stages of my exploration of the works of this multi-talented guy), and there is no doubt from the detailing of his roles, his work and his outlook on his life and career that he is humble, pragmatic and benevolent. He doesn’t see himself as a superstar, and in that case, he appears to be the antithesis of this resplendently disreputable character he plays on UnREAL. I am always convinced that shows that receive such wide acclaim must have a core group of cast and crew that dispose of their egos, labor without complaint, and become a sort of extended family. Viewers constantly connect with shows in which the people portraying the roles are genuine and down-to-earth, and it would appear that Craig is all that and more. His explanation of how he approaches his character was a delicious description for me to savor, and it is clear that he knows what his role is within the production, and he does it darn well! I would invite everyone to check out Craig at all the links below, and even if UnREAL is not your cup of tea, consider checking out the other notable works in which he has been involved. It is versatile actors like Craig, who year after year deliver memorable roles, whether friend or foe, and supporting an artist with a solid head on his shoulders, a delightful sense of humor, a magnetic personality, and a warm demeanor is just the kind of actor in which I wish to invest my time and resources, and I hope you do too!

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
42-year-old single mother of an active 13-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

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