Playwright Danny Robins’ 2:22 – A Ghost Story will have its U.S. premiere November 4, 2022 (with previews starting October 29th) at the Center Theater Group’s Ahmanson. Matthew Dunster directs the cast of four: Constance Wu, Anna Camp, Adam Rothenberg, and Finn Wittrock. I persuaded Finn to chat about 2:22, as well as reminisce on some of his career highlights.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Finn!
What first attracted you to become involved with 2:22 – A Ghost Story?
The outside factors were the first draw: doing a play, in L.A., at the Ahmanson, with Constance Wu. Three big perks that got me intrigued. Then I read the play. It was a true page turner that I couldn’t put down, and though I can’t say anything about it for fear of spoiling, when I finished, I was almost breathless and thought, “If the experience of the audience is anything like it just was to read, I have to be a part of this thing.”
Had you worked with any of 2:22’s cast before?
Nope! They’ve all been a dream so far.
What would your three-line pitch of 2:22 be?
Here’s a go. “Four people spend the night debating the reality of ghosts and the supernatural. Some believe, some don’t, some are on the fence. And then something happens that makes them all question everything they thought they knew. (No, I can’t tell you what).”
What qualities of Sam (before he married Jenny) would you submit on a dating website?
I’ve never been on a dating website, and I don’t think Sam has either. But he is definitely confident. I think that would be front and center in his bio. He is cerebral, he loves intellectual debate. He loves nice things. He is opinionated on almost everything but doesn’t judge people who disagree with him; in fact, he welcomes disagreement. He loves to argue for fun. He has a good tenured professor job. He’s stable. He loves kids. Wants one of his own. Likes to have fun but also get a good night’s sleep. Likes to party but never too hard. The right thing, in the right place, at the right time…
What character flaws would you definitely omit?
Can talk without listening. Can make harsh comments without realizing. Can make people feel small with the turn of a well-crafted quip. Also, is not a great help domestically.
You spent your teens in Los Angeles. What was the first Center Theatre Group production that you saw?
The Music Center has always been a special place to me and going to CTG has always been an event. I graduated high school at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I know I saw the tour of Death of a Salesman with Brian Dennehy when I was in middle school. I’m pretty sure that was in the Ahmanson. And the first play at the Taper that I remember seeing was Top Dog/Underdog. It was astounding.
After seeing those productions, did you ever think you would be acting on one of their stages?
It’s really has always been a dream. I’ve come close to doing a play here, but it’s never quite worked out. At last, the dream has come true.
As a youth, you grew up at the Shakespeare & Company Theatre where your father, actor Peter L. Wittrock, Sr. worked. What acting advice did your father give you when you were starting out?
My dad has always been a huge mentor, fan, supporter, critic, all of it. It wasn’t so much advice he gave as me watching him, mirroring him, observing him, learning from him. Side note – my dad studied under the voice guru Kristin Linklater, as did Natsuko Ohamo, who I’ve known since I was born and who turns out to be voice coaching on 2:22. So it remains a small world.
Has your two years on All My Children helped you in speed learning your scripts?
Yes actually. Memory is a muscle, and it was well toned while I was doing the soap opera. Even though that was some time ago, I do feel the memory skills were well sharpened during that time. Had to be – so many words to learn by tomorrow at 7 am!
In 2012, you played Happy Loman to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman on Broadway in Death of A Salesman. Would you share some words of wisdom Philip gave you?
It’s hard to put into words what Phil gave me. More than anything it was a sense that acting is important, in some fundamental way; it’s not frivolous, it’s something we need to survive as humans. To never let yourself off the hook with the understanding of that importance; to always go deeper, get more specific, work harder. It was less advice he gave than the example he showed by just doing his work, day in day out, with such exhaustive thoroughness.
In 2017, you returned to Broadway in The Glass Menagerie with Sally Field and Joe Mantello. Can you tell us of some of the lighter moments off-stage of this heavy drama?
There’s a famous restaurant in Times Square called Sardi’s. If you are reading BroadwayWorld you probably know this. I’m not saying Sardi’s was falling off or anything, but at least around this time, 2017, at least on a Thursday night after a show, it was pretty quiet. Joe Mantello started this tradition of going to Sardi’s after a Thursday night show. Thursday is a good night for most theater actors because you probably don’t have a matinee on Friday and so don’t have to worry about work until the evening. The little Glass Menagerie cast started going there and inviting friends along. It started out fun and mellow, a quiet night out. By the end of our run, the word had gotten around and I swear almost every Broadway show was partying at Sardi’s on Thursday night. Joe had made it an event. Thursdays became a wild night and whether it was true or not our cast of Glass Menagerie took all the credit. (Momentarily forgetting perhaps that Sardi’s has been having post-show cast parties since the 1920’s).
Your busy television and film career is sprinkled with many stints on the Boards. What is it that keeps you pursuing your stage work when your television and film commitments abound?
For me it is all about the first reading of a play, when I’m alone reading it at my desk. Because most likely that is the closest I will ever get to what a first-time audience will experience. And like I said, this play was one of the most exciting new plays I had ever read. So, I said yes, I want to do it, let all the other stuff figure itself out. It’s the only way to do things, in my short experience.
What’s in the near future for Finn Wittrock?
I am soon to shoot Green Lantern on HBO Max. I’m dreadfully excited for it. Besides that, time will tell!
Thank you again, Finn! I look forward to being scared in 2:22 – A Ghost Story.