Bryan Batt’s feelings on Liza Minnelli, Ian McKellen, dim lighting, & playing gay

Bryan Batt in 'Pay the Writer.'
Bryan Batt in ‘Pay the Writer.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Years before Sean Hayes turned “Just Jack” into our collective gay calling card on Will & Grace, actor Bryan Batt played the fabulously queer Darius (a dim-witted cast member in Cats) in the AIDS-era comedy Jeffrey.

The play premiered Off-Broadway in 1993 and was adapted into a feature film several years later, co-starring Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Patrick Stewart, and Nathan Lane as a member of the clergy (delivering one of our favorite lines of all time: “I’m a CATHOLIC priest. Historically, that falls somewhere between chorus boy and florist.”)

Batt has never shied away from LGBTQ+ visibility — professionally or personally. His three seasons on Mad Men as Salvatore Romano, a closeted advertising agency executive, offered a window into the complexities of queer life in 1960s New York City. His career includes nine Broadway shows, including Cats, Beauty and the Beast, and the 2004 revival of La Cage aux Folles (now playing in London through September 23).

Batt returns to the New York stage this fall in the Off-Broadway premiere of Pay the Writer by New York Times best-selling author Tawni O’Dell about a literary agent (Batt) and his curmudgeonly client (Ron Canada). The decade-spanning play flexes Batt’s muscles in both comedy and drama as his high-strung character Bruston Fischer navigates interpersonal relationships that also challenge assumptions about gay men and the professional power they hold.

Queerty caught up with Batt in between performances for a quick-fire chat about some of his favorite LGBTQ+ people and insider home decor recommendations. (Batt co-owns Hazelnut, a New Orleans boutique, with husband Tom Cianfichi.)

I play a literary agent in Pay the Writer. The queer authors (past or present) I’d want on my client list are…

Paul Rudnick, Joe Keenan, & James Baldwin.

Queerty intel:
Paul Rudnick‘s career highlights include Jeffrey, In & Out and Sister Act, and the gay romance novel Playing the Palace.

Joe Keenan’s comedic novels include Blue Heavenand Putting on the Ritz.

Novelist, essayist, poet, and playwright James Baldwin’s prolific works include Go Tell It On the Mountain,If Beale Street Could Talk, and Giovanni’s Room.

In Pay the Writer, Bruston and Cyrus have known each other for more than 45 years. My oldest relationship (outside of family) is with ____________. The one constant after all those years…

Leann Moses. We have been best friends since we were 4 years old in nursery school.

Queerty intel:
Bryan Batt was born in New Orleans and, through his career, has continued to call it home while still working on theater, film, and TV gigs in New York City, Los Angeles, and other locations. Moses serves as commissioner of New Orleans’ Downtown Development District.

Bryan Batt, left, and Bruston Fischer in 'Pay the Writer.'
Bryan Batt, left, and Bruston Fischer in ‘Pay the Writer.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The gayest thing about me…

My love for fashion, theater, Judy Garland, skincare, cologne, and men.

The queer theatermakers everyone should be paying attention to right now are…

Stephen Bracket, Taylor Mac, and Britton Smith.

Queerty intel:
Stephen Bracket directed the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning production of A Strange Loop.

Multi-hyphenate artist Taylor Mac‘s 24-Decade History of Popular Music can be streamed on Max.

Britton Smith is the president of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition and appeared on Broadway in Joe Iconis’ Be More Chill.

Revive __________ so I can star in it!
Jeffrey. I want to play Sterling. (Patrick Stewart’s role in the film)

Queerty intel:
The character of Sterling is an interior decorator and older boyfriend to the character that Batt originated.

When I saw _______ onstage, I knew I wanted to be an actor…

Liza Minnelli… pure talent and electricity. Also, Ian McKellen in the original production of Amadeus — he was brilliant!

Queerty intel:
Liza Minnelli appeared on Broadway eight times and won three Tony Awards: Best Actress in a Musical (The Act, 1965; Flora the Red Menace, 1965) and a special award in 1974 for “adding lustre to the Broadway season).

Ian McKellen won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus, beating Tim Curry, nominated for portraying the title character.

I played Lumiere in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast for over a year. The thing they don’t tell you about playing a candlestick is…

That if you ignite the lighter while the candles are facing downward, they can become a flamethrower. Also, my wig was the only thing on the set that was not flame-resistant.

Hazelnut, the New Orleans boutique I co-founded with my husband, Tom Cianfichi, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The piece of advice I’d give about how to style a room is…

Never be afraid of color. What did it ever do to you? And use dimmers on all lighting, it’s way cheaper than Botox.

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