Interview with 12th Night of the Living Dead's Timothy J. Cox
Written by Hannah Marie Ellison
Published November 11, 2007
Timothy J. Cox has carved a niche in the independent theater community as an always reliable character actor. The actor, who just celebrated his 31st birthday last week, has appeared in numerous regional, off-Broadway and off-off Broadway productions.
Acting began for the Philadelphia native when, as a youngster, he was enamored of the movies and of acting idols Jack Lemmon, Spencer Tracy, Albert Finney, and Jack Nicholson. It was while in the eighth grade, as an excuse to get out of math class, that Timothy happened on auditions for the school musical. When he was cast as the male lead, he became hooked on acting and hasn't stopped since.
He is currently appearing as Sir Toby Belch (a coveted Shakespearean role for all character players) in the Impetuous Theater Group's critically lauded production of Brian MacInnis Smallwood's spin on the Shakespeare classic (inspired by the George A. Romero horror film Night of the Living Dead), 12th Night of the Living Dead, now in its final week of performances at The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan.
During the course of its run, the show has received positive notices from nytheatre.com, Back Stage, OffOffOnline, and even the New York Times. It also received a rave from yours truly here at Blogcritics, with Timothy's explosive comic performance as Sir Toby being one of the many things I raved about.
I had a chance to speak with Tim, as he's known to his friends, about the show and his background.
You've been involved with 12th Night of the Living Dead from the very beginning, correct?
I was invited to participate in an informal reading of the script by Brian (MacInnis Smallwood, playwright) and James David Jackson (Artistic Director of the Impetuous Theater Group) in April of 2005. I had met Brian while working on a production of Measure for Measure a few months before; a production that John (Hurley, director of 12th Night of the Living Dead) had directed. Brian's one of the funniest people I've ever met, so when he told me the idea and where he wanted to go with it, I was very flattered to be asked and graciously jumped on board.
Obviously, the Impetuous Theater Group became sold on the idea and followed up with an "extreme" staged reading of the play?
Yes, that was in February of 2006. I was thrilled to be a part of that, especially since John, who's wonderful to work with, was directing. John creates such a fun environment for the actors to work in. He lets the actors play. Plus, he's also very knowledgeable on the subject of zombies. Anything you want to know, ask him. His energy and enthusiasm for the subject is amazing. I think he did 20 minutes on the history of zombies at the read through. I swear, he should go on a lecture tour. It would be educational and highly amusing, I'm sure.
You rehearsed the reading like a full blown production?
We rehearsed for two weeks and then presented it over two nights complete with the blood and guts and people just went crazy over it.
And now, people are going crazy for the production?
Yes, it's been very thrilling. The reaction to the production has been astounding. The reviews have been nice and people are getting the praises they deserve. It helps that the Impetuous Theater Group has a large fan base. They've had a string of successful shows and they're great people, so it's been lots of fun. It's a shame that we're closing, but I don't think you've heard the last of this show. Imagine if this show became a staple on the independent theater scene, playing every Halloween? How great would that be?
In speaking about your performance as Sir Toby, one of the things I loved about what you brought to the character was a kind of roguish charm.
Thank you. Yes, Toby is definitely a rogue. He's all about the good times and if he has to con someone to have his fun, so be it. I mean, look at his relationship with Sir Andrew. He's stealing his money, getting him drunk, just using him in every possible way. But then you look at how he is with Maria. He wouldn't dare pull any of that nonsense with her. She'd kick his ass. Plus, I think Toby really cares for Maria. He tries to turn on the charm for her.
The other thing I adored is how you and Benjamin Ellis Fine (hilarious as Sir Andrew) were so completely and wonderfully aloof as to the presence of the zombies; like completely and utterly ignorant to the fact. It was hysterical.
Yes, Toby and Andrew are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.
When discussing the production, one must never leave out the blood and guts. They play a major role in the production.
Yes, they do. They're like another character. The thing I love is how audiences have been howling with laughter as we slip on the blood and guts at the end of the play. They just want more and more of it. I give a lot of credit to Alley Getz, our gore mistress, for all the time she's donated to making all of that stuff work. I must also commend our costume designer Lilli Rhiger, who has had the unfortunate task of getting all the blood and guts off the costumes. They're both wonderful. Everybody involved in the show is wonderful.
I wanted to speak a little about your background. Judging from your website , which features an amazing gallery of the roles you've played, it's obvious that you like character roles.
I'm not tall, dark and handsome. My face is not the kind of face that sets hearts to fluttering. I'm a short, stocky guy with glasses, so of course I'm a character actor, which is great for me, because character actors always work. I think that realistic approach has served me pretty well so far. Lord knows it's saved me a lot of heartache and visits to a therapist.
Timothy J. Cox is available on the web at his official website. You can also read his blog, which he updates almost daily.
12th Night of the Living Dead closes this weekend. Please visit Brown Paper Tickets for tickets.