Perhaps you’ve seen Kurt Fuller as the mayor’s aide in Ghostbusters II. Or Tom Brell, the mischievous network executive in the Hulk Hogan vehicle No Holds Barred. Or the dark angel Zachariah in TV’s long-running Supernatural. Or Rachel McAdams’ conservative father in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. The veteran actor’s decades-long screen career is full of unlikeable characters.
But the truth is, he’s probably one of the kindest guys you’ll find in all of show business.
Ironically, Fuller’s film career took off thanks to a well-received stage turn in L.A., the world premiere of Steven Berkoff’s Kvetch! “Everyone saw this show,” Fuller remembers. “Johnny Carson came, Jack Nicholson came, then Harold Ramis came. He sent his wife, and he sent some of the Ghostbusters cast, and that led to me being in Ghostbusters II. And it put me in this funny bad guy thing.”
That track continues with his current role, again onstage, in Laurence Davis’ Master of Puppets, a co-production between actor-producer James Rode Rodriguez and Connecticut’s Legacy Theatre, where it will run through June 11. The show is a warts-and-all look at the world of professional wrestling – what’s real and what’s fake in this performative universe? – and represents It’s a bit of a full circle moment for Fuller, who is essentially playing a version of Vince McMahon – one of the producers of No Holds Barred.
“It was one of my first jobs and I had no idea what I was doing,” Fuller recalls. “I was an evil Ted Turner type. I was encouraged to overact and it would have been a career-ending movie but it didn’t destroy me because not enough people saw it! Although now it’s gone on to become a cult favorite.”
Fuller has learned valuable lessons from his filmography full of rapscallions, which he employs to make his current role of Victor Ragstone in Puppets more palatable. “There are some gasps as I say certain things as my character, and I take that as a compliment,” he says. “You don’t want to do anything that will upset people, but you need to play characters true to who they are. Nobody is all good or all bad. What I have learned, especially by playing Zachariah in Supernatural, who always thought he was funny, is that if you add humor to the horribleness of someone, you can get a lot of mileage. This character is funny and there are a lot of laughs in this play. I’m okay with my character being hated; I’m not okay with not being understood.”
Puppets also reunites Fuller with Rodriguez, his erstwhile Psych co-star. “James is a renaissance man,” Fuller says. “He is one of the most talented people I have ever worked with, and he is interested in developing new works.” Puppets is the third play Fuller has worked on with Rodriguez since 2007; the two have kept in close contact since the end of the series (which still has the occasional spinoff movie) and will meet up occasionally.
In addition to Fuller, Puppets features a veritable murderer’s row of character actors, including Dana Ashbrook, Michael Bobenhausen, Amanda Detmer, Joshua Heggie, and Michael Hogan. Fuller relishes the collaborative process with his colleagues. “The cast needs each other and we depend on each other so much,” he explains, “we pull for each other and hang onto each for dear life.”
Still, Fuller, who celebrates a milestone birthday this fall, warns that Puppets might be the show that bookends the career which sprung to life with Kvetch. “It’s a little harder to do theatre as you get older – learning lines probably takes me three times as long as it used to.”
This might be your last chance to see the legend that is Kurt Fuller live on stage. Catch him while you can.
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