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Billy Magnussen is born to be a great Tigger

 

Billy Magnussen is born to be a great Tigger

If Disney ever decided to do a live action version of Winnie the Pooh, Billy Magnussen would be a great Tigger. His natural enthusiasm and boundless amounts of energy is infectious and was perfect for his role as The Other Prince in Disney’s latest film, Into the Woods. Like the movie, you don’t always get what you want and you don’t always want what you get, but we’re all the better for the occurrences that brought Billy to the project.

Magnussen was born in Queens, New York, but grew up in Cumming, Georgia. He headed to New York City just shy of graduating from the University of North Carolina. He made his Broadway debut in the short-lived 2007 revival of The Ritz and then spent the next few years appearing in a number of film and television shows including two years as Casey Hughes on the CBS daytime drama “As The World Turns.”

In 2012, he was cast as Spike in Christopher Durang’s play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The play premiered in Princeton, New Jersey before heading to New York City. After a sold-out three month run at Lincoln Center the production moved to Broadway for a limited run. After winning the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, the show was extended past its original scheduled closing date. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike also secured Magnussen a Tony Nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play. He may have felt lucky to have been in this play, but little did he know that it would lead to bigger things.

When Magnussen went to the first reading of Into The Woods, he spoke to Meryl Streep, who he had met previously when she came to see Vanya and Sonia… “When Meryl came to see the play,” said Magnussen, “she came backstage afterwards. I got to meet her then and she was so incredibly nice and delightful to me.” It was at the first reading that Streep told Magnussen that she assisted him in getting the audition. She told Rob Marshall, the director of Into The Woods, that he needed to see him. High praise indeed when an 18-time Oscar nominee recommends you for a job.

It was an ambitious project to get suggested for, with Stephen Sondheim’s prestige and being so particular about his music. “You have to treat [Sondheim’s] work with care,” said Magnussen. “He was very hands-on, very attentive, and very much there during the filming. He made sure we understood the show was primarily a love story.”

When Billy isn’t in front of the camera or on stage, he can be found behind a guitar playing with fellow performers Tom Degnan, Warren Hemenway, Trevor Vaughn and Nick Fokas in their band Reserved For Rondee. Next up for Magnussen are three other films: “The Great Gilly Hopkins,” “I Smile Back,” and an untitled Cold War spy thriller from Stephen Spielberg starring Tom Hanks and Alan Alda.

Even though many of the characters in “Into The Woods” didn’t get their wish, Magnussen did.