Jason Biggs has played his fair share of awkward Jewish guys. So when he steps onstage as journalist Scoop Rosenbaum in the current revival of Wendy Wasserstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "The Heidi Chronicles," and tries to seduce Heidi, you might think, yeah, I know this guy.
But this is a tougher, cockier chap than we're used to seeing from Biggs, 36, an actor most known for comedies like "American Pie" (and its sequels), "Saving Silverman" and, most recently, as Larry Bloom in the Netflix hit series "Orange Is the New Black."
The play, also starring Elisabeth Moss from "Mad Men" and Tony nominee Bryce Pinkham, is the first Broadway revival of Wasserstein's hit, and the first since her death in 2006. It opens March 19 at the Music Box Theatre. Biggs, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and year-old son, Sid, spoke with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
I've uncovered a secret about Jason Biggs.
It's not really a secret, but I never knew this -- you're of Italian ancestry, not Jewish.
Yes. [He laughs.] That's correct. And a little English, the Biggs part.
I researched you and found it's been covered in the press a lot, but I guess that fact has eluded me.
It has been in the press but it still comes up. People say, "Wait -- you're not Jewish? That's insane." It's kind of fun how shocking it is. First . . . I have a certain look. And I play Jewish characters with such . . . consistency. [He laughs again.] Honestly, I can't wait till I play an Italian character, but I don't know if anyone's gonna believe it.
I grew up on Long Island, where there's plenty of each. Jews and Italians are opposite sides of the same coin.
Right. I'm Jersey -- and Jersey and Long Island are opposite sides of the same coin, too.
Lots of focus on family, good food . . .
. . . and the crazy mom who instills tons of guilt.
Your character in "Heidi" says early on, "I'm arrogant and difficult," and all Heidi's friends think you're a jerk, but you seem the most honest character in the play.
That's the thing. You meet this guy and you wonder why Heidi's attracted to him. And why he remains in her life. It's because he says things about her even she doesn't see yet. It's a brutal honesty and, ultimately, I think it's incredibly attractive. Not just in a lover but a friend. We've discussed this in rehearsals. In Wendy [Wasserstein]'s absence, we've had to do a lot of parsing on our own.
I thought it might seem dated. A play about women's rights.
The first scenes are Wendy looking back on the '60s, '70s and early '80s, and it ends in 1989, what was then the present day. Now it's all a time capsule. A lot has changed since then, but some things haven't. For better or worse, this play is still timely. The question: Can a woman have it all? And what is that? And what defines happiness? These themes are still relevant. Never mind equal pay, which is obviously still a thing.
You're a parent now. Is it easier raising a boy or girl these days?
My wife talks about that. She knows that growing up can be tougher for girls. For me, the place I go to is . . . at some point I'll have to explain to my children what "American Pie" is. I think it'll be easier explaining it to my son. At least I can practice at first with Sid, so then when we have a girl -- hopefully, we'll have a girl, because I'd love a daughter -- then I will know how to deal with this.
How's fatherhood so far?
Awesome, exhausting, terrifying. I'm curious how it'll be for him when he sees people recognizing me on the street. I'll try to hide him from that as much as possible. But I can't avoid being in public.
Well, if you're famous, New York seems a decent place to live. Most people leave you alone.
True. New Yorkers tend to be more chill about everything. [He laughs.] I'm just not gonna walk the stroller through . . . Radio City.
I hear you're not returning for season 3 of "Orange Is the New Black."
That's right. Larry's been a fun character to play. But at the end of the day, it's a woman's prison show, and Larry is neither a woman nor in prison.
Not yet, anyway.
Maybe he could become a guard. Or do a sex change. The show's been a great success, which is awesome. I'm sure there'll be more seasons, and the beauty of it is Larry can always return.