Nico Tortorella is known as one of the stars of the TV Land hit show “Younger,” but this spring, he’s taking on a different role as the lead in Crude, the new play by Jordan Jaffe premiering at Ars Nova in New York City. After spending time on TV in various shows including “The Beautiful Life” on the CW and “The Following” on Fox, as well as acting in films like “Scream 4,” he says he was drawn to Crude because after a ten year absence from the stage, he was hungry to be back in front of a live audience.
“I grew up on stage in Chicago,” he said, “so this is more of a homecoming for me rather than something new I’m trying. I kinda feel like I’m a real actor for the first time in a long time.”
Jamie, his character in Crude, is a far cry from Josh, the laid back tattoo artist he plays on “Younger,” something he revels in being a part of bringing to life.
“Since it’s a new play,” he explains, “there was a lot of room in terms of being creatively involved with the character and building the character. I wasn’t stepping into someone else’s role so I got to create a lot for myself.”
The privilege of creating a new role for the stage is something that isn’t lost on Tortorella. With the dearth of new works making it to larger commercial theatre audiences, he hopes more artists will invest in new works so those stories will continue to be told.
“I think New York City is the theatre capital of the world and if new work can’t be shown here, it won’t be shown anywhere. I think if we can get good actors, some of which may also be names, to open up new plays like this, it will only help the progression of new theatre.”
He’s aware that having a fan-base from “Younger” has provided him with an opportunity to spread the news about Crude to a wider audience who may not be as clued in to the theatre scene beyond the big Broadway shows.
“I know my involvement with Crude is part of why it’s being talked about more than it would have been otherwise, and I’m more than happy to talk about it. New works are important.”
After Crude ends its run on May 21, he heads into filming season three of “Younger,” a show that has challenged him in a different way than creating his character for the stage has.
“Not knowing where the story lines are going and not having a full wrap of these characters is tough,” he says of the script-by-script episodic nature of TV shows. “It can change on the drop of dime, and usually does, which is how TV works and I understand that, but that’s the most difficult part of the process for me. But I’m so grateful for the show and all it’s given me.”
The success of “Younger” has brought a wealth of opportunities for him and he regularly brings his nearly 200K Instagram followers along for the ride. Social media has become the go-to method of connecting artists and art-lovers, something some have struggled with adapting to, but not Nico.
“As long as I’ve been an actor, the social media outlets have been available. I’ve always been fully encompassed in all of those worlds and as my career grew, it just made more sense to continue utilizing them. I think Instagram has changed the game for so many up-and-comers. It links people up in a way that never existed before. It used to be I’ll have my manager call your manager, but now you can just message someone directly about a shoot or a gig and make it happen the next day.”
Tortorella’s Instagram feed is a heady mixture of behind-the-scenes glimpses at his show, his friends, photographer features and a myriad of Fashion Week-ready outfits and looks. He credits his mother, who he describes as an 80’s disco queen, with his initial love of fashion.
“She owned a bar growing up I would help her with her hair, makeup and outfit when she’d get ready to go to work each night. It was part of our thing. We would blast Diana Ross and get ready before she went to the bar. I like feeling good and looking good. Fashion is the quickest way to make that happen.”
He has reason to feel good. In 2016 so far, he’s performed with his TV costar Sutton Foster and the Baltimore Symphony, season two of “Younger” aired and he’s starring in a brand new play in New York. Beyond the upcoming third season of “Younger,” Tortorella is also developing his own show and has his sights set on being a part of a new Broadway musical one day.
“Ultimately,” he says, “I just want to keep working with good people and challenging myself. I want to keep going.”
So what keeps him going when he’s not on set?
“My favorite thing in the world is to walk into a grocery store or a restaurant and have these short relationships with people working there. The interaction with them is so brief and it disappears immediately when you leave, but it is so meaningful in that moment. People smile and laugh and feel good, so I carry that with me all the time, wherever I go. It’s infectious and makes a difference. Imagine what the world would look like if we all did that.”
He adds that being a part of the process of bringing Crude to the stage and working with his cast mates has kept him inspired daily.
“Doing this show, I feel like I am in a conservatory studying with these Julliard actors. It’s more than anything I could have ever asked for.”
Crude runs until May 21st and tickets are available at www.arsnovanyc.com