How is it that one of Broadway’s most accomplished song-and-dance men has found success in a television role in which he doesn’t sing, he doesn’t dance and he never smiles?
“Well, it’s because as an actor, I’m always looking for something different and challenging,” said Victor Garber, one of the stars of ABC’s spy drama, Alias.
Playing uber-operative Jack Bristow, a CIA double agent who also happens to be the father of sexy superspy Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner), Mr. Garber has found that this role, above all others in his lengthy career, has given him the kind of high-profile visibility that would get most secret agents, well, fired.
“I’m recognized everywhere I go,” he said, “which makes it easier to get good tables at restaurants.”
Born in Ontario, Canada, Mr. Garber, 54, began his performing career as a singer with a group called The Sugar Shoppe. His first major break came when he was cast as Jesus in a 1972 Toronto production of Godspell, which led to his being cast in the film version. By then Mr. Garber had moved to New York and was soon a fixture on Broadway, earning Tony nominations for his work in Damn Yankees, Lend Me a Tenor, Deathtrap and Little Me. He didn’t return to film work until 1992, when he was cast in Paul Schrader’s film, Light Sleeper, which was followed by roles in The First Wives Club, Titanic, Sleepless in Seattle and Legally Blonde.
When he was given the script for the pilot of Alias, Mr. Garber said he found it to be one of the “smartest, wittiest and most intriguing” scripts he had read in a long time. “But it is a very serious show, and sometimes, when we’re all very tired, it’s hard to remain so serious. One time Jennifer [Garner] and I were out of control. Finally the director told us to take a 10-minute break. We had to go and drill the scene during the entire break just to be able to get through it.”
In addition to Alias, Mr. Garber has starred in a string of musicals and telefilms for ABC-Annie, Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows and The Music Man, among others. His plans include starring in a television remake of Fiddler on the Roof possibly to be shot next summer.
That means the song-and-dance man is back to doing what he loves-albeit only when Alias is on hiatus. “It started when Rob Marshall [who directed Chicago] cast me in Annie,” Mr. Garber said. “I wasn’t so sure I could play Daddy Warbucks, but he convinced me that I could, and it was a fantastic experience.”
When he’s not working on ABC’s Burbank, Calif., lot, Mr. Garber prefers to be in New York, a city he’s called home for some 30 years. “Once I moved to New York, I never imagined living anywhere else,” he said. “And now, because of Alias, I am finally able to afford a much nicer place to live.”