11/05/2012 12:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ari Graynor Talks Dirty

(Photo by Christopher Breyer)

In the new Broadway show The Performers, Ari Graynor plays Peeps, a porn star attending the Adult Film Awards with her husband and fellow porn star Mandrew (Cheyenne Jackson). The script, unsurprisingly, contains some outrageous language, but it was hardly intimidating for the 29-year-old actress. Graynor, who is known for her turn as Meadow Soprano's roommate on The Sopranos as well as her breakout performance in the film Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, starred as a phone sex operator in the recent movie For a Good Time, Call... In her latest stage role, Graynor manages to get big laughs while treating her character with the utmost seriousness.
- Lori Fradkin

We were initially supposed to do this interview on October 30, but then the hurricane struck and Broadway shows were canceled. What was it like going back to work after that?

I felt two ways. One, this really puts everything into perspective. Why would we be nervous? There [are] so many bigger issues. Yet at the same time, it’s such a weird time to be in the city. And I think it brings a lot of fears to the forefront of people’s minds, and it feels important and valid to be the court jesters of New York and let people laugh for an hour and a half.

Why did you want to play Peeps?

She feels like a lot of what I know is inside of me that I have a hard time expressing. And I love that the emotional reality is as intense as anything you would see in the finest dramas — issues of betrayal, of monogamy, of love, of aging, of impending parenthood. When we were sitting around the table the first few days of rehearsal, we were breaking down these characters as if it were Hamlet.

Did you worry about comparisons to Katie, your character in For a Good Time, Call…?

I thought long and hard about doing this play for that reason. What if people think they’re similar, even though I know they’re not? What if people think that all I can do is play contemporary sex workers? You know, my fear of people forgetting that I can and want to do dramatic work. At the end of the day, I knew in my heart that they were completely different. Katie was somebody that was so well-defended, and her reveal was much more about how vulnerable and insecure she was. She walked through the world with a type of confidence — sometimes real, sometimes false — that was very much her armor. Peeps is exactly the opposite. She is all heart, she is all soul, she is all love. There is no filter.

Henry Winkler plays Chuck Wood, a legend in the adult film industry. What is he like to work with?

Henry Winkler is the most lovable man. He is like everybody’s favorite grandfather. And to hear him say some of the things he says in the play – I was watching rehearsals today, and I just was dying laughing with my hands covering my eyes.

There’s a scene in which you present an award in a dress with a high slit. Are you intentionally channeling Angelina Jolie?

[Laughs] I mean, the dress was always gonna be designed with a slit, but I definitely thought that I should present my leg in maybe an honorary Angelina Jolie type of way.

You’ve said in past interviews that you’ve gotten more nervous about live performance as you’ve gotten older. Why is that?

Well, it’s funny. I had felt that the past three plays that I had done. But so far with this, I haven’t felt nervous. I feel the same kind of excitement and freedom I felt as a kid on stage. Maybe part of it has to do with where I am in my personal life. Right now I have this kind of incredible luxury – natural disasters notwithstanding – to be really present in the work. This is what I’m doing right now. This is what’s going on. I think when you feel less present, that’s when the nerves and panic set in. So the thrill is back. I mean, it’s terrifying every night, but it’s the rush kind of terror rather than the panic terror. So far, so good.

This story originally appeared in Huffington, in the iTunes App store.