Michael Benz was visiting family in New Jersey when he received a voicemail from his manager. He didn’t know what the quick call was about, but he had a sneaking suspicion: He had won the role of Leo Hubbard in Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes .
Twenty minutes after learning he’d be making his Broadway debut, his brother and sister-in-law asked him if he would be their daughter’s godfather.
“It was a great day!” says Benz. While picking up celebratory champagne, he bought a lottery ticket. “I thought maybe it would be three for three.”
The London-born actor didn’t win Powerball, but his third string of luck came when he learned his cast mates would be Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, who rotate in the roles of Regina Hubbard Giddens and Birdie Hubbard.
Benz says he has “total friend crushes” on the actresses. “They are an inspiration for me, professionally and personally, in the way that they lead their careers with their integrity, their talent, and their choices,” he says.
Benz usually is cast as nice guys in Shakespeare plays like Sebastian in Twelfth Night or Ferdinand in The Tempest, and he’s excited to be expanding his repertoire with Leo Hubbard, a conniving, manipulative schemer who isn’t even liked by his mother.
“I always play the sweet, kind, bubbly nice guy,” Benz says. “I have that kind of demeanor, I suppose.”
Benz laughingly credits the small mustache he grew for the role as the key to his performance as Leo Hubbard. The early 20th-century attire sported by the upper echelon of Southern society at the time also helps.
“It is amazing what a collar can do to a performance,” he says. “It really does just place you there—these big, stiff collars. It’s amazing how it changes the physicality.”
The costumes are certainly enviable—the women don bustled gowns, feathered hats, and velvet chokers, and the dapper men wear three-piece suits and shiny shoes.
“I don’t think there is anything better than opening a show with the costumes we have,” says Benz. “All the men in white tie and tails and the women in those beautiful gowns.”
However, in his daily life, Benz leaves his coattails in the dressing room.
“Simple is what I do. I think a white t-shirt and a fitted blazer, you can’t go wrong with that.”