A funny thing happened to Peter Scolari’s career.
The actor, who until recently was perhaps best-known for his dual role as Henry Desmond and Hildegarde “Hilde” Desmond alongside Tom Hanks on the short-lived early 80s television series “Bosom Buddies” and for playing Michael Harris on “Newhart” from 1984 to 1990, has been enjoying a renaissance of late, thanks to a small but critical role in the zeitgeist HBO series “Girls.” Appearing in six aired episodes as Tad Horvath, the father of Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath, Mr. Scolari—a steadily working actor since 1978—is suddenly hot again.
“It’s been a fascinating turnabout,” Mr. Scolari during a telephone interview last month of all the renewed interest in his career. “It’s a strange resuscitation. I had no idea that I was dead,” he deadpanned.
The Emmy-nominated veteran actor has been happily, and steadily, working under the radar for years. With close to 100 roles under his belt on television, film and on the stage since 1978, he’s been fortunate. But now, with “Girls,” the has actor gained a whole new level of stardom with an entirely different demographic.
“My wife and I will be out and about and 20-something men and women will recognize me,” he mused. “They’ve taken to ‘Girls’ in droves, I think deservedly. And so I think, ‘here we go again.’”
Playing many different types of roles has allowed Mr. Scolari the freedom to take on a multitude of characters without being typecast. In his most recognizable parts he’s comedically portrayed a woman and a neurotic yuppie—but he’s also tackled drama, voice overs and the stage, appearing in several Broadway plays, including the musical “Hairspray” and dramatic “Lucky Guy.” Adding Roman and singer/dancer to his resume, the actor is currently starring as Pseudolus in Bay Street Theatre’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Mr. Scolari, whose career started on the stage, hasn’t previously performed the iconic role, originated by Zero Mostel and played to great success in the 1996 revival starring Nathan Lane. But he did once have opportunity to play another character in the musical.
“There was some interest in me playing Hysterium,” he said of his near turn more than a decade ago in the Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart play. “But I never thought they’d let me play Pseudolus. Typically you gotta be roly poly, you gotta have a tossed-off nancy delivery,” he laughed.
He’s excited for the challenge, he said. Playing alongside some serious talent in the Bay Street production was also a big draw.
“It’s a murderers’ row of talent,” he said. “Just off-the-charts comedians.”
One of those talented actors is Jackie Hoffman, who will play Domina, whom she calls “the dominating, shrew housewife.” The Second City veteran has also been experiencing a big career boost recently—receiving lots of press for her sold-out one-woman show, “Old Woman, New Material,” at 54 Below in Manhattan recently. The actress and stand-up comedian is a frequent Broadway presence (she was in “Hairspray” with Mr. Scolari and also starred in “The Addams Family”) and has acted in dozens of films and television shows.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said of working with Mr. Scolari again during a rehearsal break for “Forum” last month. “I love doing comedy. And doing something that’s a funny, proven success.”
The “surprising soprano” said that she can’t wait to for her stay on the East End.
“It’s a good place to be trapped,” she laughed.
Mr. Scolari agreed, especially given the fellow actors he’ll be working with, he said.
“It’s a great feeling of family, which is not typical. I don’t go from show to show in love with everybody. People who say that aren’t always telling it like it is,” he said. “But I do love this group. I’d go to the wall for them, making a fool of myself.”
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” will stage Tuesdays through Sundays, through September 1 at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. The show stars Peter Scolari, Conrad John Schuck and Jackie Hoffman. Tickets start at $67.50 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 725-9500 or online at baystreet.org.