The finale of Survivor: The Australian Outback wasn't the only major entertainment event that took place last Thursday night. On stage at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre, The Music Man's departing star, Craig Bierko — en route to his dressing room to prepare for that evening's show (and an interview with TV Guide Online) — bumped into his successor as Professor Harold Hill, Will & Grace's Eric McCormack. On the surface, such an encounter would seem as riveting as, well, the first hour of the Survivor conclusion. But just one day earlier, the New York Post ran a scathing story alleging that McCormack refused to watch Bierko in the role because he "can't bear Craig" and "thinks he is just a dreadful actor."
Although McCormack denied any ill will — he told the Post that he has avoided Bierko's performances because it "would be more intimidating than helpful" — the sitcom star nonetheless felt the need to follow-up the printed denial with a face-to-face one. As observed by TV Guide Online, McCormack told the Tony nominee that the story "really freaked" him out, and added that the paper's anonymous "snitch" must have misinterpreted his reasons for not attending Bierko's shows. Shrugging off the whole sordid mess, Bierko noted that he doesn't "pay attention" to such tattle, and with a simple handshake, the matter was put to rest.
Moments after the pleasant, yet awkward exchange, Bierko discussed the so-called rough transition between Harolds, life after Music Man and his upcoming stint as Sarah Jessica Parker's mysterious new beau on Sex and the City.
TVGO: Was that the first time you spoke to Eric since he was hired to fill your shoes?
Bierko: No. I saw him very early on in his rehearsal process and just sort of made it my own business to keep [my] distance because the changing of the guard can be a difficult thing for somebody coming in.
TVGO: The New York Post story certainly couldn't have made things easier for the two of you.
Bierko: I actually don't read any [of my] press. I understand that something was taken out of context. I honestly don't know what it is — I would ask you not even to repeat it. That kind of stuff just rubs me the wrong way. It's irresponsible reporting as far as I'm concerned.
TVGO: What was your reaction when you heard that Eric was replacing you? [Bierko took his final bow as Harold Hill on May 6, three days after this interview; McCormack debuted this past Tuesday.]
Bierko: My major reaction to all of this has been it's just very difficult to leave. It's hard enough to leave something that you don't like; it's very difficult to leave something that is an enormously positive experience. This is the best thing that has ever happened in my life, so I'm in a genuine state of mourning. But I feel it's time — a year is enough to do a Broadway show. I want to take advantage of the momentum; I want to take advantage of exploring something different with Susan Stroman. [Stroman, who directed and choreographed Music Man and who currently is winning raves for helming Mel Brooks's stage version of The Producers, has cast Bierko in her next project: The original musical Thou Shalt Not.]
TVGO: Were you ever approached to star in ABC's upcoming Music Man TV movie? [Matthew Broderick will headline the pic.]
Bierko: I think my name was mentioned... I don't know what happens on that level. I also understand that at that point it's a ratings game and I'm not a network name, I'm not a marquee name. I was actually okay with the fact that I got to do the Susan Stroman version of this on stage. I think Matthew Broderick is going to be incredible; he's a terrific performer. [But] I set out to do the stage production of this and I'm completely satisfied.
TVGO: How did being named Broadway's sexiest star by People magazine change your life?
Bierko: The only thing it's done is brought questions like that into my life. (He laughs) Of course, it was scientifically proven after years of research... I don't know, that kind of stuff is awfully fun — it's a great compliment. But I just don't take it very seriously. It feels kind of silly to even talk about it.
TVGO: What can you tell me about your Sex and the City role?
Bierko: I don't want to reveal too much; they told me to be very careful because he's got some emotional secrets. I think it's worth the surprise.
TVGO: Could your character return at some point? [He's only slated to appear in two episodes.]
Bierko: Well, they didn't kill me. I think not being killed is always a good sign.
TVGO: One last thing: After doing The Music Man for a year, can you explain to me what the heck "Shipoopi" means?
Bierko: No. I think it's a term of endearment.