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Interview: Murray Bartlett On Leaning Into His Characters In ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Welcome to Chippendales’

Over the last few years, Murray Bartlett demanded viewers and voters attention for his Emmy-winning breakthrough work as Armond in The White Lotus. Since then Bartlett has quickly become one of the most must-watch actors working today. Wherever he appears in just he is delivering rich, nuanced characters that connect with viewers.

From his memorable appearances in Physical and Extrapolations to the overly-ambitious choreographer Nick De Noia in Welcome to Chippendales or his touching work The Last of Us, Bartlett has become one of the most sought after actors working today. It is a privilege he does not take for granted. After 35 years of work Bartlett truly appreciates how much the recent recognition of his work has opened the door for diverse and interesting roles.

“I feel so fortunate to be in this position of being like, ‘Oh my God, if I’ve got choices.’ Then, what can I do? And what’s an interesting sort of turn to take now? What kind of character am I interested in trying to bring to life now that I possibly have the opportunity to do that?,” said an appreciative Bartlett. “What’s a different choice from what I’ve just done? How can I sort of stretch myself?” That’s one of the enjoyable things about being an actor is you can play all sorts of different characters, and I’m in this very sort of privileged position to be able to do that at the moment because of our choices.”

Courtesy of Hulu

One of his bolder choices this year was starring opposite Kumail Nanjiani, Annaleigh Ashford, and Juliette Lewis to breathe life into role of talented “real life guy” Nick De Noia in the shockin, little known story of the iconic male strip club in Hulu’s Welcome to Chippendales.

“It’s a really fascinating story about excess, about this kind of American dream and how it can go off the rails when it’s becomes about the sort of dark side of capitalism and people get obsessed with fame and money. A lot of the characters in the show, but particularly Steven (Nanjiani) and Nick (Bartlett), just have this unbridled ambition. No matter how much they’ve got, it was never enough. They wanted to one up each other. It’s very relevant where our world is burning and when are we going to wake up? With the landscape of billionaires and all of that, it’s a very relevant story to what we’re seeing and what we’re living now,” explained Bartlett. “It’s also a really interesting, different immigrant story of Steve Banerjee of he comes with this incredible dream, but it’s also comes with a lot of baggage of what he’s come from, and the pressures that are put on him to make something of himself and the personal insecurities and stuff he’s dealing with – and what happens if you do get caught up in the darker side of the American dream or the capitalist terrain.”

Courtesy of HBO

The other role that connected with audience leaving us in tears while opening hearts and minds as Frank opposite of Nick Offerman‘s Bill in episode 3 of The Last of Us. One of the most talked about performances and episodes of television this year. Bartlett explained why he felt audiences connected with the episode.

“Suddenly you’re in the middle of this apocalyptic, post apocalyptic world. Suddenly, you’re in this whole other story that takes a complete left turn, and it’s a whole episode – which sort of feels like its own thing. It kind of is its own story, and you haven’t got time to judge it or time to prepare. So you’re just disarmed. I think that was super clever in the writing, especially for some people who may have judgments or issues around queer relationships or whatever. It didn’t give you time to like gather your defenses. It’s just like, ‘Here you are!’ The characters are not stereotypes, they’re very sort of real authentic characters having a very real authentic relationship. There’s a gazillion things that are thrown at you, but I think it’s a combination. We were incredibly emotional making it and and loved it so much. I think we probably connected with reasons that other people did watching it, perhaps.”

Watch my full interview with Murray Bartlett (below) and check out his work on both Welcome to Chippendales (Hulu) and The Last of Us (HBO / Max).


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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