Actor Alex Sharp
Actor Alex Sharp is a rising star who’s already won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as Christopher Boone in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” just two years out of Juilliard. His first foray into film are roles alongside Nicole Kidman in “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” and “To the Bone” with Keanu Reeves, both will be released next year. He’s long been an avid fan of the brand, and when he and Billy finally met in person in May of last year, the two clicked instantly. Alex attended the 2016 CFDA Awards with Billy and joined us for Shindig No. 8 a couple of weeks ago.
The Journal spoke with Alex post-Shindig in a brief phone interview to get his take on the multi-cultural event, how he got started as an actor and how he prepares for a new role.
You just attended Shindig No. 8 in Florence, Alabama. What were the highlights for you? Did it meet your expectations?
It exceeded my expectations, and in surprising ways. I’m a huge fan of Billy’s clothes and I was expecting incredible fashion, as you can always expect from Billy, but in addition to that, the amount of artists,different genres of art that he brought in - visual artists, other designers, writers, photographers, incredible chefs, incredible musicians, new music I’ve never been exposed to - was absolutely incredible. It was a cultural explosion.
You’ve worn Billy Reid on countless red carpets and for press interviews. Do you wear BR everyday? How does the brand fit your off-carpet life?
I’m wearing Billy Reid right now! He’s my favorite designer. You can tell in his clothes, they’re very real, very durable...Some high-end designers make really amazing clothes but I’m worried to wear them because I’ll probably spill ketchup on them. Billy Reid’s clothes are super real but also incredibly beautiful, so I wear them all the time.
You and Billy met last year at an event in our West Village shop, and have since become friends. How did you get to know Billy?
Billy and Anna Wintour threw me a party in one of Billy’s stores when I got nominated for a Tony, and actually that was the first time we met, at a party that he was throwing me, which was bizarre. I went up to him and I was like, nice to meet you, thank you for throwing this party for me before you knew me. I think Megan Maguire Steele [our PR guru] and Anna are both women with incredible taste and also an eye for people who will connect. They’re very good at connecting people and they’re both dear friends of mine and of Billy and big supporters. They knew that we’d get on and they were right. Within five minutes we were in fits of hysterical laughter. We were on the same wavelength.
How did you discover you liked acting?
When I was seven I played the very emotionally complicated role of Piglet in Winnie The Pooh, a very damaged little pig who’s been through a lot. I set my trajectory on investigating different personas and I’ve been addicted ever since.
You won a Tony Award in 2015 for your Broadway performance as 15-year old autistic Christopher Boone in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” an incredibly challenging role to play. How has that experience informed the way you approach new roles?
I’m not sure it did really. I guess I think of every part that I play as a real person and when you deal with or meet people in real life, you interact differently depending on their personality. I prepare for every role differently. So every time I work on a character I do it a different way.
What was the most helpful thing for you to do to prepare for that role?
The autism spectrum is a spectrum and we’re all on it and it depends where you land on it, so finding the qualities he had within myself and exaggerating them, and also reading auto-biographies of people on the spectrum. It was more helpful than meeting people on the spectrum in the early stages because when I did that I felt like I was mimicking their behavior, whereas when I read the autobiography I was getting to know the inner dialogue of their experience on the spectrum. So, working from the inside out through myself and through autobiographies.
Any particular biographies that stood out for you?
“The Reason I Jump,” which honestly is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and also “Look Me in the Eye” by John Elder Robison.
You have two films coming out in 2017, "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" with Nicole Kidman and "To The Bone" with Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves, both of which we eagerly await. What has been the greatest challenge moving from Broadway to film?
When I was on the set of “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” I’d never been on a film set before or acted in front of a camera, so that was quite challenging. I didn’t know what the f--- I was doing. But you learn, just like I did on “Curious.” There was so much to take on at once, and there’s a huge amount of pressure, you just get it done. You have to work it out or you’re gonna suck and obviously that’s a less preferable choice. On “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” I watched Elle Fanning who was 17 at the time but has done so many movies it’s insane, so I was watching how she works and learning, and same with Nicole and Keanu. I happened to be on set with seasoned, amazing professionals so I was just absorbing it and following my gut instincts as well. It was quite daunting, I have to say.
Do you prefer one over the other, or are they so different they both have their pluses?
They’re very different. I miss the liveness of theater, on Broadway, having a thousand people there letting you know how you’re doing moment by moment, and how exhilarating that is and the pressure of that higher adrenaline. But with a film it’s more of an internal process and I enjoy that as well. Ultimately I’d like to do both in a balanced way.