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Colin Hanks on 33 Variations, The Great Buck Howard, and Playing His Father’s Son

There was a time last fall it seemed like Colin Hanks was everywhere. In the span of a few months, he’d appeared in Mad Men, The House Bunny, and W. So we were excited, if not exactly surprised, to hear that he would make his Broadway debut this spring in 33 Variations, co-starring Jane Fonda. The Moisés Kaufman play, which interweaves scenes of Beethoven with a modern-day musicologist, opens tonight, and Hanks’s Sundance film, The Great Buck Howard, hits theaters this month. Vulture caught up with the 31-year-old actor to chat about his latest projects, fish for info on Mad Men, and discuss the never-ending questions about his dad.

Did you know anything about classical music before 33 Variations?
No! To be honest, I knew nothing about classical music prior to this. And in fact, reading the script was like trying to read a script that’s written in Greek. A lot of people that have seen the play really feel like they come away learning something that they knew nothing about. It’s very rare that that happens and you don’t feel like you’ve been preached to a little bit.

I read that you credited Mad Men with starting a new chapter in your career.
Matt Weiner was really the one that noticed that, and it’s hard to disagree with someone as smart at Matt Weiner. But I think he’s really right. A lot of times in roles, it’s like, “Oh God I really want this girl to pay attention to me.” And that is not really what I was doing — everyone assumed that’s what Father Gill was doing, but he was really fighting for something much, much more than that, which was her soul.

Are you on next season?
I’m not sure. They play their cards very close to the chest there at the Mad Men television program. If Matt comes up with something, that’s fantastic, I’d be happy to do it, and if not, I can still walk away feeling like it was a complete story.

Your dad plays your dad in Buck Howard. Is this the first time you’ve worked together?
Yeah, it was never my intention to do. In fact, the whole way that it transpired is really sort of weird. I showed it to Playtone [Tom Hanks’s production company] under very specific guidelines, like “Hey, tell me what you think. And if you could point us in the direction of someone who might want to make this movie, please let us know.” And they ended up liking it so much that he then said, “And I want to be in it. I want to play your dad.” And I was at first very uncomfortable by the concept of it. But at the end of the day, I’m not stupid, so if someone like him wants to be in your movie, that’s a good sign. And now looking back, I’m actually very glad we did it.

Did it make you nervous to do a scene with him?
No, I was totally fine with it, and then people just kept going, “Oh my God, are you nervous? Oh, are you nervous? Oh my God, I would be so nervous.” And like everything that involves him, other people made it such a big deal that then I just had to go, “Oh God, will you please just shut up? You’re driving me crazy about this thing that should not be driving me crazy.”

Did you ever have any hesitation about going into acting? Like “Oh, he’s going into the family business”?
I mean, look, I knew that this was going to be something that was constantly going to be brought up all the way up until they write my obituary. So really the question was then, “Well, I better really want to do this.” ’Cause if it’s not something that I really love and I constantly have to deal with that, that’s going to be like living your life in purgatory. People are so fascinated in an aspect that I really am not that interested in. And also, they only seem to look at my dad in the last ten years, and they don’t realize that I was also 1 year old and going with him to the bank to cash his unemployment checks. Every now and again, you deal with someone, in which you just go, “I can’t believe ten years in, I’m still dealing with these kinds of questions.”

Sorry I just did the same thing.
No, no, no! No, believe me, you did it much better than the way some people have done it. The truth of it is it’s a much bigger deal to other people, and so it’s kind of hard to come up with an answer that people want. But then again, I knew this was going to be something that was going to come up, so you just gotta take it with a grain of salt.

Colin Hanks on 33 Variations, The Great Buck Howard, and Playing His Father’s Son