The extended career of Peter Gallagher


He has been Claude, the guy who went to a military training to fight in the Vietnam war on “Hair”; Danny Zucko, the cool guy on “Grease”; Sandy Cohen, the caring father on “The OC” and Arthur Campbell, the Director of Clandestine Services for The CIA on “Covert Affairs”, among others.

All these characters belong to Peter Gallagher, the actor who has done television, musicals and movies.  He also loves singing and, nowadays, besides the TV show “Cover Affairs”, he is performing his one-man show called “How’d All You People Get In My Room”, in which he sings songs and tells stories about his acting experience.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Peter remembered his path in his acting career; he spoke about music and his show with a lot of passion.

How did you start acting?

Started doing musicals in high school, continued doing plays and musicals in college at Tufts University and also worked with The Boston Shakespeare Co. for several seasons but never believed that becoming an actor would be possible.  The summer after my junior year, I continued taking economics courses and didn’t do any theatre at all. It was terrible. That’s when I decided that no matter how impossible it might be to become an actor, it was the only thing that mattered to me.

How was it like starting your career on Broadway making “Hair” and “Grease”?

Because of those summer college courses, I was able to graduate early and moved to NYC where I knew no one and nothing about show business. So I started going to “Open Calls” which are auditions for Broadway shows and touring companies open to everyone. By 7am you’d already be number 2000 something and you would get on the end of a blocks-long line to wait till 10am when the auditions would start and then you’d inch forward for the next 6 hours to get your chance to sing 8 bars of a song for the casting director. That’s how I got my first two professional jobs. First in the 1977 revival of HAIR on Broadway and then as Danny Zuko in the Original Broadway Production of GREASE.

“The Oc” was one of the most important TV shows you’ve been part of, what can you tell us about that opportunity?

As soon as I read the pilot script for The OC, I thought it was very special. For me it was a perfect story for a post 9/11 America. Sandy and Kirsten were from very different backgrounds and they were living in a community that sometimes treated them as outsiders but they continued to love each other, their kids, be themselves in spite of the pressure to conform and they even opened their arms and home to another outsider (Ryan) at a time when it was easy to be suspicious of those who were different. Later, I learned that The OC was a teen soap opera – which was fine too!

Which memories do you keep from “The Oc”?

Our first press trip out as a cast to Sharkey’s, a bar (?) in Huntington Beach, after the show had debuted where we discovered how much people were enjoying it. Singing Don’t Give Up On Me. Almost everyday, I’m in touch with someone – like you! – that loves The OC. That’s special.

What can you tell us about your character in “Covert Affairs”?

I play Arthur Campbell, Director of Clandestine Services for The CIA. Arthur was a US Navy F-18 pilot – one of The Hornets. Arthur worked for years as a covert operative as well before becoming overt and The DCS. A lot of exciting things happening for Arthur and Joan this season!

What does music means in your life?

Music has always meant a lot to me and I think it’s more important to me now than ever.  I think it’s the most powerful way to tell a story.

Are you doing some shows? What kind of music do you sing?

In addition to playing Arthur Campbell on Covert Affairs I also do a one-man show called “How’d All You People Get In My Room?”.  It’s made up of songs and stories of my life as a young actor and of my experiences working with James Cagney, Peter O’Toole, Jack Lemmon and others. The songs are from Broadway shows I’ve done, a few from “7 Days In Memphis” a record I did for Epic and other songs that are appropriate for the stories.

Do you sing with your daughter or would you like to do it?

My daughter, Kathryn, is a very talented singer and songwriter and I love being on stage with her – we sometimes do a duet in my show and then she’ll sing one of her original songs – one of which will be featured this year in movie with Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo called “Thanks For Sharing.” My son, James, is a writer and director and directed my show in Chicago a few years ago and has been working professionally since.

We’ve done the show in NY, LA, Chicago, Florida, San Francisco.

You’ve done movies, television, stage, singing, in which area do you feel more comfortable? Why?

I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to continue to work in film, TV and theatre. Being able to go back and forth has been good for my career and my soul. There’s nothing like performing for a live audience and I love working on camera and being able to capture moments that work. I think I love making something new with a talented bunch of others for the enjoyment of a room full of strangers. If a story works, for a moment, none of us are strangers any more.

Which projects do you have for this year?

This year I’ll be busy with Covert Affairs from March through October after that I’ll be doing my live show in Palm Springs, CA, Costa Mesa, CA and a few other places. I hope to be doing a few other tv shows and movies too. After all these years I still love what I do and feel very lucky to get to do it!

Samantha Schuster