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10 Quick Questions for Billy Crudup

Award-winning actor wants to sell us the moon

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Aaron Richter/Contour by Getty Images for Pizza Hut

Actor Billy Crudup, 54, stars alongside Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in Apple TV+’s hit The Morning Show, and he hopes to find success twice over on the streaming platform with Hello Tomorrow! In the new sci-fi dramedy, premiering Feb. 17, he plays a traveling salesman hawking lunar timeshares.

Since you’re already filming The Morning Show, did it give you pause to take on another series?

Because it was with Apple TV+ as well, my representative felt confident that they could make the schedules work. So I said, “OK, send the script.” Of course, in my head, I’m thinking, Well, can you do both, Billy? Can you manage? Once I read the first half-page of Hello Tomorrow! I was like, Well, I better figure out how to do both because this is another piece of phenomenal material, and you do not look a gift horse in the mouth. This is like somebody giving you a chance to do [Death of a Salesman character] Willy Loman, and in the most extraordinary new original kind of setting. And that is an absolute dream for an actor. 

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Hello Tomorrow! has this unmoored feeling — viewers are not sure if it’s the past, the present or the future. Sometimes, it feels like all three at once.

Precisely. The question is: Has there ever been a new kind of American experience? Or is the past always going to be the future? ... So to that end, the notion that we don’t know where we are [in time] serves the story. It’s a great place to put an audience in so far as getting them on your side. They have to stick with you in the absence of anything else.

Your character is selling lunar timeshares. Do you have any real-life sales experience besides, of course, selling yourself as an actor?

There’s no doubt acting is mostly salesmanship, but truthfully, we’ve gamed the system. We’ve made you come to us as actors as opposed to going door to door to see a show. I can remember in college, we were just passing out pamphlets about a sales conference, [but] there was a salesmanship in getting someone to hold onto the pamphlet to meet your quota. I was part of a young business club when I was a freshman in high school, and the whole course was about agreeing on a product with your team, developing a product that you could make, then selling the product. We sold Lazy Susans. It was tough. 

With “regular people” now doing some space travel, would you be interested in buying a lunar timeshare and visiting the moon?

I’m an astronomy buff. I like pop science and reading pop science magazines. The stars are something I really enjoy thinking about and learning about, and still, until such a time as space seems like it’s for everybody, I don’t think I’ll be going up there. The exploration still seems to be in its infancy.

spinner image billy crudup standing next to sign that says brightside lunar residences
Crudup plays salesman Jack Billings in Apple TV+'s “Hello Tomorrow!”
Apple TV+

The show also features several futuristic inventions. What technology are you eager to see come to fruition?

It’s interesting [because] this show made me probably less interested in commodities than anything before. The hunt for the single product that’s going to make your life a little better seems exhausting to me. So, at the moment, the thing I’m most interested in is the present. That’s no easy thing to wrangle, either. I guess any product that would make me more in my own shoes from day to day, I think, would be the one I’d be looking for.

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You won a Tony Award for The Coast of Utopia. Which Broadway shows inspired you?

There’s no question that Fences made a major impact on me. I got to see James Earl Jones and Courtney Vance in Fences in the ’80s. I just don’t think I had ever seen a proper tragedy live, and the experience of going through these characters’ problems in real time with such formidable actors was life-altering. I didn’t know one could be impacted in that way by live theater. Subsequent to that, I’ve gotten to know Courtney a little bit, and it’s a great honor to share the same profession as somebody like him. [Theater] was really a gift from my mom. She was the one who kept us going to the theater her entire life. I saw Brighton Beach Memoirs early on as well, and I can remember being deeply entertained by that.

You also won an Emmy for The Morning Show. Are the Tony and  Emmy resting happily together somewhere?

I’m in a two-bedroom in New York, and the communal space — the living room — is also the office. My son’s [William Atticus Parker, 19, whose mother is actress Mary-Louise Parker] in college now, but when he wasn’t in college, it was hard to find the exact right combination of things: What’s the office and what’s the living room? Needless to say, finding a spot for those prizes was definitely a priority, and it was not easy. Consequently, the Tony is up on a bookshelf, and the Emmy, which is a little more ostentatious —  it’s hard to be subtle with the Emmy — is situated discreetly in my bedroom closet at the moment. If I’m able to find an office that is not a shared space, I’m sure I’ll bring that out.

You’re also a golfer. How’s your game?

I used to be good. It turns out that your capability in golf is tied very closely to how much free time you have. I’ve been through many phases in my career where I have quite a bit of free time, and consequently, I get better at golf. Then there are periods of time like right now, where I’m miraculously working and consequently have very little time for golf. So my golf game stinks right now, unfortunately, but that’s a good time for my career.

You continue to work with amazing actors. Is there someone still on your wish list to work with?

I would love to work with Meryl Streep, but who wouldn’t? If that’s not the first thing you say as an actor, then I don’t understand what you’re after.

In a previous interview, you said that your 50s would be your time to shine. Are you finding that to be true?

Shockingly, yes. The experiences that I’ve been able to have in the time in my 50s have been amongst the greatest and most challenging and thrilling of my career. So that’s incredible. It’s the only way I can think of to describe it. I may have said that tongue-in-cheek before, but as it turns out, it’s actually been the case. That has been just a remarkable discovery for me.

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