As star of the new cult musical Reefer Madness,
Christian Campbell has chosen to take a different path than some of his
peers out in Young Hollywood. After all, how many other up-and-coming
actors would devote three years of their lives cultivating an intentionally
campy theater piece about "young lovers and reefer sluts" when
they could instead be cashing in on the rewards of TV and films? Campbell,
it turns out, is different. Both he and younger sister Neve (Party
of Five, Scream 1-3) were onstage at a young age, as performing members
of a very theatrical Canadian family. Now after success in the gay indie
flick Trick and a good number of TV credits, the off-Broadway transfer
of Reefer has brought Campbell to the New York stage, where he
is playing young, wholesome Jimmy Harper, who watches his life fall apart
in the span of 24 hours when he falls victim to the dangers of marijuana.
How did you get involved with this
Well, they were looking for someone who looked all-American and young
and they found out about me. They asked me if I could sing and I said
that I sort of could. I had never sung before. And that was three years
Wow. I didnt realize youve
been involved with this for so long.
Yeah, it was a drawn-out rehearsal process when the show first started
in Los Angeles. And we were working for free for the entire time back
there. We had our day jobs or TV series or whatever and then at night,
wed go to rehearsal. That took about six months.
You didnt get paid during the
whole L.A. run of the show?
Oh no. We did it for free. Well actually, for five bucks. Thats
the Equity minimum. We did it because we were committed to it. We stuck
with it and did it for a year and a half.
But youre getting paid now that
I guess you could say that. But it costs me more money to live here.
How has the show changed for New York?
The set definitely is different and there are new cast membersfive
of us came from L.A. There have also been major changes to the second
act. The enigma of any production is always the second act. We were constantly
tweaking it in L.A. Were recording the New York cast album soon.
The L.A. album has songs that have already been taken out. Youll
have to own both if you really wanna be a Reefer freak.
You really hadnt sung before
Not really. I was really nervous. I wasnt really committed to singing
before the show. I did as much as I had to in school, but thats
about it. I gave up on it years and years ago.
Ever been to a real reefer den?
No. Unless you consider Amsterdam. That whole citys a reefer den!
That reefer orgy scene is pretty wild.
Any nerves in rehearsals the first time everyone had to strip down to
their body stockings?
Not for me. Not anymore. We warned the New Yorkers that the first time
you do it, you just look at each other and laugh. We all just look like
shapeless forms. You kind of feel like youre in a Dr. Seuss book.
Then everyone laughs and you no longer feel weird. Theres nothing
sexy about those costumes. Its a great way to learn humility.
Speaking of Seuss, Michelle Pawk from
Seussical has joined the New York cast. I dont know how you
can keep a straight face onstage with Michelle and some of the other reefer
You just learn how. What you do is get it all out during rehearsal. Onstage,
I just set my jaw whenever I know theres going to be laughter.
The style of the show is so specific.
Youre really parodying a long-gone, over-the-top acting style. Did
you watch old movies to research?
Heres what Ive doneeverything I learned in school I
have thrown out. I basically am trying to be the worst actor I can possibly
be. Thats my goal every night. It comes very easy to me, actually!
Its a perfect marriage of actor and role. I keep reiterating to
the New Yorkers in the show: theres no such thing as motivation
in this show. Or intention. Or subtext. Theres no subtext in Reefer
Madness! You wear it on your sleeve.
You got your start acting as a kid
growing up in Canada
Yes, I did a lot of stuff back then. My whole family is in it. I was always
around the stage. My dad would always throw me into whichever production
he was directing. The first role I ever did was Nick in A Thousand
That was at your moms dinner
Yeah, she ran a dinner theater after my parents were divorced. My dad
was a theater teacher and was always directing community theater or high
school productions. He was also very interested in the Scottish style
of pantos, so I would do that on a seasonal basis. It was my introduction
to theater. But he would always use either me or my sister when he needed
kids in his high school productions. We were doing them when we were still
Do others in L.A. wonder why youre
bothering to work for little or nothing in theater? It seems to go against
the norm for Hollywood.
It does go against the Hollywood norm, but I just ignore whatever anyone
says. I wouldnt have done Trick if I had listened to anyone.
I just do whatever feeds me. Ive been running a successful theater
in L.A. for about six years. It keeps me sane. Working in TV and movies
bores the shit out of me. You sit on your ass 75 percent of the time waiting
for the cameras. Theater is more proactive and hands-on. Sure, Im
proud of Trick, but the process of doing it
Eck. It makes
me want to throw up.
Arent you trying to get a New
York version of your theater group, Blue Sphere, started?
We did Trust last year at Raw Space Theater, which ran for six
weeks. Again, making no money at all. But I was shooting the [Darren Starr]
series The $treet then. It was a great show and I really enjoyed
the writing, but it still bored me. I would race to the theater
For your own sanity?
Well, it made me feel like I was earning a living. When I do TV and earn
globs of money for doing nothing, it makes me feel guilty. I throw myself
into other things to make up for it.
Are you planning on moving permanently
to New York now?
I hope so, if I can afford it! Its stupid to stay here and be unemployed.
When the show ends, I may have to get the hell out of here! How do New
Yorkers retire? I guess they never do. They work until they die. I hate
L.A., but I have to live there because its cheap. Its one
of those rough situations. But yeah, Id love to live in New York.
New Yorkers all seem to manage. I am learning some tricks to living frugallyits
really all about the East Village, isnt it? Thats where you
can still get a $5 meal.
Speaking of Trick, do you think
that movie made you a gay sex symbol?
Yup. I am a gay sex symbol, which is really ironic because theres
nothing sexy about me.
Right, its funny. Its a negative negative.
Youre married now.
Yes, to Erin Matthews, who plays reefer slut Sally in the show. Shes
my beard. Thats what the gay community says"Oh yeah,
sure youre married."
So you met doing the show?
Yeah, we started dating two years ago, a few weeks after the show opened
in L.A. Were a perfect reefer match.