by Jaimie Beach
photography by Rayon Richards
Steven Pasquale is the kind of guy who hits it home every time. A refreshingly genuine, family oriented, yoga practicing actor who appreciates the gems of our musical pasts, Steve is originally a small town Pennsylvania boy, who just made his New Yorker status official, celebrating his 10th anniversary in the city. He is most well known for his work on Broadway, as well as his role as Sean Garrity in the critically acclaimed FX hit series Rescue Me. When I finally get to talk to him after a long day of rehearsals, he tells me that he has been shopping the beginning process of a new musical called Sycamore Tree by Ricky Ian Gordon and Tina Landau. And he still has an amazing abundance of energy!
Moving right on from new work into political viewpoints, Steven and I discuss life after the election. As it turns out, he’s a huge Obama supporter. “He’s one of the most intelligent and pragmatic leaders we’ve ever had, so he completely and fully has my trust. I think people criticize him for maybe not coming down severely on one side or the other on specific issues, but it is because he is so brilliant. He knows he cannot alienate people, and that in order to get anything done people have got to have a common ground.” As a registered independent, he believes our country divides itself too dramatically, an inherent problem of our political system. “People get pulled left to right, when clearly the balance is what is right.” I think most of us can concur with that.
When Steven is not in production or discussing the political status of our nation, he can be found working with his wife, actress and TONY winner Laura Benanti, for the organization ASTEP: Artists Striving to End Poverty in India and Africa. Internationally, Steven says it’s hard not to be concerned with the Middle East right now. “I think that the election was stolen in Iran. I think the people are going to rise up and I think it’s going to be a very complicated issue for a long time. That never bodes well for us, and is another reason to get off oil.” While that region deals with its own issues across the globe, Steven comes to the conclusion that we need to find a way for our own sustainability. As he delves into the importance of peace and the balance of power worldwide, he explains to me that while he does not practice a particular religion, he considers himself a very spiritual person. He regards organized religion as one of the greatest sources of disagreement in the world, but admits that perhaps the principles of Buddhism best encompass the most important, basic, kindergarten-esque natural fundamentals on which the human race should focus.
As we discuss the importance of American independence, beginning with eliminating our oil dependence, Steven tells me how eco-friendly he is, and how his wife Laura is very passionate and has really inspired him to lead a ‘green’ life, as they will be investing in a planet-friendly hybrid. He surmises that his family strives to push the envelope by living an eco-friendly life. They also work to find a balance of family life, work, and the occasional hobbies of therapeutic yoga and making sure to work up a sweat at least once a day. A true family man, Steven has a 12 year-old daughter, Maddy. He and Laura have been talking about children and even the possibility of eventually leaving the city for a life in the country. They already have a home in New Jersey that they use as an occasional escape from their hectic lives of eight shows a week, TV schedules, album making, workshops, and writing. Steven caught the drama bug in high school and hasn’t looked back since. Originally a musical man, he realized his flexibility as an actor once he gained more confidence and has broadened his on-screen career with Rescue Me.
As for his many musical talents, Steven has just released a new CD called Somethin’ Like Love, a jazz record that embraces a different era. The album explores songs from a time when song writing was magic, something it seems we lack in our modern day society. He lets me in on the secret and inspiration behind the project. “I’m a big fan of that sort of WWII generation music, and I haven’t been a fan of pop culture music in a long time. I come from the theatre, so the Great American Musical has influenced me in a large way. I’ve always been a fan of George Gershwin, Richard Rogers, Cole Porter. The sort of lexicon of the American Songbook is my favorite musical genre, so it was kind of a no-brainer to do this kind of record.” Admitting his wife’s musical genius (she’s a Broadway star as well), Steven says it is inevitable that they will eventually record a duet album. In the meantime, his on-stage dream roles include Billy Bigalow in Carousel, Sweeney Todd, or perhaps a Brigadoon revival that would allow him and Laura to bring to life the fantasy of playing opposing love interests, Tommy and Fiona.
Steven and I digress into what has changed in pop and jazz music today, and contemplate the different effect show tunes have on society today, as opposed to earlier in the 20th century, when they were classified as mainstream music. “The popular songs of the day in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and even the 50s, were songs from the theatre. Broadway musicals and pop music were one and the same. That’s why Broadway stars were the biggest stars in the world. Now we’re completely separate. It would be laughable to put a Broadway tune on a pop radio station. You can be the most successful Broadway actor in a decade and nobody outside of New York City may know your name. It’s a completely different time. That’s why I love that time period and that music. They come from the great song writers who wrote some of our greatest musicals.” As an appreciative fan from a society where classic revivals from great modern actors and singers are sorely needed, I say thank you, Mr. Pasquale, for bringing the magic back to the music.