Every good group needs at least one punk, and Michael Esper is ours. Starring in Green Day’s Tony-nominated rock musical, American Idiot, Michael effortlessly meshes New York downtown with the Bay Area hardcore from which that group emerged. But the smash hit musical is just the most recent in a long list of Michael’s theater credits, which have included Lincoln Center for A.R. Gurney’s Big Bill, Manhattan Theater Club’s The Four of Us and A Long Day’s Journey into Night in Dublin. Most parents roll their eyes when their kids start rocking blue hair, Michael’s must be beaming; they run the William Esper Studio acting school (whose alumni include Larry David, Aaron Eckhart, Kristin Davis, Jeff Goldblum, and Timothy Olyphant).
How would you describe the way you dress?
Right now my hair is black and blue, so I’m wearing a lot of black. And blue. I mean, some blue. But mostly black.
Who are your style icons?
I love David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Joe Strummer, Paul Weller. But I don’t dress like them, I just think they’re amazing. Also, because of working on the show with Green Day and building that world with them, their stylistic sensibility has become pretty influential.
Most memorable/bizarre audition outfit?
I think I’ve blocked out most of these memories. I have a vague recollection of dressing up like a cowboy for something? But that may just be from my childhood.
Worst costume piece you’ve ever had to wear?
Hats can be complicated, especially period hats, even when they’re amazing. It’s always a conversation, and sometimes an argument, between me and the hat, about what’s what, who’s wearing who, like that. You really have to take charge. Period hats can be very passive aggressive.
What items won’t you take off this summer?
My black jeans. I can’t wear shorts. I don’t care how hot it gets.
Favorite store no one has heard of:
Permanent Records is a record store In Greenpoint, Brooklyn and one of my favorite places on earth. There’s also this place called Old Hollywood in Greenpoint that’s got great vintage stuff.
I wear fake ones for the show, a red cardinal and 1977 across my wrist. I want some real ones bad, but the idea of having something irremovable on my body is problematic for me acting-wise. But I may get one soon.
Diapers. But like, hot diapers.
What are you working on now?
Green Day’s American Idiot on Broadway at the St. James theater.