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Dr. Dolittle star Billy Vargus on his role, new book, and more!


Billy Vargus has done it all. The Emmy-Award Winning broadcaster has now ventured into acting for the second time in 2012, appearing as the title character in Dr. Dolittle. Billy V is also a first-time author, having recently released “A Snowball’s Chance: Philly Fires Back Against the National Media,” with the other sports writers of Philly2Philly.com  
P2P recently sat down with Billy V to discuss Dr. Dolittle, his new vegetarian diet, flying using a harness, and more!  


Philly2Philly: This is your second appearance this year at the Media Theatre, having acted with your wife (Fox 29’s Sue Serio) in ‘Love Letters’ this past winter. Did (Media Theatre mainstay) Jesse Cline approach you to participate in Dr. Dolittle?

Billy Vargus: Yes, he was impressed enough with the Love Letters performance to ask me to take on the role of Dolittle.  

P2P: Not only is this your first leading role where you take complete center stage, it also happens to be a musical. No pressure, right?
Dr. Dolittle!
BV: When Jesse asked me to do it, he wasn't sure whether I was any good as a singer, but he figured that if I wasn't, I could talk my way through the songs like Rex Harrison did in the movie back in the 1960's.

But I wanted to sing, and I got myself a vocal coach and started working on the songs. But I also had to learn a lot about theatre and presenting yourself on stage because we didn't move around in Love Letters, and my background in doing acting on camera is a lot different than theatre.

P2P: At times, Dr. Dolittle flies around with the help a harness. I would imagine that’s not the most comfortable feeling trying to get used to this?

BV: I get lifted up and then descend onto the stage, so it's not like I'm flying all over the place. But, yeah, it can be kind of uncomfortable because that harness cuts into your skin a little bit. But no more painful than when Emma, my love-hate relationship, slaps me in the face. Lauren Cupples, who plays Emma, is an excellent singer and actress, but she also packs a punch for one so small and dainty!

P2P: You, like the character you play, also became a vegetarian. How hard was that to do over Thanksgiving?

BV: I think that the mind is an amazingly powerful instrument, and when you make up your mind to do something, you just do it.  At the same time, I was definitely tempted to eat some turkey, but that's exactly what I wanted--to experience the temptation to eat meat and have to resist.  Since then, it's become easy.  

P2P: Does the live aspect of a play compare with that of live television? After all, you’re basically performing “without a net” on both fronts.

BV: It's different, because with theatre you can hear the audience laugh (hopefully), or clap, or whatever.  (Or groan, because when we have young student groups come for matinees they always groan when I kiss Lauren.) On TV, you really don't get that immediate reaction, although occasionally I would say something funny enough to get the studio crew to laugh.  (Okay, it was very rare, but it did happen once every blue moon.)

P2P: Compare the preparation for this character as opposed to your role of Andrew in Love Letters.

BV: With Andy in Love Letters, the play starts with him as a second-grader and follows his whole life, so you don't have to create as much of a "backstory" in your mind when you're trying to decide who your character is and what motivates them.  The script for Dolittle doesn't tell us about his background, why he has so much trouble relating to humans, and so those are things you create in your own mind to help you understand his motivation.  

P2P: What has been the most rewarding aspect of playing Dr. Dolittle so far? Has there been anything challenging?

BV: As a sports anchor, I'm always talking about other people's performances.  This is my chance to be center stage and put my own talents on display. The chance to do that,  and the compliments from the audiences have been the most rewarding part of it.

P2P: You don’t find yourself talking to animals away from your role do you?.......

BV: Oh, yes, but I always have.  That's why it seemed like some sort of destiny that Jesse Cline picked me for this role. He didn't know it, but I truly am an animal lover.  My dog's name is Rufus, and it just so happens there's a dog named Rufus in Dr. Dolittle. It's perfect.

P2P: Hey don’t you have a book out too?................

BV: Yes: "A Snowball's Chance:"  A much-needed book because it's about time someone stood up for Philly fans with a book responding to all the misperceptions of the national media.  The title refers to the incident that happened 45 years ago at Franklin Field, and it was misunderstood then, and the misrepresentation of Philadelphia continues to this day.  We talk about many other misperceptions, too.   We ask, "Why, if Philly is so bad, do so many former athletes stay when their careers are over?" And we interview a lot of those former players to answer that.

P2P: Where can people go to see you in Dr. Dolittle?

BV: The Media Theatre, in Media, PA. (mediatheatre.org,  610-891-0100) Now through January 6th.  

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