You may've noticed that every crime drama on TV these days needs at least one tech geek -- and on "NCIS: Los Angeles," it's Barrett Foa. But this summer, Foa is tackling a very different role. Being Barbra Streisand. Well ... not being Babs, but talking about her. A lot.
Foa recently jumped into the hit Off-Broadway comedy, "Buyer & Cellar," by Jonathan Tolins. The one-man show started Off-Off Broadway last year, earned raves, moved to the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village (where it's enjoying an open-ended run) and just won a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show. Foa stars in it through late July.
He plays Alex, a struggling actor who lands a job working in a shopping mall that Streisand created in her basement to house all her stuff. (The mall is real, by the way. You can see it in Streisand's book, "My Passion for Design," which details the building of her Malibu estate, and which inspired the play.)
Foa, 36, a Manhattan native, starred in "Avenue Q" before playing nerdy Eric on "NCIS: L.A." He spoke recently with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio backstage before a rehearsal.
I've a confession.
I have a friend who works on "NCIS: Los Angeles," and I visited the set. You weren't there, but I sat in your chair -- briefly!
Pretty comfortable, huh? Linda Hunt gave us these like super-lush, comfy chairs.
Not bad. Now to the tough question -- how do you memorize all these lines?
It's a 100-minute monologue. It's scary, but it was kinda like I had to do it. That's how you grow, Barrett. It's really just repetition, getting it in your bones. Even if your brain doesn't know the next line, if you breathe and put air against your vocal chords, somehow they know. But it's tough -- you can't look to another actor for a line or the conductor to find the tempo. It's just me.
Hey, here's Streisand's book -- "My Passion for Design." I assume you've read it.
Cover to cover. Let me show you some things. ... Here are the shops in her basement ... there's Bee's Doll Shop, and Fifi, the doll who blows bubbles ... there's the frozen yogurt machine, the popcorn maker ... the dress she wore when she sang "People."
Your character early on says, "I don't 'do' Barbra."
It's a great device -- to say, "I'm not good at this." It takes the expectation of a perfect Barbra impression off the actor. I'm just telling a story about her. It's like when you imitate something your mom says -- you don't have to be her. Sometimes, it's just the cock of a head. Or ... ... just a little the way she tawks. Or the finguh-nails, the gestyuhs.
I guess you've been watching a lot of her on YouTube.
It's great. I can be like: this is research -- I need to watch "What's Up, Doc?" Which -- by the way -- I just saw, and it really holds up.
But your role here is not like being a female impersonator, or in drag, like Charles Busch. You performed with him at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor a few years ago.
That was so much fun. The Hamptons, in August. Paul McCartney and Renée Zellweger -- who were canoodling that summer -- came to see the show. They came backstage, and we got to say hi. It was unreal.
Did you hit the beach after rehearsals?
Yeah, and biked around Shelter Island. Unbelievable.
Regarding "NCIS" -- what do fans ask you most?
Are you as much of a tech nerd as your character?
My answer is, "I own an iPhone." Y'know, my character hacks into government agencies many times a day. So ... He chuckles.]
You're not quite that good?
I'm getting there.
Who are you most likely to hang out with at the commissary?
Renée Felice Smith. We have a lot of scenes together. Plus, she's from the theater world in New York, went to NYU. We're super-tight.
Who intimidated you the most, at first?
LL Cool J. he's just so physically ...
He's like a brick wall. But when he walks into a room, he makes everyone feel comfortable. He's so charming, engaging. But it's like ... wow, I listened to your rap music in high school. Then, there's Linda Hunt, who's 4-foot-whatever and has an Oscar. That's imposing, too. But they're both great.
Anything else coming up for you?
I'll be the social media correspondent for CBS and the Tony Awards when it airs tonight. I did it last year. I'm backstage tweeting, doing videos. It's fun to be like, "Hey, I'm the social media guy, wanna take a picture with me?" And Tom Hanks says, "OK!" This is access I'm not used to.