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Steven Pasquale talks ‘The Robber Bridegroom,’ ‘American Crime Story’

Steven Pasquale.

Steven Pasquale. Credit: Steven Pasquale

Steven Pasquale is one of those rare performers who slips so easily from musical comedy to television drama you might almost think there were two of him.

There’s the Pasquale over at the Laura Pels Theatre, hootin’ and hollerin’ (and hittin’ some pretty impressive high notes) in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s honky-tonk revival of “The Robber Bridegroom,” which opened March 13 and runs through May 29. The Off-Broadway show, with a rousing score by Robert Waldman, book and lyrics by Alfred Uhry, is based on a novella by Eudora Welty, a fantasy about a thief (Pasquale) who falls for a sly backwoods gal (Ahna O’Reilly).

Then there’s the stern, stoic Pasquale co-starring with Cuba Gooding Jr., Sarah Paulson and John Travolta in the FX series “American Crime Story.” Pasquale plays Mark Fuhrman, the infamous LAPD detective and critical witness in the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania, native, 39, also starred in TV’s “Rescue Me” and “The Good Wife,” and the Broadway musical “The Bridges of Madison County.” He recently announced his engagement to Phillippa Soo, who’s now starring in the megahit “Hamilton.”

“The Robber Bridegroom,” with fiddles, mandolins and banjo, has a sound all its own.

It’s a great bluegrass score. There are moments that feel like a super toe-tapping concert. And the band — it’s so great that they’re right there onstage with us.

Are you a bluegrass fan? What’s your desert island band?

Oh, I couldn’t choose one. I’ve incredibly eclectic tastes in music. Currently, I’m a fan of Lake Street Dive and Mumford & Sons. And bluegrass. In honor of the show, I’ve been shuffling a lot of that on the ol’ iPhone.

Just to keep in the right groove?

Yeah. But I couldn’t give you an absolute favorite, even with a gun to my head.

Well, I won’t go that far. What made you sign on for this revival?

I wanted to get in a rehearsal room with [director] Alex Timbers. It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had.

He certainly has the Midas touch lately, with shows like “Peter and the Starcatcher.” How’s he different from other directors?

He’s intelligent but also kidlike in terms of what tickles his funny bone. It’s a great balance.

You certainly get a lotta laughs.

You never know when rehearsing a comedy how funny it is. You’re only doing it for your director, choreographer and stage manager. Once you’ve done it 50 million times and they’ve stopped laughing, you have completely no idea if it’s working till you get an audience. We learned in the first week or two what to go for, what to cut, what to swing wildly at. That’s the huge challenge of making a comedy. It’s very, very different when it’s finally in front of an audience.

Shifting, if we may, to “American Crime Story,” about the O.J. Simpson trial — talk about intense.

Everyone on that set was amazing, particularly Sarah Paulson, who’s a good ol’ friend of mine. It was fun to be trading blows with her in that courtroom.

I assume you’ve heard the real Mark Fuhrman isn’t happy with the series.

I know. And I couldn’t—care—less—about that. [He laughs.]

Of course, he admitted he hasn’t even watched the show.

Yeah, interesting . . . I don’t know. Those tapes are so damning. . . .

You mean the tapes of him making offensive, racist statements, which eventually discredited him and his testimony?

It’s a little hard to ever . . . take what he has to say . . . seriously. Those tapes . . . they just exist. Anybody who has that inside of them — I’m not interested in what they have to say.

Was it more challenging to play a real-life character?

No. I watched some of that still-waters-run-deep footage of him on the stand and . . . that was it. I just had to get my head around who that guy was, and how he sort of blew it in terms of that case.

So what keeps you coming back to theater, and musicals? You’re certainly doing very well on-screen, and doing eight shows a week in a show like this where you’re running all around has gotta be exhausting. I saw the photos you posted on Twitter of those icepacks on your legs.

I love it. It’s the purest form of acting and storytelling. With television and film, the finished product is great, but it’s a brutal process — 12-hour days are considered good days. But with theater, I love the whole scene — I love being social after the show, I like sleeping in in the morning, I love the bond that happens in a company of actors. I just love it and prefer it on every level.

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