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Bringing Shallow Characters To Life

Bringing Shallow Characters To LifeWhen his newest Broadway show opens on Thursday, Peter Gallagher will do what he does best -- give life to the "sleazeballs" of stage and screen. New York City.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.31.01] When Peter Gallagher debuts in the Broadway revival of "Noises Off" on Thursday, he'll be in a very familiar role. Just as he has in some of his most memorable performances, including roles in "Sex, Lies and Videotape,""American Beauty" and "Center Stage," Gallagher will play a sleazy guy -- a role he has mastered during his 20-year career.

But people who have spent time with the actor say he shares little in common with his most famous characters. After all, the Tufts graduate isn't really a sleazeball -- he just plays one on TV.

And play them, he has.

Since his professional debut as Danny Zuko in "Grease" in 1978, Gallagher has racked up quite a list of "greasy parts." A wheeler and dealer in "Sex, Lies and Videotape." A sleazy real estate agent in "American Beauty." An egomaniac dance company owner in "Center Stage."

On Thursday, he'll add another one: director of a sex play in the Broadway revival of "Noises Off."

The roles seem to follow the 46-year-old actor.

"I think it's written somewhere in the Book of Hollywood that if you look a certain way, you couldn't get any sympathy from the audience," Gallagher told the New York Post. "I guess it's also written that these people don't deserve any."

But the Tufts graduate doesn't mind.

"The reality is, I'd rather play someone with some fun stuff to do than be a bland guy," he told the newspaper.

Gallagher, it seems, is anything but bland -- everything from how he got his name to his career insights has a story.

In an interview with New York's Newsday, Gallagher said he almost had a different name.

"They were going to name me Brain Christopher Gallagher, but my mother, who was a bacteriologist, realized that BCG are the initials for [a strain of' bacillus and thought that would be inappropriate," he told Newsday.

And then there was the time he tried to persuade a young Madonna -- who he had just met in a New York dance class -- to stick with dancing, not her dreams to sing.

"I remember once asking her what she wanted to do when she grew up, and she said she thought she'd be a singer," Gallagher said. "I said, 'Why? You're such a great dancer; you should be a dancer.' We still have a giggle about that sometimes when I see her. I had no more aptitude for career management than I did economics."

Which is why the economics major at Tufts didn't graduate with a degree in drama.

"I'd always loved to act, but I heard nothing but horror stories about people who tried to pursue a career in theater and how it brought them nothing but heartbreak and poverty," he told the New York Post. "And I guess I was afraid that if I studied theater, I'd lose my love for it."

But an economics course called "non-western economic statistics" -- which he took in California after graduating from Tufts -- quickly changed his mind.

"That's when I realized that even heartbreaking obscurity and poverty would be better than this!" he told the Post.

And he hasn't looked back -- racking up 64 film, television and film rolls along the way.

"I always seem to be busy at something," he told Newsday. "But the thing I've discovered that is most important is to keep whatever it is alive in me that loves what I do. If I were afraid of losing anything it wouldn't be money or status, it would be my love of acting."

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