Joel Grey Recalls His “Complicated” Relationship With Director Bob Fosse And Talks “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”

New York City Ballet 2015 Spring Gala

Academy Award and Tony Award-winner Joel Grey knows how to work!

He’s starred on Broadway in hits spanning from 1966’s Cabaret to 2011’s Anything Goes revival. He’s appeared in films opposite everyone from Rock Hudson to Bj√∂rk. His expansive guest roles on television have included appearances on Dallas, Grey’s Anatomy and a memorable turn as Doc during the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(And don’t think we forgot about his most important role, that of father to Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey).

This man’s legend status is one built over a wealth of notable achievements. In anticipation of Grey’s appearance on this Sunday’s episode of Cocktails & Classics (where the classic in question is none other than 1972’s Cabaret) we sat down with Grey to talk about his illustrious career.


NewNowNext: At the time, did you have any idea of the impact or legacy the film version of Cabaret would have?

Joel Grey: I had an idea because it was so powerful and important on the stage. We thought it could really reach millions and millions of people all over the world as opposed to a Broadway show which just runs for a year and only a certain amount of people get to see it. But having it be a successful film made the political statement so much more important.

Joel Grey In 'Cabaret'

Did you feel sure that the show would translate well into a film?

No. I did not. I mistrusted. I hoped, but I didn’t want it messed with because it was right. I didn’t know if it was in the right hands [with Bob Fosse].

What was the greatest thing that you learned from Fosse throughout the process?

[Thinks for a long time] That he’s… he’s not too stubborn to listen to someone else’s idea. My relationship with him was so complicated. Everyone else had his attention and affection and love and I was not his choice to be in the movie. And he knew I was going to watch over it and make sure he didn’t fuck it up. As far as I was concerned, it was mine.

Is Cabaret your favorite film you’ve made?

Yes.

You’re sure?

Yes.

Was it the best experience you had filming a movie?

That I couldn’t tell you. It was a very, very emotional and fraught three months.

Joel Grey as Master of Ceremonies

Can you talk about working on the original production of The Normal Heart on Broadway?

I was in the The Normal Heart in 1985 when it was terror. People came into the theater and wept from the beginning to the end and left and had dinner with friends that went to see the show and were afraid to drink water from the next person’s glass. It was very heavy. It wasn’t a story anyone was believing. It was horrible.

So how did you find the bravery to get up there every night?

I felt it had to be done.

"The Normal Heart" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain Call

And if you wouldn’t mind indulging me for a moment, what was it like working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

[He turns around and sticks out his backside] What about my tail? Did you like that? People still stop me on the street about that role.

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Cocktails & Classics airs this Sunday, May 24, at 7pm on Logo TV.