It's a fairly quiet Wednesday evening at the enjoyable Cronin & Phelans pub in Astoria, Queens. It's home to the best burger I have had in a long time and the beer selection isn't too shabby either.
There are a few locals in attendance, catching a game or two, while Dave the bartender is busy mixing drinks and turning a few tricks, magic tricks that is. The jukebox is playing a wide variety of tunes, classic and contemporary.
At the moment though, my attention is on the bespectacled and bearded individual sitting across from me. He's short and stocky with a little twinkle in his eye and a grin that he often wears from ear to ear. He's dressed casually in a sport coat, powder blue button down shirt and jeans, sipping a Smithwicks.
He continues to wear that grin, but is also looking a tad uncomfortable as we have just begun this interview and my first request was for him to describe himself in a few words. A noticeable chill goes up his spine. He takes a sip of his beer.
See, this individual is an actor and there's nothing worse than an actor talking about himself. (His words, not mine). He puts down his beer and grimaces a little at the thought of my question. After a brief pause, he says simply with that same smile, a very warm and friendly one at that, “Okay, I’m five feet five and a half. I’m not overly handsome, not good looking enough to set hearts to fluttering. I don’t exactly ooze animal magnetism. I'm just a plain, ordinary Joe.”
His statement is not a put-down by any means.
As I learned in our discussion (in reality, a three plus hour drinking session), this is an actor and a person who knows who he is and where he fits. With that knowledge, that makes him anything but ordinary.
This is Timothy J. Cox.
"I can't speak highly enough about his unparalleled work ethic, and tremendous creativity," says actor/director Lawrence Lesher, a frequent collaborator and close friend of the actor. Lesher continues, "If you want to be able to cast a role and then never have to worry again about whether it will be done with skill and aplomb, cast Tim."
Katherine M. Carter, another close friend and colleague who directed the actor in an acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City this past winter, had this to say: "Tim is one of those actors that directors cannot wait to work with again. He comes into each rehearsal brimming with ideas and ready to play, making every rehearsal a discovery."
In Arthur Miller's classic drama Death of A Salesman, Willy Loman often boasts that the most important thing in the world is to be well liked. Sadly, Willy Loman was not well liked.
As for Timothy J. Cox, he is very well liked. I first saw the actor, who specializes in supporting/character roles, onstage in the spring of 2007 in the Hudson Theatre Ensemble of Hoboken, New Jersey's stellar production of The Miracle Worker, where he appeared in one scene in the beginning of the play as the kind Mr. Anagnos. Not a flashy part by any means, but he was extraordinary in his all too brief appearance nonetheless. There was something about his performance, a certain warmth he conveyed; a relaxed manner in the way he delivered a line; the way he could say a page of dialogue in a look, that made an impression. Ever since that performance, I have had the pleasure of seeing his work a number of times and every time he takes on a part I still see that warmth, that joy. Like a kid in a candy shop, Timothy J. Cox always looks like he's having a lot of fun.
As Mr. Anagnos in the Hudson Theatre Ensemble of New Jersey's 2007 revival of The Miracle Worker
As would-be-inventor Schmendiman in the Astoria Performing Arts Center' 2006 revival of Picasso at the Lapin Agile
"Of course this is fun. Acting has to be fun," Cox says. "To me, it's like recess time for adults. I just go out there and play around with the other kids. It's an approach that has kept me pretty grounded."
On this particular night, Cox and I have met at the his favorite pub in Astoria to discuss his latest film, a comic documentary titled Jack Jimminy: The Story Of A Pornstar Extra, from Grip Reality, Inc and directors Louis and Nolan Silverstein (the latter of whom stars in the title role). Silverstein plays the son of two legendary adult film stars, Richard and Moonflower (played by Cox and Ethel Fisher). Both parents are elated that their son is following them into the "family business," while in reality, Jack is nothing more than an extra, even though he has gone to great lengths to create the impression that he is a huge star in the adult film industry, with everything from t-shirts to DVD covers being created to help the ruse.
Of the film and the character of Richard, Cox states, "Richard is a guy who is very frank about something that people don't like to talk about openly. This is a man who talks so openly and explicitly about sex because to him, it's as natural as breathing. He doesn't censor himself at all. He is who he is and I loved that about him."
Cox is extremely complimentary toward the filmmakers as well. "Louis and Nolan were a delight to work with. I worked for only one day and it was fun, lively, and energetic. Their set was an ideal set for an actor — an environment where the actor feels free to play." Cox mentioned that both Silversteins encouraged and embraced improvisation, which to the actor added more life to the scenes.
"I admire their tenacity and commitment to this project, as I know that it's something that both Nolan and Louis have been working on for years, so a lot is riding on it personally as well as professionally. I'm just thrilled to be a very small part of it".
Louis Silverstein had a few compliments of his own for the actor. "An amazing asset; Tim brought great energy to the set and was always ready to try out something new." Silverstein continues, "And so devoted to his part that he shaved his head".
"Yeah, I do things like that a lot," Cox says with a smile. "The hair always grows back, thankfully."
For the 33-year-old, who has called New York City his home since 2001, doing things like that are all part of the job. Richard Jimminy will be added to the long list of supporting/character roles that Cox has portrayed on stage and on film for almost a decade in New York City.
"I knew at a young age that if I was ever going to have any success as an actor, it was going to be as a character actor," Cox says, sipping on beer number two. "I don't know… it works for me. I've been very lucky as far as the types of roles that I have played, but a big part of any success that I have had has been playing it smart and knowing where I fit in the grand scheme of things, as this is still a business where looks are very important. My way of thinking has certainly saved me years of frustration and heartache."
As Sir Toby Belch in the Impetuous Theatre Group's 2007 production of 12th Night of the Living Dead
Cox's love of performing began when the young actor was in the eighth grade in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. He auditioned and won the lead role in the school play, a musical version of the O'Henry story "The Gift of the Magi" titled "Rags to Riches."
"I auditioned just to get out of math class, plus I found out that a lot of the rehearsals were going to take place during the school day, which I find hysterical today… so that was the only reason why I was interested." He laughs at the memory. To his surprise, he was cast in the lead role and loved it. He's never looked back. Cox states, "It's funny. One of my brothers once told me that I was an actor years before I actually became one. It's true. I was always acting out, kind of a show-off of sorts… always doing voices and things like that. I would mimic Brando in The Godfather for family, which they got a kick out of, but I never thought about being an actor. No way."
Where Cox got serious about his craft and made the discovery that “character actors always work,” was during his four-year stay at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. "Going away to Ohio was big for me. One, it was the first time I was ever on my own and two, it was the first time I started to take this work seriously."
Pictured with Eben French Mastin in the Pioneer Playhouse of Danville, Kentucky's production of the original comedy A Jarful of Fireflies
"I miss those years like crazy. I fell on my face a lot during that time and I just kept picking myself back up. I think that's pretty much what I've been doing ever since. If I get knocked down a little, I just get right back up."
He credits his teachers and directors for pushing him to work harder. "I didn't think much of 'acting' when I first started college. When I started, all I thought acting was was hamming it up on stage. All I wanted to do was get laughs and I, a typical kid, was kind of arrogant and thought that I was pretty funny at the start. I didn't know or care anything about technique, methods, processes… whatever you want to call it, so I thought I knew all I needed to know. I learned pretty quickly that I had no idea what the hell I was doing."
He learned though and in the years that followed, Cox earned plenty of supporting roles in works by Shakespeare, Moliere, Sophocles, and Feydeau. "I fell in love with the classics. Those roles were so rich and interesting to play and it was when I was doing those types of shows that I was cast in a lot of fun character roles, which worked out as a big plus for me because when you play those kinds of roles, you the actor are given creative license to be big and over the top, which I loved at the time and still love."
After graduating in 1999, Cox garnered roles in Philadelphia theater productions and in his hometown of Delaware before making the move to New York in 2001. Since that time, he has appeared in over 40 productions and in numerous films, shorts, and features. He's done a little bit of everything, even a stint as a background actor. "I will need another beer for this part of the discussion," he says with a laugh. After receiving beer number three, he proclaims, "You know, I think every actor should do it a few times. You learn how to conduct yourself on a film set and you see examples of how not to conduct yourself on a film set."
Cox continues to keep very busy, remaining a favorite among the many people he has worked with. Writer/actor/producer Greg Vorob of All Things Random Productions, who cast Cox in their comedy pilot Overcrowded (they will collaborate again on I Think You May Be My Soulmate, currently in pre-production), calls Cox, "an actor's actor and a director's dream."
Cox, with Greg Vorob, in All Things Random Productions' comedy OverCrowded
Vorob continues, "He gives 110% of himself in every role, on every project he works on, no matter if he's playing a large or small part. He gives all of himself to it."
In 2009 alone, Cox appeared in acclaimed stage productions of Arsenic and Old Lace, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and Carter's wonderful A Midsummer Night's Dream (earned high praise from yours truly here on Blogcritics). He also appeared in a number of acclaimed short films, including the recently released and highly praised (again, by yours truly and Blogcritics' Hannah Marie Ellison) Socks and Cakes and Over Coffee.
Cox on the set of Kimistra Films' drama Socks and Cakes
So far in 2010, the actor is showing no signs of slowing down. Actress/director Synge Maher, another close friend and colleague, who will be re-connecting again with Cox and director Lesher on a production of the hysterical Ray Cooney comic farce Run For Your Wife at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky (Cox's second trip to the famed summer stock theatre) this summer, had this to say: "Tim is the very definition of professionalism."
After witnessing his work over the years and then meeting him in person, that may be the perfect way to sum up Timothy J. Cox.
Jack Jimminy: The Story Of A Pornstar Extra will premiere at the Ottaway Theater at Bard College at 8PM this Saturday night, which Cox plans on attending. "I look forward to sitting in the audience to enjoy the film like everybody else."
For information on the film, please visit the official website.Powered by Sidelines