Director Michael Urie, center, in the middle of ‘Silver Foxes’ tech rehearsals with cast members Robert San Juan, left, and BJ Cleveland at Theatre Three. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

TV star Michael Urie directs Uptown’s ‘Silver Foxes’ world premiere

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

These days, Michael Urie can be seen on AppleTV+’s literal psychological comedy Shrinking. But currently — like at this very moment — he’s been helming Uptown Players’ world premiere of Silver Foxes, a new play written by Golden Girls scribes James Berg and Stan Zimmerman.

The show opened Thursday night, March 3, at Theatre Three’s black box stage and runs through March 12. The cast features BJ Cleveland, Leslie Marie Collins, Edson Montenegro, Jon Morehouse and Robert San Juan.

A Plano native, Urie has been mixing the professional and personal while he has been back home in North Texas, hanging out in familiar territory here while also serving as director for the new production.

Prior to opening night, the actor, director and producer talked with Dallas Voice about being back in Dallas to direct, his new show Shrinking and why it was OK for this author to fanboy a bit.

Dallas Voice: OK, I’m just going to get the fanboy part out of the way. I’m reluctant to bring up old work, but Ugly Betty truly was so profound to me as a journalist, a Latino and a gay man that it still resonates with me at least in deeper ways and because of the entire cast — not just the title character. Micahel Urie: I never get tired of hearing how people loved that show and what it meant to them. It was stylish and funny but also so aspirational. It was such a sweet time. I think that’s why it’s held up and still inspires people.

Thanks for indulging that. You’re back here in Dallas to direct this show for Uptown. How did this all come to be? I have known about Uptown Players for a long time. They started right after I left Texas, and so I heard about them through the grapevine. But I’ve also co-hosted the Column Awards here, which they would be included in. I met Jeff Rane, and we had just been in touch over the years.

I love what Uptown is about. A queer-based theater — that’s so cool. I love the idea of cities having these LGBTQ companies. I think they are pioneers, and I always wanted to work with them.

There’s a lot of connections here already for this particular show that everything around this seems meant to be. Stan has been my go-to writer whenever I’m hosting stuff. We’ve hung out, and he’s helped me come up with jokes. He told me he wrote this play with James. Then they asked me to come on, and we had this reading in Los Angeles. Jeff caught wind of it, expressing interest in the show, and they flew out to see it.

When you got here, did you dive right into work, or did you have time to get reacquainted with Dallas? It was pretty quick once we got here. There’s a lot to directing a play. Acting is a lot of concentrated energy, and this is less so. But there’s lots more to do and a lot more decisions to make as the director.

Is there an added pressure to directing a world premiere? I think there is. There’s no precedent for it, so we are making this thing work. We think it works anyways. This is the first time it is produced and actually alive. I want the audience to love it, and I want our actors to be comfortable and the writers to be happy. I’ve been in a lot of world premieres, but directing one does have its differences. We’re kind of inventing the road map here of Silver Foxes.

If people don’t know, you have a deep relationship with theater, not just TV and film. I try to see as much theater as I can when I come to Dallas. There’s such a rich scene. The cool, subversive theaters like Kitchen Dog Theatre and Undermain were always on my radar. I remember seeing BJ Cleveland in Noises Off at Theatre Arlington.

Now you’re directing him in Silver Foxes! I used to watch BJ when he showed cartoons on television. I had known who he was for so long, and when I saw him at Theatre Arlington, you know, he was that “guy from TV.” He was a star. He’s so good and hilarious in this role. I feel like he’s doing something a bit different here — all of them really. It’s an honor to work with him, and I’m lucky that everyone in this cast is amazing. They are all great people and very inventive and imaginative. Being an actor, I’m lucky to work with such great actors on this.

Jason Segel, left, and Michael Urie play best friends in the AppleTV+ show Shrinking. (Courtesy AppleTV+)

I just want to shift gears a bit and ask about your new show Shrinking with Jason Segel and Harrison Ford. How has that experience been? Yeah, what a cool opportunity for me — and kind of out of the blue. It was a little less than a year ago this project came my way. I loved Ted Lasso and was excited that [producers] Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein were doing something new. I sent in an audition tape, but I stopped thinking about it. A month later, they didn’t ask for a screen test, and I was cast. It was just very cool and they have such faith in me.

You play Brian, a lawyer and best friend to Segel’s character Jimmy, a therapist in grief. Did you relate to this character personally? This show is about a bunch of straight guys and a very hetero world. What is really cool about it was that they wanted authenticity. The writers have looked to me and encouraged me to be authentic, which is so smart and generous of them. The role fits like a glove. They made him from Texas, and we portray this gay/straight friendship which is a real thing.

It’s really an adult show. Probably the most grown-up show I’ve been a part of. We’re dealing with real grown-up shit and mature themes about mental health care, so I think it’s very timely. We’re coming out of several years of tragedy, and this show is about grief which is a tricky fucker.

You came to prominence in Ugly Betty at a time when gay characters and representation were riding a wave: Will and Grace, The L Word, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Two decades later, we see you on a new show as a queer character. What’s different for you though, from that time to this? That arc has changed a lot. I think Will and Grace and Ugly Betty paved the way for Glee. No one was really out save for Ellen, but then Neil Patrick Harris came out.

The unfortunate thing about showbiz is there’s a ceiling to success if you’re not willing to talk about your personal life, but I was also being told I shouldn’t so that I wouldn’t be pigeonholed with gay characters. Now, I’ve played dozens of gay characters in all kinds of projects, and we wouldn’t be talking now if I hadn’t.

Preach! Lastly, how does it feel for you now to come back to Dallas? Over the years, I tried to take any gig that took me to Dallas. My parents don’t live here anymore, and my home base has really been New York. But I do love it here. When I did Buyer and Cellar I had the producers add Dallas to that tour. I mean I grew up in Plano, and it’s not the same as Dallas, but it’s cool being here. I am letting my accent come back being around my friends.

There’s this jovial nature here that I love. I have this cute Airbnb in Uptown, brought my dog and got my Tex-Mex fix. This hasn’t been my home for 20 years, but I feel very comfortable here.

For tickets to Silver Foxes, visit