By David Deutsch
When I was told I’d be interviewing Bryan Greenberg, star of ABC’s October Road, the upcoming film Nobel Son (hitting theaters next week) and already a TV-vet while not quite 30, I could do nothing but hope that his handlers had prepped him for the brutal piercing of soul that was about to take place. Then I began talking to Omaha-born, NYU-grad, and—well, read on, and tell us that you wouldn’t have found him dreamy, too.
How’d your parents end up in Omaha?
My father got a job working for Union Pacific, and that’s where they sent him.
Your family moved out West because your father got a job for the railroad? Do people still work on the railroad?
It is very 19th century. It definitely gives us a kind of credibility as Jews.
Do you know there’s a whole Wikipedia category on Jews from Omaha?
Am I the only one listed?
No, but you’re definitely the only celebrity. The others are various rabbis and scientists and whatnot. I’m pretty sure that as far as the Omaha Jewish community goes, you’re the favorite son. What kind of Jewish upbringing did you have?
I went to Camp Hertzl in Wisconsin, and USY, and Hebrew School, which I hated. One day I asked him why I had to go, and he said ‘Because I had to.’
At some point you moved from Omaha to someplace in Missouri that seems even less Jewish.
Actually, Chesterfield is the Jerusalem of Missouri.
I understand. I come from the Jerusalem of Wisconsin. So what do you do that makes you feel Jewy?
Jewy? I go to synagogue on the holidays, go home for Passover—
No, I mean, what brings out the ethnicity, what do you eat, or do, or whatever, that makes you stop and think ‘That’s it, I’m a Jew.’ When I ask them to turn off the air conditioning in restaurants.
Now, you’ve obviously done pretty well for yourself, but when you started, did anybody ever suggest that you might do better without ‘Greenberg’ at the end of your name?
When I first started, I heard it a lot. People would walk on eggshells, trying not to come out and say it: ‘I don’t know that Greenberg really sounds right.’ But I figured that’s the name I was born with, that’s what I’d keep…. My only problem with it is that it’s so boring. Greenberg is like the Jewish ‘Smith.’ I want something more Jewish. Like Hershkowitz.
I might change it.
Let’s move on to serious stuff. You star in October Road with former That 70’s Show star Laura Prepon. Does she ever say things like ‘You know, Topher wouldn’t read it that way’?
No, but it’s funny, every now and then, I run into Topher, and there’s definitely a vibe— Like, ‘She’s my ex.’
Right, but it’s ‘She’s my fake ex.’
But Laura is such a sweetheart, she never says anything bad about her former castmates, and I’ve tried.
In April, you have a film coming out, Nobel Son. What’s that about?
It’s kind of hard to explain. Basically, Alan Rickman plays my father, a chemist who just won the Nobel Prize, and I get taken prisoner by kidnappers who want the prize money as ransom, and my father refuses to pay it. There’s a lot of crazy stuff in there—the family’s pretty dysfunctional. There are comic parts, parts that are a caper film.
Are the Michaelsons, you know…
No, and trust me, we don’t want to claim any of these people. All the characters are pretty unlikeable.
When you’re walking with Alan Rickman, do people ever mistake you for Harry Potter?
No, I’ve gone through puberty.
There are Bryan Greenberg fansites. Is it weird knowing that people you’ve never met think enough of you to do that?
At first it was weird, and there were people impersonating me on Facebook, but it’s flattering, and nice that people like my work that much.
Does it ever get stalkery?
Every now and then someone says something awkward, like ‘You’re better looking in person,’ and I have no idea what to say.
Yeah, I have that same problem… Brian Austin Green was on 90210. You, Bryan Greenberg, were on One Tree Hill, a popular teen drama. If the two of you were to go into a cage, and only one of you is coming out, which one would it be? Put your money on me, no doubt about it.