Michael Urie Talks 'Younger,' Zoom Birthday Parties and Hopes for the Tony Awards (Exclusive)

Michael Urie
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The theater star reveals what inspired capturing 'Happy Birthday Doug' on film and why he's sad to see 'Younger' end.

When most of the U.S. shut down in March amid the coronavirus outbreak, it forced the New York’s theater scene to close its doors indefinitely. For Drew Droege, that meant cutting short his hilarious and witty production of Happy Birthday Doug, the follow-up to Bright Colors and Bold Patterns, which was directed by longtime friend and creative partner, Michael Urie. The theater actor and former Ugly Betty star opens up to ET about the inspiration to capture the show on screen for BroadwayHD, his own return to TV on the upcoming final season of Younger, and his hopes for the 2020 Tony Awards. 

Happy Birthday Doug, which is now streaming and is presented by Urie, is a one-man show telling the story of Doug (Droege), who is celebrating his 41st birthday with “friends, exes, nightmares, tricks, and even a ghost.”

After being forced to shelter in place, the actor says the idea of capturing the production on film came after attending a Zoom birthday. “I thought, 'Wait a minute, what if all the boxes were Drew as all the different characters?'" the actor recalls. Because Droege is famous for his Chloe Sevigny impersonations on YouTube, Urie had no doubt he could do something similar with Doug, so he pitched the director, Tom DeTrinis, who brought it to filmmaker Jim Hansen, who quickly got to work on the adaptation.

The end result is what Droege calls “birthday party from Hell,” that’s even funnier that it now plays out like an inescapable Zoom party.  And since it’s not a filmed play, the star says he thinks it’s “funnier than the stage show.”

For both Urie and Droege, capturing the production on film, especially amid the pandemic and theater’s current state, is an opportunity to make sure it lives on forever. But more importantly, to give viewers a much-needed laugh during this time. “[Movies] lift us out of this rotten, insane, terrifying moment we are in, and they take us somewhere new,” Droege says, while Urie adds that Happy Birthday Doug does a clever job of telling a story in a way that “stimulates the brain.” 

For theater fans, it’s also a chance to revisit a show they only saw once or not at all, while Broadway and Off-Broadway productions alike wait for places like New York City to reopen. For Urie, it’s a question of when the new Broadway season will begin and if the 74th annual Tony Awards will ever happen. 

The play, Grand Horizons, in which he starred opposite James Cromwell and Ben McKenzie, is eligible for nominations by the Tony Awards Administration Committee. However, it’s still unclear what is actually going to happen. Urie says he hasn’t heard anything new, but ultimately hopes that the show’s playwright, Bess Wohl, gets recognized.

“I just think it’s such a special play and she’s the only female playwright of a new play this year,” Urie says, adding he hopes the ceremony at least streams online somewhere.

In the meantime, fans can look forward to Urie’s return to TV on season 7 of Younger, which creator Darren Star confirmed to ET will be its last and starts production again in October. “I haven’t seen a script yet, but I’m told that Redmond is coming back,” the actor says of the literary agent who is often competing with Liza (Sutton Foster) and Kelsey (Hilary Duff).

While Urie is sad to see the series go -- it was one of his favorite times on set -- he’s happy that it’ll go out on its own terms. “To be able to choose is really wonderful, creatively and for peace of mind,” he says, adding, “I am really glad that I get to do at least at least one more with them. Hopefully I’ll be on a few.”