Kenwood resident Remy Auberjonois’ career has taken him to Broadway and beyond, working alongside actors like Jon Hamm on “Mad Men” and Jesse Eisenberg in an off-Broadway production of “Asuncion.”
Auberjonois grew up in Los Angeles and said he knew throughout his childhood that he would become an actor. While he was in elementary school, his father, René, was on television — in shows like Charlie’s Angels and Beyond Westworld — so it had always seemed like part of the plan.
“It’s a little bit like taking over the family store,” Auberjonois said. “People ask, ‘What’s it like to have a dad who does that?’ I think it’s much more of a leap for someone whose parent is a dentist or an accountant to find their way into the theater. It was just known and valued in my family. It’s what I understood people to do.”
Auberjonois brought a theatrical ambition with him to the East Coast. After earning a master’s degree in fine arts at Yale, he worked on TV shows, films and Broadway productions. But Auberjonois sometimes had doubts about his choice to follow in his family’s footsteps and found the work of acting to be repetitive and tiring.
“I struggled earlier on in my life to sort of really try to understand: Is this actually something I want to do? Or is it kind of a default?” Auberjonois said. “I called myself ‘Doctor Lawyer Doctor’ because I was doing a lot of TV where I would play a doctor or a lawyer, and I kind of plateaued in my interest in being an actor.”
However, Auberjonois had a breakthrough in a 2012 Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” He was cast as the boss of Willy Loman — played by Philip Seymour Hoffman — and Entertainment Weekly wrote that Auberjonois made “an indelible impression.”
“It actually pushed me to do something else, [and I] decided I really wanted to try my hand at directing,” Auberjonois said.
After “Death of a Salesman,” Auberjonois and his wife, Kate Nowlin, began the process of writing a film called “Blood Stripe” for Netflix. The film tackled the subject of post-traumatic stress disorder through the eyes of a Marine, played by Nowlin, who has just finished three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After living in New York City for some time, Auberjonois and his wife realized they didn’t want to raise a family there. The pair decided to film “Blood Stripe” in the Twin Cities, and after filming, Auberjonois suggested to his wife that they move here. Nowlin is from St. Paul and has family in the Cities.
“We were looking for a place where our daughter could have trees and feel grass under her feet and, at the same time, be in a place that does have the kind of cultural foment that Minneapolis really has,” Auberjonois said. “The audiences in the Twin Cities are really engaged and the production value at the Guthrie is as good as anything you might be able to get on Broadway.”
Auberjonois has been in three Guthrie productions since moving to the Twin Cities, including “Noises Off” in the fall of 2018, “Cyrano de Bergerac” this past spring and now “The Glass Menagerie.”
In the Tennessee Williams play now showing on the Guthrie’s main stage, Auberjonois plays protagonist Tom Wingfield, a man reflecting back on his life and recalling what it was like to lose his father and have to take care of his older sister and his mother.
Auberjonois said that he regretted not accepting the role of Tom 17 years ago when a San Francisco production offered it to him right out of college and that he felt grateful the Guthrie gave him a second chance.
“I had these fancy new agents and they said, ‘No, you shouldn’t do a play right now; you have to go to LA and get a big TV job,’” Auberjonois said. “At the time I thought, ‘I’m going to get to do that someday.’ And then, after a while, it really felt like the one that got away.”
Auberjonois said he’s come to know and understand the character of Tom Wingfield. He said he hopes that audiences will feel the same way while watching the show, which is playing at the Guthrie through Oct. 27.