Being Justin Kirk
City Pages: What performer made the biggest impression on you?
Justin Kirk: Even though I wanted to be John Malkovich or Sean Penn when I was a kid, mostly I was a music nerd. Minneapolis in the '80s was sacred territory and I worshipped all the local heroes. The Replacements were probably my favorite band, but in terms of performance, Bob Mould inspired me as much as any actor ever did. He was strange and awkward during interviews or between songs, but once he got down to business it was like witnessing some horrible private meltdown, spitting blood--not in a fun Gene Simmons way--and fucking up perfect melodies like an actor sick of his lines.
CP: What about the small screen?
Kirk: SCTV was the first and most important television show of my childhood. I started watching it at age nine with my dad when they showed the Canadian version on PBS. It was vastly superior to--and certainly more timeless than--the more popular Saturday Night Live. The cast was impeccable to a man (or woman), mixing a vicious thrashing of television's stupidity with an obvious love for it. I've tried on several occasions to slip what I call the "Guy Caballero Change-Up" (a very tasty and over-the-top piece of shtick employed by Joe Flaherty) into one of my performances. It's been cut by the director every time, probably rightfully so. Now I love The L Word. Love it love it love it. If I initially tuned in with a slight prurient interest, the excellent writing and fearless acting has turned me into a housewife who cries every week at her stories.
CP: And which filmmaker got you going?
Kirk: John Waters's movies had a profound effect on me. They literally felt like a crime was being committed on celluloid, and yet at their core seemed to be about love, old-fashioned underdog triumph and family, even if that family include a mother--played by a 300-plus lb. Man--fellating her son.