TV role as Prince Charles? Victor Garber was all ears

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Many actors like the profession because they can hide behind a character. Not Victor Garber. Acting for him is a way of revealing himself.

"The experiences I've had in my life are going to inform how I play this role that's coming up," he says in a busy meeting room at a hotel here.

"The heartbreak, the sadness, the joy, the good fortune, the controversy whatever it is — that's going to inform what I do because that's in me. That's part of me, and my goal in any role is to reveal myself through that character. That's essentially what I think I do," he says.

The man who's best known as the CIA dad in "Alias," and the desolate ship's architect in "Titanic," is trying on a new crown. This time he's playing a prince — Prince Charles in the Hallmark Channel's "William & Catherine: a Royal Romance," premiering Aug. 27.

Though there's little resemblance between Garber and the prince, he jokes that they share the same ears. While the role was challenging, getting it wasn't. He ran into executive producer Linda Yellen at a coffee shop in New York and she said, "I've just been thinking about you, and I have a part ..."


It hasn't always been that easy for Garber, 62. He worked for years before he actually made a living from acting. But there was nothing else he wanted to do. "Acting's the only thing I CAN do," he laughs.

"I really can't do anything else. I've always loved to entertain and make people laugh and tell stories, that's what an actor does. From childhood there was never any question that was what I was going to do, ever. When I was very young I was introduced to children's theater group in London, Ontario, where I'm from, and it was in the local amateur theater. I went there on Saturday mornings and the minute I walked up those stairs, I knew that's where I belonged and that's what I always wanted to do."

He was 16 when he left home and school and headed for Toronto to pursue this unrequited love. "I stayed with a woman I'd taken a theater course with in the summer. She rented me a room and my father drove me there and gave me some money to live on and I worked washing dishes, I sang, played guitar and passed the hat."

He also worked for an all-night transport company, a task he calls "a mindless, horrible job."

He managed to snag some local productions in Toronto. "I would make a few hundred dollars here and there but I didn't really start making money till I got to New York and hit Broadway. 'Deathtrap' was my first big Broadway show," says Garber, who's dressed in a cream-colored suit and a black-and-white polo shirt, unbuttoned at the neck.

In spite of his pedigree, Garber isn't sure when his work is improving. "Every time I get a job I work really hard and sometimes it feels easier than other times. I think it's really more confidence. I feel I'm getting better if I have more confidence. If it feels right to me, then I feel I'm doing the right thing. I don't really think I'm better at this than I was at that — I just keep working hard, as hard as I can. And I keep getting hired so I guess I'm doing the right thing."

The second of three children, Garber lost both his parents to Alzheimer's disease. His father died 10 years ago, his mom, six years ago. "That was a personal journey I don't wish on anyone," he sighs. "Those were events that changed my life."

Pausing, he says, "For me, it's always been about the options that are open to me and I'm very choosy about what I do. I'm picky. Sometimes I have to do a job because I need some money and I've done that and I'm not ashamed of that, but generally I've also needed money and not done a job because I just couldn't do it — it's always about the material for me. It's always about the writing and the people involved in the project."


While many actors start out shy, he says, "I was insecure and not confident, but not shy. I was a performer from very young. I liked to get up and do things. It has developed over the years. I'm confident to a degree, but I still have massive insecurities and doubts and all that, but that's just the human condition."

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