Noah Bean is best known for his roles as David Connor on the FX legal drama Damages and as Ryan Fletcher on the action series Nikita. In Damages he stars alongside Glenn Close and Rose Byrne, an experience he describes as “a dream come true.” He has also made cameros in shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Crumbs.
Look for Noah Bean in the upcoming mental illness drama, Black Marigolds, out this month, and in the ongoing series Damages later this year.
The Untitled Magazine spends some time getting to know the 34-year Boston-born actor a little better.
The Untitled Magazine: How did you get into acting?
I got into acting as a kind of therapy. Growing up I was an incredibly shy kid. I never spoke in class, had a really hard time with big groups and was terrified by any kind of attention. But in grade school I found myself in an acting class. The process of having a script, having words and actions and ideas that were already created was a revelation for me. I found that I could have the confidence to allow my voice to come out and be heard for the first time when I was working from a script. There was something in the freedom of pretending to be someone else and allowing myself to interpret that character through my body and voice that unlocked something in me. It wasn’t about getting attention or praise – actually the curtain call was always the most difficult part of a show for me – it was about just feeling that I was a conduit for someone else. It taught me about bravery and confidence and then eventually it allowed me to find my own voice outside of the script.
How long have you been working in the industry? And what was your breakthrough moment?
I moved to New York City in the fall on 2000 after studying theater at Boston University and in London at the Royal Academy. I came here and started doing plays downtown in church basements and tiny theaters with friends. We’ve all grown up together as artists and gone on to do more and more things. I don’t think I’ve ever had just one ‘breakthrough moment’; it’s been a series of experiences over the years. They say the average over night success takes ten years.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Favorite movie is a toss up between Point Break and Major League. I think I watched those two films at least a hundred times growing up. There are plenty other, perhaps more acclaimed films that I love, but I could watch those two any night of the week.
Who do you consider to be the most inspirational person in cinema?
John Cassavetes was a really inspirational filmmaker. He launched a whole independent filmmaking movement in the United States with films like Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence and Husbands. He’d make money as an actor and then use that money to write and direct his own films. His style was totally new at the time, using improvisation to create a kind of cinema verite style. He’d use a lot of the same actors, who were also his close friends, in most of his films like, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassel, Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara. You see that happening again a lot these days with people like the Duplass brothers and others in the independent world. I love that kind of filmmaking.
Do you have anyone in your life you’d call a mentor?
I don’t have a single mentor. I have a lot of people who inspire me and keep me on track. Mostly it’s my friends in New York who started out the same time as I did. Not many of them are that well known and not everyone is working all the time. But those people, who are still making small films and downtown theater, are some of the best actors I’ve ever seen. They inspire me everyday.
If you weren’t an actor, what do think you would be doing right now?
When I was a kid I always wanted to be an architect. I still love design and structure but I think it’s a little too late to have that as a backup plan. I never really gave myself an exit strategy if things didn’t work out for me in this business. All or nothing.
Did you ever fall in love on set?
I fall in love on set all the time. It’s hard not too when you’re working with talented people who are doing what they love. It’s a very seductive combination. But I don’t follow through with any of those feelings. It’s too distracting from the work. But having some healthy crushes is good.
Do you have a favorite artist?
I love Gerhard Richter. I first saw his paintings at The Tate in London when I was studying there and was blown away. There’s something so visceral and wild about his work that also feels controlled and deliberate. His passion to go deeper into himself and the world through his painting is amazing. I feel like his work is almost alive when I sit with it at a gallery. I think that’s what great art should make you feel, that it is alive.
What about a motto or words of wisdom you live your life, day to day, by?
“Try Again. Fail Again. Fail better” – Samuel Beckett
What is it about cinema that you love?
As an audience of cinema I love the magic of it, the storytelling of it. Getting lost in these flickering images and words and sound. But as someone who works in cinema I love the process of its creation. That there are so many people, collaborating all at once, actors, designers, writer, director, photographer, both in front and behind the camera, to make one cohesive piece of art. It’s a beautiful way to tell a story as a collective and then share that with a community.
Watch the trailer for Noah Bean’s new film Black Marigolds
-Coverage by The Untitled Magazine