NEW YORK — For the past few years, something’s been slowly gnawing at Paul Rudd — the lure of live theater.
The 43-year-old star, who has been on a goofy comedic tear lately with “Our Idiot Brother,” “Dinner for Schmucks,” “Wanderlust” and TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” was itching to get back to his roots.
He’s more than gotten his wish. In the play “Grace,” which opens on Broadway on Oct. 4, Rudd slips into a pitch-dark role — an evangelical Christian who basically unravels onstage.
“I was drawn to this character because it’s a different character for me and certainly different than anything I’ve played in the last several years,” says the boyish-looking actor. “I thought it was bold and fresh and something I hadn’t seen before.”
“Grace” also stars seven-time Emmy Award winner Edward Asner, “Boardwalk Empire” regular Michael Shannon and Kate Arrington, a veteran of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.
Rudd and Arrington play a couple who arrive in Florida with big plans to open a chain of gospel-themed motels until they meet an agitated rocket scientist neighbor, played by Shannon, and a caustic exterminator, played by Asner. Chaos ensues. Rudd says he loved the play when he first read it.
“I’ve always tried to do things that were meaningful in some ways to me that hopefully wouldn’t suck,” he says. “I haven’t always avoided that but, for the most part, I try to do things on my own terms as much as possible.”
Rudd, who was last on Broadway with Julia Roberts in “Three Days of Rain” in 2006, is usually considered a movie guy, thanks to films like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” ‘’I Love You, Man” and “Knocked Up,” but he’s also a stage creature.
Rudd graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and studied drama at Oxford University. He followed his breakout movie performance in “Clueless” with his first Broadway play, Alfred Uhry’s “The Last Night of Ballyhoo.”