The chandeliers presented an unusual challenge for actor and comedian Jeff Hiller.
At 6-foot-5, Mx. Hiller’s head grazed, passed, and sometimes collided with various lighting fixtures dangling from the ceiling of A&E Bowery Lighting on New York’s Lower East Side.
Like Mx. Hiller, 46, uses a polite title regardless of gender, moves around the store, pulls a few zippers, checks them. “How do you know which switch goes to which light?” Mx. Hiller asked Shelly Huang, the store owner, who responded with a hearty laugh. Ms. Hoang seems to have liked Mx. Hello.
So, too, were viewers watching HBO’s “Somebody, Somewhere,” the new HBO comedy in which Mx. Hiller plays Joel, a sweet, gay, church-loving 40-year-old living in Kansas.
Mx. Hiller, who is from Texas, is related to the character. “I know that guy: weird but also like, ‘I love my church!’” Mx. Hiller said, “And I like that guy.” Mx. Hiller himself is a Lutheran who grew up and says he missed church “probably three times” during the first 25 years of his life.
Today, Mx. Hiller was looking for a pendant lamp over his desk to differentiate his office from his dining area, which technically occupies the same room in his one-bedroom co-op in Lower East Side. He also needed a new “harp,” which he learned was the name of the metal ring that supported the shade. He describes the look he wants to be “Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler type, but spoils – some campy, but also classy.”
He lingered on a translucent glass sphere on a silver base. “I really don’t mind some gold, but my husband is really against gold,” he said. “I think it reminds him of Donald Trump, which is fair. I don’t want a Melania lamp.” Mx. Hiller emphasized this with one of his high-pitched laughs that would erupt on this excursion.
He took pictures of other candidates he thought were his husbands, artist Neil Goldbergmay like.
“What I should do is shoot what I want,” he said. “But sometimes when I share pictures of things I want and he doesn’t like them, it hurts my feelings, even though it doesn’t make sense.”
Mx. Hiller said he’s trying to over-treat. “That’s why I have my Bea Arthur pin,” he said, pointing to an actress enamel pin on his lapel. “She’s not without pleasers!”
Finally, Mx. Hiller thinks it’s better to buy any furniture without consulting his other half. But he still needed that harp. Ms. Huang doesn’t sell them, but she recommends a lampshade shop nearby.
When he goes up the Bowery, Mx. Hiller responded on how the response from “Somebody, Somewhere” was different from his previous television and film work.
“It doesn’t even compare at all,” he said with another high-pitched laugh. Since the show started, he has gained thousands of followers on Instagram and is recognized by strangers. That very morning, a fan from Manila sent him a direct message.
“Really, this show in Manila?” Mx. Hiller said.
Before the show, Mx. Hiller is a longtime key figure in New York’s stages. He has also taught comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater for more than a decade.
In 2011, he moved to Los Angeles, where he enjoyed moderate success but did not work as much as he would have liked. “If I had two jobs in a year and you see both, you’re like, ‘Wow! Jeff is everywhere! ‘”I said. “But that’s only two business days in a year.”
By 2015, his roles in Los Angeles had dried up, his manager didn’t call him back, and he could no longer afford to live on a separate beach from his husband. He returned to New York and taught improv again at the Upright Citizens Brigade.
“I paid my dues,” he said with a particularly shrill laugh. “Do you know how many students in my first grade have booked sitcoms?” Mx. Hiller once counted the number of students who, in his estimation, “passed” before he did. When he turned 40, he stopped.
In 2018, he took over Drew Droege in the one-man show, Off Broadway, “Bright colors and bold patterns.” The following year, he performed an original comedy variety show about his mother’s death called “Grief Meats” at Joe’s Pub.
“That’s what makes me feel like an artist again,” he said. Not long after, he was hired as Joel in “Somebody, Somewhere,” alongside Bridget Everett and Murray Hill, two other veteran New York theater performers.
The three shared an Airbnb in Lockport, Ill., during filming. Every night, Mx. Hiller’s co-star, Mr. Hill, who plays Fred Rococo on the show, will run the ropes for them.
Mx said: “He was really vindictive about it. Hiller with a laugh. Beneath his gruff exterior, however, Mx. Hiller described Mr. Hill as a “secret mensch”.
After taking the photo, Mx. Hiller attended the Yaddo artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, NY, where he finished writing a play called “The Corazón,” a comedy set at a breakfast breakfast about toxic relationships. .
The theme is unexpected, given how Mx. Hiller is considered completely non-toxic. “I am 46 years old,” he said. “You didn’t know me when I was 22.”
Mx. Hiller walked into the lampshade shop, which was just a few blocks from his business premises. He asked her if she had brought a harp. The man behind the counter gestured toward a wall lined with them.
Mx. Hiller was delighted to find what he needed so close to home.
As he paid, he noticed that the harp had a gold and not silver finish that his husband preferred. “Oh,” Mx. Hiller said. “He’s going to have to deal.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/style/jeff-hiller-walks-toward-the-light.html Jeff Hiller, who stars in HBO’s “Somebody, Somewhere,” the lamp shop on New York’s Lower East Side.