Jeff Hiller, who stars in HBO’s “Somebody, Somewhere,” buys lamps on New York’s Lower East Side.
The chandeliers presented an unusual challenge for actor and comedian Jeff Hiller.
At 6 feet 5 inches, Mx. Hiller’s head grazed, passed, and occasionally bumped into the various light fixtures hanging from the ceiling of A&E Bowery Lighting on New York’s Lower East Side.
Like Mx. Hiller, 46, who uses a gender-neutral courtesy title, maneuvered around the store, he pulled a few pull cords, testing 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. Huang seemed to have taken a liking to Mx. Hillier.
The same goes for viewers of HBO’s “Somebody, Somewhere,” the new HBO comedy in which Mx. Hiller plays Joel, a sweet, gay, church-loving middle-aged man who lives in Kansas.
Mx. Hiller, originally from Texas, related to the character. “I know this guy: queer but also, ‘I love my church!’ » Max. said Hiller. “And I love this guy.” Mx. Hiller himself was raised a Lutheran and said he missed church “maybe three times” in the first 25 years of his life.
Today, Max. Hiller was looking for a light to hang over her desk that would differentiate her office from her dining room, which technically took up the same room in her one-bedroom co-op on the Lower East Side. He also needed a new “harp”, which he learned was the name of the metal loop that supports the lampshade. He described the look he wanted as “sort of Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler, but bootleg – a bit campy, but also chic.”
He lingered over a frosted glass globe on a silver base. “Actually, I wouldn’t mind having gold, but my husband is a real anti-gold,” he said. “I think it reminds him of Donald Trump, which is fair. I don’t want a Melania lamp. Mx. Hiller punctuated that with one of his many high-pitched laughs that would erupt during this excursion.
He took pictures of other contestants he thought her husband, artist Neil Goldberg, might like.
“What I should be doing is taking pictures of the things I want,” he said. “But sometimes when I share pictures of the things I want and he doesn’t like them, it hurts me, even if it’s irrational.”
Mx. Hiller said he was working on his urge to over-adapt to therapy. “That’s why I have my Bea Arthur brooch,” he said, pointing to an enamel pin of the actress on the lapel of his peacoat. “People don’t like her!” »
In the end, Mx. Hiller thought it best to buy light fixtures without consulting his other half. But he still needed that harp. Ms. Huang did not sell them, but she recommended a nearby lampshade store.
As he rode up the Bowery, Mx. Hiller reflected on how the response to “Somebody, Somewhere” differed from her previous film and television work.
“It’s not even slightly comparable,” he said with another high-pitched laugh. Since the start of the show, he has amassed thousands of Instagram followers and is recognized by strangers. Just that morning, a Manila fan sent him a direct message.
“Really, this show is in Manila?” Mx. said Hiller.
Before the show, Mx. Hiller had long been a fixture on New York stages. He also taught comedy classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater for over a decade.
In 2011 he moved to Los Angeles, where he had moderate success but didn’t work as hard as he wanted. “If I had two jobs in a year and you saw them both, you’d be like, ‘Wow! Jeff is everywhere! “, did he declare. “But it was only two working days a year.”
By 2015, his roles in Los Angeles had dried up, his manager wasn’t returning his calls, and he could no longer afford to live on a coast separate from his husband. He returned to New York and again taught improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade.
“I paid my dues,” he said with a particularly high-pitched laugh. “Do you know how many students in my grade one class have booked sitcoms?” Mx. Hiller had once counted the number of students he thought had “passed” before him. By the time he reached his upper forties, he stopped.
In 2018, he took over from Drew Droege in Off Broadway’s one-man show, “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.” The following year he performed an original cabaret show about his mother’s death called “Grief Bacon” at Joe’s Pub.
“That’s what made me feel like an artist again,” he said. Shortly after, he was hired as Joel on “Somebody, Somewhere”, alongside Bridget Everett and Murray Hill, two other veterans of the New York scene.
The three shared an Airbnb in Lockport, Illinois, for the duration of filming. Every night, Mx. Hiller’s co-star Mr. Hill, who played Fred Rococo on the show, would direct lines for them.
“He was actually a little vicious about it,” Mx said. Hiller laughing. Yet beneath his gruff exterior, Mx. Hiller described Mr. Hill as a “secret mensch”.
After filming wrapped, Mx. Hiller attended Yaddo artist colony in Saratoga Springs, NY, where he finished writing a play called “The Corazón”, a bed-and-breakfast comedy about toxic relationships.
The topic is surprising, given how Mx. Hiller comes across as decidedly non-toxic. “I’m 46,” he said. “You didn’t know me when I was 22.”
Mx. Hiller walked into the lampshade store, which was a few blocks from her co-op. He asked if he carried harps. The man behind the counter gestured to a wall bordered by them.
Mx. Hiller was thrilled to find exactly what he needed so close to home.
As he paid, he noticed that the harps had a gold finish rather than the silver her husband preferred. “Well,” Mx. said Hiller. “He’s just going to have to face it.”