Patrick Cassidy Cover Story
Patrick Cassidy, the Cassidy you may not know you know
By Dawn Ritchie
“It’s in the DNA,” says actor Patrick Cassidy of the renowned Cassidy showbiz lineage. From the moment I was conceived, someone said ‘smile’ and there was a camera in my face.”
Cassidy, who was conceived during the filming of the Oscar winning musical The Music Man by mother Shirley Jones, isn’t overstating. Jones tried to hide her pregnancy during filming but once the cameras rolled, baby Patrick grabbed the limelight, kicking furiously as Robert Preston smooched the expectant actress during the love scene on the footbridge. A startled Preston reacted visibly and the cat was out of the bag. Forty-six years later Cassidy and his mother reprised that auspicious Music Man connection onstage at Bushnell Center in Hartford, Conn. But this time Patrick was playing the lead role of Harold Hill and starring opposite his mother, who assumed the character of Mrs. Paroo. It was a completion of the circle and a dream finally realized.
Cassidy was bit by the theater bug early in his school days at Beverly Hills High. Like older brother Shaun and half-brother David, his heartthrob good looks and inborn musical talent poised him for a career as a pop teen idol … but the footlights beckoned.
“I watched my brothers’ careers and after the teen thing wore off they were like, ‘Now what do we do?’ They didn’t have the foundation laid for a career. In the industry they weren’t taken seriously.”
Shaun has since transitioned into a highly respected television writer/producer, David continues to perform and younger brother Ryan opted for below-the-line employment in television art departments. But it was Patrick who followed in his parents’ footsteps and sought career longevity on the stage. He hit the Big Apple at the tender age of 19 and within two weeks was cast in the Broadway production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance opposite Kevin Kline. Cassidy credits this experience of working with Kline, and later Treat Williams, for “propelling” him further in the direction of stage work.
“TV is so fickle. One minute you are the flavor of the month; next thing no one cares,” says Cassidy, who ironically has managed to wrack up dozens of series television credits on prime timers such as CSI Miami, Without A Trace and ER. “TV and film is never an actor’s medium, but in the theater you get to drive the boat. There are always the mishaps of live theater … and the triumphs.”
Since Pirates of Penzance, Cassidy has tackled the work of musical masterminds Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber, starring in New York productions of both Assassins and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This month he goes into rehearsals at Jason Alexander’s Reprise Theater in L.A. for a concert version of I Love My Wife.
“My career has predominantly been theatre,” says Cassidy, who, of all the Cassidy boys, most resembles his late father, the debonair silver-haired Broadway trouper, Jack Cassidy. “My hair began turning grey in my 20s, which opened up even more opportunities,” he says. “Hair color alone allows me to play a variety of roles from 25 to 45. In the span of five years I went from Frank Butler in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, to Radames in Aida, to playing Julian Marsh in 42nd Street and then back to Joseph in Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I’ve been very fortunate and blessed.”
Not all performers can boast the same providence. With a glut of cheaply produced reality shows flooding the airwaves, the creative side of the industry has been hit hard. Media reports voraciously dissect the financial woes of mega stars, like singer Michael Jackson and perennial co-host Ed McMahon. “It’s a tough economy,” says Cassidy, “but I’ve never lived beyond my means.” That’s due in part to his parents dogged coaching about the pitfalls of fame and the harsh realities of a life in show business.
“Our parents told us that you’re only as good as your last audition. They knew the hardship of this business. It’s feast or famine and there will be lean years, but that’s all part of the business. In any career there’s no for-sure thing.”
That’s not to say Cassidy hasn’t taken risks with his career. He courageously starred in the groundbreaking AIDS film Longtime Companion in 1990 at a time when many straight actors shied away from playing homosexuals for fear of being blacklisted. Longtime Companion had been released a full three years before Philadelphia changed that perception when rock-solid heteros Antonio Banderas and Tom Hanks portrayed lovers on screen. Cassidy is proud of that milestone and has worked hard for AIDS awareness in his charitable work ever since.
“I do a big benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles every year. I was in New York when the AIDS epidemic hit,” he recalls somberly. “So many friends and colleagues passed away that I had to do something. Longtime Companion was a labor of love.”
Cassidy still works frequently in New York and in regional theaters across the country, but he makes the West Valley his home. “I’ve had the best of both worlds. I’ve lived all over New York for 25 years in sublets, from Chelsea to the Upper West Side, East Side and in Midtown — but always kept a house here.” Here was first Sherman Oaks, now
Westlake Village. (Spot him at favorite hangouts Suki 7, Dakotas and Wood Ranch.)
“It was a no-brainer to come out here. Education and the schools are great. I’m not the guy you see at Hollywood premieres and parties. I’m basically a homebody and I’ve met incredible people here. There are actually real, regular people. I’m drawn to people who are not in the business.”
Staying close to family is important, too. Brother Shaun lives close-by in Hidden Hills and mother Shirley in Encino. Sadly, Cassidy’s father died tragically in a fire when Patrick was only a teenager. “My father was not a typical dad. He was a huge force, a huge entity and his presence was really felt but he wasn’t around a lot. That taught me that I wanted to be there for my children. I wanted to improve on the things I didn’t get. It’s made me a better father.”
That loss may be just one reason why family remains at the core of everything — work and leisure. “My parents and my brothers have been very influential. They’re my best friends.” And there’s no doubt that bond will grow even stronger when they join talents later this year in a three-camera sitcom pilot for ABC Family. Produced by Shaun Cassidy and Ed Yeagar, Ruby and The Rockits tells the tale of a successful pop duo from the ‘80s (played by Patrick and David) who suffer a public breakup and then are reunited as adults through their talented children. Ed Yeagar penned the script with story work by Shaun Cassidy.
The whole endeavor has been “a new version of The Partridge Family,” says Cassidy. “The Partridge Family meets Two and Half Men meets Hannah Montana. It’s life imitating art.”