Photography by Mr Kai Z Feng | Styling by Mr Jason Rider
Words by Mr Yale Breslin
Maryland native Mr Charles loves old school Neil Young tunes, made his film debut in Mr John Waters' Hairspray, and has a thing for the unofficial Italian dress code. But at 39, this graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts has come a long way since his novice days doing stand-up comedy (he first took to the stage at age nine). He earned a Screen Actors Guild nomination for his role on Mr Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night, appeared in the Oscar-winning Dead Poets Society and more recently, has captivated audiences with his small screen portrayal of Mr Will Gardner, one of the partners at Stern, Lockhart & Gardner on The Good Wife.
Rumour has it you started off doing stand-up comedy?
I started doing comedy when I was a kid because I was obsessed with Richard Pryor. I was always a precocious kid and people thought what I was doing was funny. But I never pursued a serious career in comedy. It's by far one of the scariest things someone can do - going on stage and seeing a crowd full of people with their arms crossed and trying to make them laugh. It was daunting.
Do you miss it?
Not at all. I have way too much respect for the professionals to even consider doing it again.
What's your approach to getting dressed?
I think my personal style has one trumping component: comfort. If it's not really comfortable or practical, it won't work for me. I will say that the older I get, the more I care about what I wear. But I tend to wear a lot of the same things.
Which would be?
I'm really a jeans person. That's my definitive staple, and everything builds around that. I always have to start from a place of wanting to feel comfortable. And once you nail that down, it will carry through in your attitude and the way you carry yourself. But when all else fails, I resort to my default trio: jeans, tennis shoes and a simple white T-shirt.
If comfort reigns king for Mr Charles, how does your style differ from Mr Gardner, the character you play on The Good Wife?
Will has impeccable taste and always presents himself in a very professional manner. He can always be found in an Italian suit with faultless tailoring. Will wears a ton of Canali. He likes to represent power, and the clothes that he wears signify someone of that stature. It's classic, but with a modern twist. The difference here is comfort: I require it, Will doesn't.
What's the environment like on set?
We laugh - a lot. We all take the work very seriously, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously. It's a good balance. But to be fair, what we do is not for wussies. It's like a train - that never stops. We have a break coming up though, which I'm looking forward to.
So now that you're off from filming, what are you planning on doing before you get back to work?
You know, there wasn't anything that really presented itself that I wanted to jump on. So, what I'm most looking forward to is hanging with my girlfriend and going fishing. I'm about to leave for a trip to Israel and France. It's something I've wanted to do for a while. But, at heart, I'm a real Italia-phile.
The country? The food? The style?
All of it, including the attitude and the style. I'm learning the language too as I would love to one day own a little piece of property there. I haven't been as studious as I would have liked to be as I got busy with the show and really wasn't able to stay focused.
What music are you listening to these days?
My favourite band is Broken Social Scene, but lately, I've really been into this band called Steel Train, as well as Feist and Arcade Fire - all the Canadian bands. I gotta admit, Canada has the best music right now.
Neil Young is Canadian after all...
I love his last record. I got to see him in concert with my dad in Baltimore. It was just him - solo - blowing his harp all over the stage. His set list was a mixture of new and old stuff, and it just sounded so unbelievable. He's an artist that has given me so much happiness, and being able to share that with my father was magical.