Magazine article The New Yorker

Real Work

Magazine article The New Yorker

Real Work

Article excerpt

Real Work

Bobby Cannavale

Bobby Cannavale, the actor, was recently lying on his back on a massage table, talking to Alaina Hesse, his physical therapist. "I wake up sometimes, and I have this limp and I'm, like, What if someone chases me, and it's on a bad-knee day? I need to be able to get away." Cannavale, who is forty-seven, was wearing shorts and a gray T-shirt on which an image of Vince Carter's famous dunk, during the 2000 Olympics--over the head of Frederic Weis, of France--had been remade with President Trump in the place of Weis. Hesse was investigating the area around Cannavale's left knee. The table was at Neurosport Physical Therapy, in midtown, whose decor--strip lighting, brown carpets--gave it the air of foreclosed office space being used to store stolen exercise bikes.

"It feels pretty good," Hesse said.

"Yes? Does the quad feel O.K.?"

In a week, Cannavale would begin filming for the third season of "Mr. Robot," the USA Network thriller, whose cast he was joining. Before then, he would finish a four-week run in Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape," at the Park Avenue Armory, playing Yank, a stoker on a transatlantic liner. This role had required displays of simian strength and agility, and had left him in constant pain; he was seeing Hesse five times a week.

Describing a history of workplace injury, Cannavale recalled "The Motherfucker with the Hat," in which he starred on Broadway with Chris Rock and Elizabeth Rodriguez, in 2011. During a scene of domestic conflict, "I'm screaming, 'You fucked him right here!,' and I punched the bed, and I tore my rotator cuff." Rehearsing another scene, Cannavale proposed to colleagues that, while reaching for a dropped gun, he should hit his head on a table. Demonstrating this, he knocked himself out. "Six stitches," Cannavale said. "Nobody's ever going to hire me to choreograph fights." Later, during a performance of the play, he walked into a metal beam. Blood spurted from his head--Cannavale did a mime--and the theatre's management asked if there was a doctor in the house. "And an ophthalmologist came back," he said.

"Various things go," Cannavale went on. "The back and the neck and the knee." He recalled a scene in "Boardwalk Empire" where his character beat someone to death with a shovel. "I'm whacking this rubber head, and I didn't have to do it that hard. They were, like, 'Do you want the fake shovel, which weighs nothing? …

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