WTC View

After more than a decade, actor and director reflect as film makes digital release debut

By Hans Pedersen - March 12, 2015

Based on real-life events after director Brian Sloan submitted a roommate ad to the Village Voice the night of Sept. 10, 2001 (and shot in 2003), WTC View is now available on iTunes for the first time.

Sloan began writing this independent film – adapted from his own acclaimed play about one guy’s attempt to find a new roommate in the days following 9/11 – six months after the tragedy, not that long after the smoldering finally ceased.

“[Following 9/11] there were a lot of messages on my answering machine of people who had called me responding to the apartment ad that I’d placed online,” Sloan said. “Some of them even called on September 12th which is pretty remarkable because you couldn’t get into the neighborhood, unless you were the National Guard.”

Sloan said they had challenges casting the role of Eric until they found the perfect match: openly gay actor Michael Urie (pictured), who was just finishing his studies at Juilliard.

Urie plays the demanding role of a Eric, gay man looking for someone to pass the roommate compatibility test in the wake of this tragedy. As potential candidates enter his lower Manhattan apartment and gaze out the window overlooking the smoldering ruins, we see the horror seems to have a different impact on each visitor, and then we begin to recognize the toll it’s all taking on Eric.

“Everyone knows what happened on September 11th,” he said. “This film is concerned with what happened on the 12th and 13th and the days and weeks after that,” Sloan said. “This was really a film about how New York and New Yorkers survived this attack and how they were trying to live in this really difficult time.”

Sloan also used the original cast from his stage show, capturing a powerful drama on film.

“They cast a wonderful group of actors. I have very fond memories of rehearsing this play and working with these really great people,” Urie recalled. “We discovered the play together. And it was 2003, so 9/11 was very fresh for all of us and I think nearly everyone in the play was in New York that day.”

Also like the play, Sloan made a decision not to show the smoldering remains, the burning towers or the impact of the planes – a striking choice that packs an emotional wallop.

“It was a real strong point to me not to show any of that because I felt so much of it had been seen almost in a way that we’re desensitized to it, strangely,” Sloan said. “I thought there would be something much more moving and emotionally poignant to really focus on the actors’ reactions.”

What’s surprising about WTC View is not only how compelling it is – or even the tension release from a romantic sex scene between Eric and another man – it’s Urie’s especially impressive dramatic performance. When his character bursts into tears, it’s startling, especially considering how hilarious and sassy he can be in his comedic work.

“This play is such a microcosm of what it was like to be in New York in the later part of September,” Urie said, “because the city, as you know, is a city of strangers, to quote Stephen Sondheim. [“City of strangers,” he sings out in a quick high-pitched musical aside.] “We interact when we have to,” he goes on in his regular tone, “but mostly we mind our own business. So when 9/11 happened and when we all were one and we all became this family dealing with a loss together, everything changed. Strangers spoke to each other, and shared stories and protected and helped and comforted one another.”

It’s intriguing to see this Juilliard-trained actor performing such a dramatic role, which he originated onstage prior to playing Marc St. James on TV’s “Ugly Betty” from 2006 to 2010.

“When ‘Ugly Betty’ came on and people really knew who I was, I was encouraged not to do gay characters, to shy away from that kind of thing,” Urie, said about his career since portraying Eric. “I have been very lucky to continue to work steadily and play lots and lots of gay characters.”

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