Michael Esper Reveals How 20-Year Sobriety Fuels His Broadway Success

Broadway shines light on deep family dynamics in "Appropriate"

by Zain ul Abedin
Michael Esper Reveals How 20-Year Sobriety Fuels His Broadway Success
© Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

In a candid interview with PEOPLE, Michael Esper, the seasoned Broadway actor renowned for his performances in "American Idiot," "The Lyons," and "The Last Ship," delves into how his personal journey of two decades of sobriety profoundly influences his latest role in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Broadway hit "Appropriate." Playing Franz, the black sheep of a family grappling with his tumultuous past and efforts at recovery, Esper brings an authentic and deeply personal understanding to the character.

Esper, 47, shares, "I've been in recovery for 20 years, so there's a lot about Franz I understand implicitly. It's added a really incredible dynamic to working on him." His connection to Franz’s struggles with addiction and his journey towards recovery allows him to portray his character with a remarkable depth and authenticity that resonates with both the audience and his own experiences.

"Thinking about where he is in his recovery, I've met him before. I've been him before," Esper reveals. He reflects on the universal struggles and connections found in recovery, emphasizing the profound impact of genuine intentions and the painful realities of healing before one is truly ready.

"Part of what breaks my heart about him is his intentions are really genuine and he is desperate to heal for both himself and for the people in his life," he adds.

"Appropriate": Family Secrets Unveiled

"Appropriate" unfolds as a gripping family drama at the Belasco Theater in New York City.

After the death of their father, three siblings return to their Arkansas home only to uncover long-buried secrets. The play, which opened to rave reviews, draws parallels to celebrated works like "August: Osage County" and "The Humans" and has attracted a slew of celebrities, including Angelina Jolie and Bradley Cooper.

Esper's co-stars, Sarah Paulson and Corey Stoll, contribute to a powerful ensemble cast that brings Jacobs-Jenkins' intricate script to life. Esper praises the script's seamless blend of personal, political themes and its sophisticated use of humor which he describes as "dangerous comedy." As the play continues to draw audiences and critical acclaim, Esper remains humbly grateful for the role and the continuous journey of recovery, stating, "I definitely wouldn't be here if it weren't for my sobriety.

That I know for sure." Tickets for "Appropriate" are available through June 23, offering theatergoers a chance to witness a moving story of family, forgiveness, and the possibility of redemption.