The appearance of David Bowie on HBO’s “Vinyl” Sunday night took on new meaning following the rock star’s shocking death earlier this year.
Bowie is played on the Bobby Cannavale-starring drama about the ’70s recording industry by Noah Bean, a regular TV actor who’s been in everything from “Elementary” to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
The way Bean got the job was fairly simple: He happens to look at lot like Bowie, and he knows Cannavale.
“Bobby’s kind of always had a joke with me that I look so much like Bowie, and then he called me up and said, ‘Hey, they are going to do a Bowie episode,'” Bean told Business Insider of the episode, “Cyclone,” in which a new female A&R executive at American Century Records goes to Bowie’s rehearsal, while he’s singing “Suffragette City,” in an attempt to sign him.
So Bean read for the role and got approved by executive producers Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese, and his tape was even sent to Bowie’s team. (The show’s first season was filmed in 2015, before Bowie’s death from cancer, which he had kept hidden from the public.)
“I think Bowie had to give his blessing and to sign off on me portraying him, just from my tape,” Bean said. “When I heard that, it was hugely intimidating to take this on. It’s David Bowie.”
Bean had actually met Bowie once backstage at a play the actor performed in New York City.
“I just remember him being so complimentary to us, which was so touching,” Bean said. “I think the interesting about him as an artist was that with all of his reinvention, we never really knew him.”
To prepare, Bean watched “Cracked Actor,” a BBC documentary about Bowie from 1974, around the same period of the show (’73) when Bowie was coming off of the global success of his Ziggy Stardust era. On “Vinyl,” Bowie, even in one scene, comes off as enormously charming, yet fundamentally unknowable.
“He had a great sense of humour. I was just trying to get a bit of his essence and then listening to his music and trying to lose some weight as well,” Bean said. “I think cocaine was the staple of his diet. I didn’t pick up a coke habit for this role, but I did try to lose as much weight as I could in a week and a half, which was basically just jump on the treadmill every day and put on ‘Hunky Dory’ and just run.”
HBO also supplied Bean with the proper prosthetic “Bowie teeth” and the full costume and makeup to transform into the icon. The music you hear, however, comes from Bowie himself.
“It was funny, because I had to walk down the street in New York City from the trailer to the set and felt like a rock star,” Bean said. “People wanted to take pictures with David Bowie. Even the crew was asking to get their picture taken with me. That helped. It just felt really joyful, which I think Bowie led his life that way, too.
“I had some stuff going on in my life, and it was so great to get into Bowie’s world for me and do this thing. It was so fun,” the actor continued.
And while Bowie’s moment is all too brief on this week’s “Vinyl,” it may not be the last of him. The show was recently renewed for a second season.
“I’d be happy to go back,” Bean said.
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