Actor Bryan Batt is best known for his role as Sal Romano on the award-winning AMC series “Mad Men.”
If you saw the 1995 film comedy “Jeffrey,” there’s a good chance you’ll also recall his portrayal of the character Darius, an actor permanently cast as a dancing and singing feline in the Broadway presentation of “Cats.”
These days, however, Batt is hitting the television talk show circuit and making public appearances to promote his new book, “She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother” (Harmony Books). The comedic tome chronicles his life and the supportive presence of his charmingly Auntie Mame-like mother Gayle.
Although he’s a native of New Orleans, Batt’s a tri-coastal jet-setter of sorts, dividing his time between Los Angeles, New York and the Big Easy.
“I get to spend about half the year in New Orleans,” he explains. "I love it here and this is the place I call home. The rest of the time I’m either in New York or L.A. for work.”
Q. Where are you now?
A. I’m in New Orleans. We’re walking on Canal Street. It just stormed and it’s not so beastly hot as usual. My friend Rachel is visiting from Singapore and my partner Tom is here, too, and we're all headed for the French Quarter. I think we’re going to Commander’s Palace for dinner. I practically grew up there and my family has been friends with the owners for generations. Every time my mother goes there it’s like Dolly Levi at the Harmonia Gardens in “Hello Dolly.”
Q. Speaking of your mom, I know “She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother” examines a lot of the experiences you had with her growing up. What prompted you to write the book?
A. I started writing short stories about my life and my mom. Sometimes I would get together at parties with friends like Paul Rudnick and B.D. Wong and we would share stories. Another friend, Richard Jackson, told me he thought the stories were so funny and outrageous that if I didn’t do something with them, he would. So I guess fear of theft of intellectual property was really what prompted me [laughs]. But there was more to it then that, of course. My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and I felt like she was living on borrowed time, so I wanted to do something that was a tribute to her.
Q. New Orleans culture is unlike any other in the country. At what point did you realize the people around you and the place you lived were distinctly different?
A. As a kid growing up I never gave much thought to it. I just assumed everybody celebrated Mardi Gras and took part in fabulous parades like we have every year. I did learn pretty early on, though, that most people weren’t experiencing life like I was here in other parts of the world and that nobody had a mother quite like mine.
Q. How is your mother now?
A. I talk about that in the end of the book. We’re at Commander’s Palace and she announces to the room how much better she’s doing. You know, she has her good days and her bad days, but overall, she’s amazing. She’s 79, and I think only an act of God could actually take her.
7:30 p.m. Friday. Outwrite Books, 991 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-607-0082. www.outwritebooks.com .
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