Need To Know: Matt Doyle & Seth Numrich

4.3.2011

By Phillip B. Crook

After turning the most famous love story ever told on its head, the actors can't seem to quit each other

How, on a sweltering day in July, in a tiny, air conditioner'less dorm room, before 14 onlookers, do two relative strangers conjure any sort of intimacy? 'It could have been an awkward situation, but it never was,' says Matt Doyle, describing a sensual scene he shot last year with his cast mate Seth Numrich for the upcoming film Private Romeo. By then, both actors had already cut their teeth in sexually charged projects, Numrich with an Off-Broadway turn as a gay teen in Slipping and Doyle with his role as gay heartbreaker Jonathan Whitney on Gossip Girl. They say leaping into a full-on love scene on day two of filming just felt like another day's work. 'You have to let go of all of your boundaries,' Doyle says.

Casting inhibitions aside seems almost necessary when you're faced with the challenge of playing the most famous couple of all time. Private Romeo, hitting the festival circuit this spring, is a reimagining of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In this version, though, the star-crossed lovers are 16-year-old military school cadets Sam (Numrich, right) and Glenn (Doyle, left), and instead of two feuding houses, a group of eight friends divides over the intense infatuation between the boys. Though Numrich is straight and Doyle gay, Numrich says there was chemistry between them almost instantly. 'We auditioned together, so we'd kissed each other before we'd even exchanged names,' he says. 'It forces you to break the ice. There was never hesitation, and that's what's required to build a relationship onscreen.'

It's no surprise that relationship has extended off screen as well, considering the actors have spent nearly every day together for the past three months. In addition to Private Romeo, which they finished shooting last summer, the pair will appear in the much-buzzed-about Broadway play War Horse, a dazzling, effects-heavy adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's 1982 young adult novel set in World War I. A transplant from London's West End, the show has already generated a following that includes Steven Spielberg, whose movie version of the story hits theaters in December. Numrich and Doyle play cousins in the production, and Doyle also understudies for Numrich for the lead role of Albert.

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