'Ugly Betty' Star Michael Urie Finds Peace in 'Outer Upper' Hell's Kitchen
MIDTOWN — Michael Urie won't ask if you know who he is.
The "Ugly Betty" actor and star of the Rattlestick Theater's current production, "Buyer and Cellar" is busy promoting his first directorial feature, "He's Way More Famous Than You." The comedy about a failed indie star (co-writer Halley Feiffer) trying to claw her way back to fame deals with the uncomfortable concept of fan recognition — or lack thereof.
But Urie doesn't share his main character's issues.
Urie seems to enjoy a peaceful existence in what he refers to as the "car dealership district" of Hell's Kitchen. He spoke to DNAinfo New York about some of his favorite spots around the neighborhood, and the one occasion when he had to play the "I'm famous" card.
What part of the city do you live in?
I live in Hell’s Kitchen West. I call it Outer Upper Hell’s Kitchen, or OUHK. It’s actually kind of the car dealership district of Manhattan. I live right by the BMW dealership and the Lexus dealership. But it’s wonderful because we live right by the river and we have a dog. There are these wonderful parks over there. It’s an easy walk to the Theater District, which is great when we’re working in the theater. You can get right on the West Side Highway and out of the city in no time. Also, I bike a lot. We live near the bike trail that goes up and down the river, which is amazing. You can get downtown in 15 minutes on a bike.
So you're loving it.
It’s not necessarily the best walking neighborhood. It’s not quite the West Village or the Upper West Side, where you can walk down quiet streets, but it really is a great place to get around, and we see sky. [You] also feel like you’ve gotten away from the hustle and bustle.
How did you end up there?
Really the building sold us. We live in a really great building — cool amenities, we have a great gym and a restaurant in the lobby, a little bodega in the lobby, and we’re so close to the river and the trails. I think that’s really what sold us, and the proximity — it’s like a 7 minute walk to Lincoln Center. That’s so nice to get to that little neighborhood in no time and also get out of that neighborhood.
Where do you go out to eat in the neighborhood?
Well Hudson Eatery, which is the restaurant in our building. There’s also this great place called The Greek Kitchen, which I’m obsessed with, on 10th and 58th. Then there’s this awesome restaurant where I shot a short film, called Il Baretto on 11th and 52nd. It’s a really cute little Italian place — tiny coffee shop-slash-salted meat sandwich place. It’s very good.
Are you a Fresh Direct person?
Well we have a Western Beef that’s not too far, which is a funny grocery store, and a Gristedes. We don’t do Fresh Direct. We should, but I’m not good at planning food ahead. I can only get food when I’m hungry.
Do you end up at the galleries or the High Line?
Not a ton, though I do always perk up when somebody wants to do something on the West Side because I think, “Oh, I can just zip down in a cab! $4!” It takes no time at all to get anywhere in a cab from our place because of the West Side Highway, which is really cool. There are so many cool things on the West Side on the pier.
There’s a great place down there called The Frying Pan at 26th. It’s an incredible bar that’s on a boat on the dock. It’s a few boats that have somehow been connected to each other. It’s like a big barge. It has a bar in it and you can explore all these boats. This time of year it would be so fun to go and just drink.
I’ve heard that place is great, but crazy busy all the time.
But because it’s so huge, you can usually find a table.
Do you ever have to employ the old “do you know who I am?” line there.
I have never been successful at the “do you know who I am?” thing. One time, I was selling a car to a stranger. It was somebody who knew somebody. I was suddenly like, who is this person that I’m in the car with and am about to sell it to? There was a sudden moment where I was like, I hope this isn’t a scam and I’m going to get mugged. I said, “do you know who I am?” and I actually played that card just because I wanted him to know that if he was going to kill me, that he was killing a somewhat-famous person. What happens more than not with me is that his girlfriend watched “Ugly Betty,” so thank God he knew who I was and I could trust him.
"He's Way More Famous Than You" hits theaters on May 10. To learn more, click here.