Bobby Cannavale’s Workplace Injuries

This article originally appeared on this site.

Bobby Cannavale, the actor, was recently lying on his back on a massage table, talking to Alaina Hesse, his physical therapist. “I wake up sometimes, and I have this limp and I’m, like, What if someone chases me, and it’s on a bad-knee day? I need to be able to get away.” Cannavale, who is forty-seven, was wearing shorts and a gray T-shirt on which an image of Vince Carter’s famous dunk, during the 2000 Olympics—over the head of Frédéric Weis, of France—had been remade with President Trump in the place of Weis. Hesse was investigating the area around Cannavale’s left knee. The table was at Neurosport Physical Therapy, in midtown, whose décor—strip lighting, brown carpets—gave it the air of foreclosed office space being used to store stolen exercise bikes.

“It feels pretty good,” Hesse said.

“Yes? Does the quad feel O.K.?”

In a week, Cannavale would begin filming for the third season of “Mr. Robot,” the USA Network thriller, whose cast he was joining. Before then, he would finish a four-week run in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape,” at the Park Avenue Armory, playing Yank, a stoker on a transatlantic liner. This role had required displays of simian strength and agility, and had left him in constant pain; he was seeing Hesse five times a week.

Describing a history of workplace injury, Cannavale recalled “The Motherfucker with the Hat,” in which he starred on Broadway with Chris Rock and Elizabeth Rodriguez, in 2011. During a scene of domestic conflict, “I’m screaming, ‘You fucked him right here!,’ and I punched the bed, and I tore my rotator cuff.” Rehearsing another scene, Cannavale proposed to colleagues that, while reaching for a dropped gun, he should hit his head on a table. Demonstrating this, he knocked himself out. “Six stitches,” Cannavale said. “Nobody’s ever going to hire me to choreograph fights.” Later, during a performance of the play, he walked into a metal beam. Blood spurted from his head—Cannavale did a mime—and the theatre’s management asked if there was a doctor in the house. “And an ophthalmologist came back,” he said.

“Various things go,” Cannavale went on. “The back and the neck and the knee.” He recalled a scene in “Boardwalk Empire” where his character beat someone to death with a shovel. “I’m whacking this rubber head, and I didn’t have to do it that hard. They were, like, ‘Do you want the fake shovel, which weighs nothing?’ ‘No! I don’t want the fake shovel! What are you talking about?’ ” He pulled something in his back.

“Look, I didn’t train to do this,” Cannavale said. “I didn’t go to college. Maybe there is a part of me that thinks I have to leave it all out there. Nobody in the long line of my family, both sides, has ever done anything like this. They’re all working people, they worked with their hands, and there’s probably something in there that’s, like, This isn’t real work.” He looked at his scarred, bruised knuckles. “I don’t need to punch the steel table every night.”

Hesse said that Cannavale had invited her to watch a rehearsal of “The Hairy Ape.” Afterward, she advised him to adjust his crouch. “I told him, ‘If you arch your back—hinge back with your hips—you’ll still have that ape posture,’ ” she said. But, by then, he’d already jumped off a table and, landing on one foot, torn the meniscus in his left knee. He had a cortisone shot, and decided to have surgery a few weeks later, midway through the “Mr. Robot” shoot. In “The Hairy Ape,” he began wearing braces and padding on both knees, and a footballer’s cushioned shorts. He compared himself with the trussed character once played by Dan Aykroyd on “Saturday Night Live”—Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.

Three nights later, shortly after coming offstage at the Armory, Cannavale was alone, sitting beneath a portrait of George Washington, in a narrow, wood-panelled dressing room. He limped to get beers from a fridge, and limped back, and then sat with an ice pack on his knee. “It hurts,” he said. He would soon go home to Greenwich Village, where he lives with his partner, Rose Byrne, the actress, and their infant son. “I take a cold shower, then I take a hot shower, and then I ice, and eat my cereal. And I take meloxicam, so I don’t have to take four Advil.”

He recalled a Louis C.K. bit about going to his doctor with a painful ankle, and being advised to take painkillers—and to stretch. For how long? “No, you just do that now,” the doctor says. “That’s just a new thing that you do. Until you and your shitty ankle both die.”

“I talked to Louis yesterday on the phone,” Cannavale said. “I was, like, ‘Dude, I get so much mileage out of your joke about Advil. I bring it up all the time.” C.K. had replied, “It’s because we’re old, that’s why. It’s one of the jokes for old guys.” ♦