Jeff Hephner of 'Boss': Every Girl's Crazy 'Bout a Sharp-Dressed Man
On Friday, Oct. 19, Starz' Windy City political drama "Boss" ends its second season. Before that, I'll be doing a post for Zap2it's "From Inside the Box" blog with star Jeff Hephner, who plays Illinois State Treasurer -- and gubernatorial candidate -- Ben Zajac.
We'll be talking about Zajac's campaign -- which, as of the last episode, appears to be on the upswing -- the price of power, his relationship with Chicago Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) and whether the philandering Zajac's soul can be redeemed.
But before that, we're talking fashion (as if you couldn't tell from the ZZ Top lyric in the headline.)
(That does not apply to the picture above, which Hephner tweeted out from his @HephnerJeff account, in a no-doubt-desperate attempt to win viewers. And he buzzed his hair off himself.)
If clothes make the man, then a lot of modern guys appear to be less men than arrested adolescents or eternal college students. That's not the case with Zajac, whose political duties require him to wear -- when he's wearing anything at all, that is -- suits and ties.
Hephner, a 6' 2", New York-based husband and father of three, likes that.
"As an actor," he says, "when you get to put on these clothes and fit into a character, it really does inform how you carry yourself. That has carried over into my life, because I understand better the perception, because that's part of my job. When I was younger, if I showed up at something all sloppy and lackadaisical, I was immediately perceived that way.
"So, as a grown-up -- or more grown-up, now -- I definitely think that's important. As you get older, I understand that, walking into a room, I want to be able to garner the respect of the situation. I want people to be able to take me seriously. That has a lot to do with appearance.
"It's a shame that so many young men have gotten away from that."
Not only that, but we've got plenty of men who are no longer quite so young, whose fashion sense has not caught up with their years.
"We've got so many infantile men in this country," says Hephner, 37, "who are still chasing being 20 years old and not accepting where they are, and presenting themselves in that fashion. I think we've got an epidemic on our hands. Where, if I want to look like a competent, confident man -- I've got a body of work behind me in my career, and I want to carry myself in a certain way -- you're demeaned for that.
"If you don't look pretty ... feminization just carries over into our politics and into our social world, and it's allowed so many men to stay infantile and not grow up. They're like, 'Well, I look pretty, and the women will handle it.' There's no give or take. We're going to have a generation of men who don't know how to care for themselves if their mommy doesn't do it."
While Zajac is a suit-and-tie guy, he's not perfectly tailored, and there's a reason for that.
"Zajac wears suits that are slightly too big on the show," says Hephner. "It's a conversation that I had in the beginning with our costume designer. We need to see that he's got room to grow. He's got to look a little like he doesn't quite fit all the way. If he came in a perfect suit, you'd take him as a slick artist way before you would get a sense of who he is.
"I look at Kelsey's suits, and his suits are perfect. There's this big, barrel-chested manliness about him, and the suits really accentuate that. Whereas, I look at Zajac ... I was in a meeting yesterday, and a lady was looking at a promotional shot of me (as Zajac), and she said, 'Wow, that doesn't look like you.' I said, 'he looks a little young.'
"But as he moves forward, I think all that stuff should be tightened up and streamlined. That's part of the maturation process of a man. When you look at Kelsey as the mayor and as the force, you look at how he's dressed, I mean, it's impeccable. It really accentuates how big and strong and powerful he is."
At least to this point, Zajac has also been seen in various stages of undress, romancing women who aren't his wife. Even then, there are lines that Hephner doesn't want to cross.
"On my show," he says, "they're constantly trying to get me to shave my damn chest! I have a feeling that, if you're spending so much time focusing on those parts of your appearance, you have more holes to fill."