Michael Cerveris wondered what the big fuss was all about. His friends had been telling him for years that New Orleans was an amazing place, one he was bound to love, but he wasn’t feeling it.
“I was in town for six months in 2007 shooting a movie called ‘Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant’ and they put me up in a hotel,” said Cerveris, who now appears on CBS’s “The Good Wife” as States Attorney James Castro. “It wasn’t until I made friends with my dresser, Dana Embree, and moved out of the hotel into an apartment in Carrollton that I started to get it.”
Since then, the Tony award winner’s conversion has been complete. He has developed such a devotion to the city that he bought a house in Treme last summer, and he now divides time between New York and New Orleans.
His home is open today on the Historic Faubourg Treme home tour.
“I am here every chance I get. It could be for a weekend, it could be for a Saints game,” he said. “I have friends who leave Manhattan for the Hamptons on the weekends and it takes them three or four hours to get there. In the same amount of time, I can fly to New Orleans. It’s the first place I’ve been that I wanted to put down roots.”
Cerveris has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, working on projects in the Musicians Village and in Arabi. He has become enamored of local music genres, something that helped prepare him for a role in the HBO series “Tremé” as Marvin Frey, Annie’s manager.
Visits to zydeco night at Rock ’n’ Bowl and to a Mardi Gras Indians practice led him “to fall in love fast and deeply” with New Orleans.
He devised a goal of buying a place here and socked away money from his role in “Evita” on Broadway (with Ricky Martin) toward that end.
On a 2013 visit, he realized home prices were taking off and might soon be out of reach.
“I was staying with a friend in Treme when the ‘for sale’ sign went up on this place, and I made an appointment to see it the next day,” he said. “I had thought I wanted a place with a yard, but this suits me fine.”
Cerveris’ home consists of two rooms on each floor, plus two baths. On the first floor, the front door opens to a stair, with a living room on the right and kitchen/dining behind. A doorway under the stair leads outside to a postage stamp-sized patio. Upstairs, a bedroom in the front of the house features a vintage brass bed and gauze panels that flutter in front of open windows.
“This is exactly what I imagined my New Orleans bedroom would look like,” he said.
When he was imagining how he wanted to furnish the rest of his New Orleans home, however, Cerveris hadn’t factored in the time demands of appearing on “The Good Wife,” because the opportunity came out of the blue.
“With no warning, I got a call from my agent asking me to tape a video audition for ‘The Good Wife’ role,” Cerveris said. “To show how much my priorities have shifted now that I spend time in New Orleans, I said I was on my way out to a dinner party and that the dinner party came first.
“So it wasn’t until about midnight that I got home and finally taped the audition. No one was more surprised than I was when they went for it.”
Although some home projects have been delayed by the show, the actor — who is also a singer, composer, and guitarist — made sure that he properly ordained his relationship with the house by consulting Sallie Ann Glassman at the New Orleans Healing Center.
“I took some yoga classes there and talked to her a couple of times. First she asked me if I could feel any bad energy in it, and when I told her no, she said that was good, that there was nothing to undo,” he recalled. “Then she gave me some oils and very specific instructions.”
The “Vodou” practitioner directed Cerveris to put a few drops of the oils into a pail of water and to use the water to scrub the floors.
“But I couldn’t use a mop, she told me. I had to get down on my hands and knees and slowly rub the mixture into the floorboards and be mindful in the process. She told me to think about what I wanted my relationship with the house to be,” Cerveris said. “It worked. There was something about it that led me to think about all the feet that had walked across those floors, all the babies born in the house, all the people who got good news or bad news here, that totally invested me.”
From then on, Cerveris has taken a physical role in making the home all his, within the time constraints of his work.
He painted the study next to his bedroom and has begun buying furniture, including a dining table and chairs made of salvaged wood. He planted a small sidewalk garden in front of his home, where blooming perennials complement the Caribbean hues of the house.
“I know more of my neighbors here than I do in New York, and I’ve lived there for 17 years,” Cerveris said. “I talk to people on the block when I’m out in the garden. I think I am friendlier here. New Orleans brings out the best parts of me.”
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about homes and gardens. Contact her at email@example.com.