SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Tom Fetner has been poring over old “Spy vs. Spy” comics in the name of research recently, getting ready to play The Spy in White opposite Ryan Gosling and Saoirse Ronan in Ron Howard’s action comedy based on the 1960s MAD Magazine comic strip. The 20-year-old South Orange native will start shooting the movie next year, and he’s been cast in a couple other films and TV shows that he will start shooting soon.
“It’s similar to the comic, but in the comic there are no words,” Fetner said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Oct. 25. “The script is all new, so I just have to use imagination and go off of what I’ve seen.”
“Spy vs. Spy” starts shooting in 2020, so Fetner has some time to catch up on the comics. But he will have a lot going on in the meantime — he appears in the first episode of the third season of the series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” to be released Dec. 6.
This is Fetner’s first featured on-screen role.
“I had background parts on ‘FBI’ and on ‘The Deuce,’ but it was my first featured part,” Fetner said, adding that the casting directors from those shows had asked him to audition for the Emmy-winning show. He enjoyed working with actor Rachel Brosnahan, who plays Mrs. Maisel.
“I’d been on sets, but had never been the focus before,” Fetner said. “I got to talk to Rachel, and she calmed me down. She helped a lot. It was great.”
The part on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” came shortly after Fetner graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, a two-year conservatory program where he studied musical theater. He’s two years ahead of his Columbia High School classmates who are still in college after graduating from CHS in 2017, because at AMDA, students live and breathe theater.
“You just focus on the art,” Fetner said. “You don’t take regular classes, and you can’t miss any rehearsals. It’s good if you want to start working right away, and I knew what I wanted to do so I thought it was perfect for me to get started.”
He discovered the stage when he was in a talent show at South Mountain Elementary School, and emulated the singers he saw on “American Idol.” Since then, Fetner has never wanted to do anything else. He took the drama classes at CHS and was in the musicals, and even though he’s beginning to work in film more often, theater is still his favorite form of acting.
“I love being on stage,” Fetner said. “There’s nothing better than live acting. I didn’t want to be on film at first, but it’s just worked out that way.”
He’ll be able to combine theater and film when he plays Moritz Stiefel in the movie adaptation of the musical “Spring Awakening,” which is scheduled to be released in 2023. Fetner previously appeared in the stage version of the musical in a different role. He’ll also be onscreen in spring 2020, when “Hillbilly Elegy,” also directed by Howard, hits theaters.
Until then, Fetner is auditioning for theater roles in New York, but he is also celebrating the parts he has already gotten, since they’re not easy to come by.
“It’s relieving because you have to be used to the ‘no,’” he said. “Rejection is the majority of answers in this industry, so when it’s a ‘yes’ it’s definitely something to celebrate.”