By: Mary Milewski
Be it on Broadway, the Silver Screen or yourtelevision set, you have probably seen actorVictor Garber in some role or another. After all,he played Jesus in “Godspell.”
In “Sleepless in Seattle,” Garber appeared in thehilarious, movie-stealing scene with Tom Hanks andRita Wilson. And he was the Titanic’s designer in the highest-grossingmovie ever of the same name. Currently, Garber can be seen every week on the hittelevision series “Alias.”
Over 40 Years Ago He Got the Part
As a professional actor since the age of 10, Garber,now 55, is no stranger to juggling the demands ofbusy schedules and responsibilities. His biggest “role,”however, came at the age of 12.
That was when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Living the part of a person with type 1 often requiredhim to do the seemingly impossible: balance his hecticdaily acting schedule with the rigorous challenges ofinjecting insulin and managing blood glucose withlimited technology.
The key to managing the rigors of his career anddiabetes, Garber says, is hislifelong determination.
“There was a part of me thatwas determined to succeedat what I wanted to do, so Inever let diabetes really get inthe way,” he says.
Back in those days, Garberhad to test his urine fourtimes a day in addition totaking insulin shots. But evenwith diabetes, he always keptfocused on his career.
Garber now plays Agent Jack Bristow in the hit televisionshow “Alias.”
Among other awards, Bristow was ranked number 29 in the June 2004 TV Guide list of the 50 Greatest TVDads of All Time.
As Jack Bristow, Garber performs alongside personalfriend Jennifer Garner, who plays Agent Sydney Bristow.He credits Garner and his other co-workers on the“Alias” set for helping him overcome many diabeteschallenges such as balancing meals, getting snacksduring breaks in filming and recognizing and helpinghim treat low blood glucose events.
Hypoglycemia—Not Part of the Script
Garber says he tends to be very cautious overall. Thismeans he is usually prepared to treat low blood glucoselevels should they occur while filming.
“It’s happened a couple of times when I’ve literallybeen in the middle of shooting a scene, and I starthaving trouble remembering the lines and I start tofalter,” he says. “One day I was struggling so hard, Iknew something was wrong, but I was past the point ofknowing what it was. When I was younger I could feelthe sweats coming on, but as I get older I don’t feel it asmuch.”
In these situations, Garber says, he is very thankful tohis co-workers.
“On the Alias set, Jennifer really takes care of me.They’re always ready with some orange juice,” he says.“I’m so grateful for my co-workers because everyone isvery aware of [the diabetes] and they know it only takesa few minutes to treat a low.”
Garber also recalls a few occurrences of hypoglycemiaduring a musical he was working on. He kept juice nearthe stage just in case. Fortunately for Garber, one of theother cast members also had diabetes.
“It was great to have someone to talk to who understoodwhat I was going through and what it was,” Garber says.“I would check my blood glucose at intermission, or at afive-minute break. The last thing I needed was to be onstage and have a low.”
Keeping on top of low blood glucose levels is all aboutbeing prepared, says Garber, who keeps glucose tabs inhis costume when he’s working and also in his car.
On the Road
When Garber is busy filming or when acting takeshim on the road between New York and Los Angeles,preparation means everything.
“You just have to think a little more ahead and know what the daywill hold and what is needed to make it go smoothly,” he says.
No matter what, he always takes his insulin and eats breakfast in themornings. Frequent snacks are also part of his daily routine.
Works With the JDRF
Garber does work with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.“I help the JDRF, doing interviews and educating people about thedisease. Talking about diabetes has always been very therapeutic andgood for me, as opposed to hiding it,” he says.
Garber met a young girl who made a strong impression on him at aJDRF event in Toronto last year.
“She wanted to be an actress, but she was afraid to tell anyone abouther diabetes,” he says, adding that children give him perspective. “It’samazing how well the kids handle it, and that’s an inspiration to me.”
He Oughta Be in Pictures. . . and on Broadway. . . and TV
Victor Garber has been a leading Broadwayperformer for more than two decades. His firststage success came in 1972 when he played Jesusin “Godspell.”
His stage performances have earned him four Tonynominations for his work in “Damn Yankees,” “LendMe a Tenor,” “Deathtrap” and “Little Me.”
Garber has also earned numerous Emmy nominations.
His film credits include “The First Wives Club,” “LightSleeper,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Godspell,” “The MusicMan,” “Tuck Everlasting,” “Legally Blonde” and “HowStella Got Her Groove Back.”
Garber’s highest profile turn came as the Titanic’sdesigner Thomas Andrews, who calmly awaits itsinevitable sinking in the 1997 blockbuster, “Titanic.”
Other Television and Movie Roles inWhich Victor Garber Has Appeared
- Alias (since 2001) (TV series) as Agent Jack Bristow
- The Music Man (2003) (TV) as Mayor Shinn
- Tuck Everlasting (2002) as Robert Foster
- Legally Blonde (2001) as Professor Callahan
- Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows (2001) (TV) as Michael Sidney “Sid” Luft
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor (2001) (TV) as Kenny Franks
- Annie (1999) (TV) as Daddy Warbucks
- How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) as Isaac
- Titanic (1997) as Thomas Andrews
- The First Wives Club (1996) as Bill Atchison
- Sleepless in Seattle (1993) as Greg
- Light Sleeper (1992) as Tis Brooke
- The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (1987) (TV series) as Dennis Widmer
- Tartuffe (1978) (TV) as Valere
- Godspell (1973) as Jesus
Source: The Internet Movie Database
Acting It Out—A Daily Regimen
Garber has independently managed his diabetessince he started living on his own at age 16.
However, he says he lives a very irregular lifestyle,and, as a result, his blood glucose numbers can beerratic at times.
“In the mornings I wake up and test my bloodglucose. Then I take my insulin, Humulin R andNPH. The number of units depends on the testresult.”
After breakfast, Garber works out with help from atrainer. Then he has lunch and heads to work.
His second injection comes at dinnertime. He doesnot take his insulin until he is certain he is goingto eat.
“It’s always hard when I do an all-nighter. Theyserve a meal in the middle of the night, and theycall it lunch,” he says. “I manage by checking myblood glucose number frequently. I try to eat dinnerand follow a schedule, even if dinner is late on theset. I try to order something for my normal time ofeating. If there’s a 20-minute lighting break, I testand eat.”
Garber says he plans to reevaluate his insulinregimen with his new doctor in Los Angeles.
“I’ve heard mixed things about [the rapid-actinginsulins],” he says. “I’ve also considered pumping.”
Low-Carb Lifestyle and Exercise Have Helped Garber’s Diabetes
Victor Garber’s keen sense of humor shows when askedwhat he enjoys eating most while on the set.
“Everything I can’t eat!” he says.
More seriously, he says a new lower-carbohydrate lifestylehas helped him lower his blood glucose levels.
“Without the pasta and bread, I’m a real salad eater.I love meat and I tend to be very careful with desserts.Sometimes I just take a bite and watch the portion size.”
Garber says his main concern is low blood glucose levels.
“They’ve very tricky. I keep a box of juice by the bed.And I’m very diligent about testing.”
Exercise is also key to Garber.
“It has really saved my life,” he says, adding that he does45 minutes on an elliptical machine at home on nongymdays.
He also enjoys yoga, Pilates and aerobics.
All of this, combined with meditation, has helpedGarber ease the stress in his life and better managehis diabetes.
“Your state of mind is crucial to managing this disease,”he says, and he urges people to trust their instincts—tolisten to their doctors but to trust their own instinctsand to question things that don’t make sense to them interms of their diabetes management.