On the subject of talented actors, in another interview you mentioned learning a lot from fellow cast member Ellen Burstyn. Can you tell me more?
As an actor, in terms of performing the same thing every night, the challenge is to rediscover that sense of truth and be as honest as possible, which is difficult. Being opposite her, there’s always the element of surprise. Working with her leads to new discoveries. She’s a generous actress. She is such a presence that it’s very easy to work off of. I’ve become familiar with her book, which I urge everyone to read. It’s tremendously inspiring what that woman has lived through. Her knowledge extends decades; about writers, actors, movies, books, and poems that have inspired her, so she shares some of that. It’s almost like going to school and learning about all of these wonderful things again. She’s lived an incredible life.
Do you consider yourself a fairly grounded person?
Well, I feel the ground beneath my feet. [Laughs] There were times I wish I could have had a more normal upbringing, in terms of being in one place and going to the same school the entire time. I’m very grateful for where I came from and the way things worked out. I already feel like I’ve come a long way. If this is what’s happened so far, if I keep on the line I’m going, then perhaps many other great things will happen. It’s just the beginning.
So, did you have to get in shape for the role, or is that just your natural physique?
[Laughs] No, that is not my natural physique. Boy, would I love it to be. I did have to get into shape. While I can, I gotta answer some of these funny questions. People weren’t in shape like that back then, no way. That’s so 21st Century. No one can be ripped like that in the 1950s. And for anyone that says that, I would say, go and look at Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke and The Long, Hot Summer. Just look at his physique in those films. That should answer the question. The play asks very specifically for—it’s gotta be physical. This is how I saw it and so did the director. At the same time, it became a great challenge to want to get into shape. But, it coincides with another little project where I have to be in shape, so why not kill two birds with one stone?
You’ve done TV, film, and stage acting. How do they compare, and do you have a favorite medium?
The biggest thing that sticks out for all three of them is the element of time. In TV, everything goes quick, quick, quick. You gotta shoot a lot in one day. In movies, you have the luxury of taking your time and shooting something over the span of a few months. And then, on stage, you get your rehearsal period, which you don’t often get for TV and movies, so that’s always a very amazing thing in itself, which I enjoy about stage. That being said, TV keeps you on your toes because you gotta go, go, go. You don’t have time to think and reevaluate. In movies, which is ultimately the director’s medium, there’s opportunity for being a part of a really great project because you have the time to shoot the way you want to shoot. If you’re working with a good group of people and you’re enjoying the material, it really doesn’t matter. The final thing I’ll say about stage is, everything you do is in the moment every night. What the audience sees is your creation. It’s not edited. It’s not chopped up. It’s not one version of somebody’s point of view. It’s you up there that the audience sees.