Category Archives: Actor Interviews

Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, a LPTW Event at Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

Angela Lansbury is a phenomenon at 94-years-young. She’s still acting, still beaming, still working on her craft. What a pleasure for the The League of Professional Theatre Women and the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts to host an interview with Angela Lansbury conducted by friend, actress and Artistic Director of Irish Repertory Theatre in New York, Charlotte Moore. Both women have secured their place in the New York Theatre community and are a joy to know and work with.

The interview was held Thursday, 14 November at the Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts as a free event produced by Ludovica Villar-Hauser with LPTW members in attendance along with friends of Ms. Lansbury and Ms. Moore. All present were delighted to discover Ms. Lansbury’s wisdom and hear stories about her career which spans seventy-five years and includes performances on stage, in films and on television.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

A Tony Award winner for Mame (1966). Ms. Lansbury made her stage debut with Bert Lahr in Hotel Paradiso (1957) and was in her first musical Anyone Can Whistle in 1964. Since Mame, she has won four more Tonys for Dear World (1968) Gypsy (1974) Sweeney Todd (1979) and Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit for her portrayal of Madam Arcati (2009) which she played five years later at London’s Gielgud Theatre winning an Olivier Award. Other London performances range from the RSC production of Edward Albee’s All Over, to Hamlet co-starring Albert Finney at the National Theatre.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

Angela Lansbury, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

You may have seen Ms. Lansbury in Deuce by Terrence McNally (2007) Madame Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (2010) or Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (2012), all on Broadway. And if you were in Australia in 2013 you might have been able to catch her on tour with James Earl Jones in the acclaimed production of Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

Appearing in over 70 films, Ms. Lansbury was a part of the Studio System. She began at age seventeen with Gaslight (1944) working with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer whom she mentioned were kind to her as a youngster starting out. Her performance as Laurence Harvey’s mother in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) starring Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh and Laurence  Harvey for which she is perhaps most noted, won her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That she was around the same age as Laurence Harvey and was able to convince theatergoers that she was his steely, cool, politically compromised mother is certainly a testament of her acting skills.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

As a side note, both Gaslight and The Manchurian Candidate are so striking as cult classics, they have produced memes that have been used with references to their dramatic plots. The memes are currently on Social media.”Gaslighting” has come to mean tricking or conniving to brainwash then victimize. (It references the husband’s nefarious plot to dupe his wife into thinking she is insane.)  “Manchurian Candidate” has come to mean an unwitting puppet groomed and compromised by an adversarial government. (It references a useless idiot brainwashed to believe an alternate reality for an adversarial government’s nefarious purposes to further their own agenda and destroy a nation from within.)

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

In films Ms. Lansbury acted with Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet and became friends with her and Richard Burton and many other Hollywood greats, for example Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey. Recently, Ms. Lansbury has been in Nanny MPhee, Mary Poppins Returns and the animated The Grinch That Stole Christmas.

When she took the starring role as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, it was a boon. She was so beloved, that the network kept the show running for 12 seasons, 264 performances from 1984-1996. It was the longest-running detective drama series in TV history. As a result she was either nominated or won the Golden Globe as Best Performance by an Actress in a TV series 10 out of the 12 years the series ran (5 Golden Globes). And she was nominated for a Prime Time Emmy 18 times.

The rest of her award list belies that Angela Lansbury is very charming and humble in person. She is a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors. She won 3 Oscars, a Silver Mask for Lifetime Achievement from  the British Academy, and an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures. In 2014 she was named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. But perhaps her greatest honor was her marriage to motion picture executive Peter Shaw for 53 years. In her discussion she noted the pleasure of raising her three children and looking forward to watching her three grandchildren grow up.

Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

Charlotte Moore co-founded the award-winning Irish Repertory Theatre with Ciarán O’Reilly in 1988 after acting together and discussing Irish theater. It was an event of synchronicity for as they bonded, they decided to work together to form the successful Irish Repertory Theatre.

Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

Before her fated discussions with Ciarán O’Reilly, Charlotte Moore appeared in A Perfect Ganesh, The Perfect Party and Private Lives on Broadway (with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who became dear friends) to name a few productions. She also appeared in many performances with the New York Shakespeare Festival. During the thirty-one years at the Irish Repertory Theatre she has directed almost eighty productions, the most recent being The Plough and the Stars, part of the Sean O’Casey Season and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Ms. Moore has received two Tony Award nominations, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Drama League Award, the Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2008 Irish Women of the Year Award. In 2011 she was named “Director of the Year” by The Wall Street Journal. This year Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly will receive Ireland’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.

Charlotte Moore asked Ms. Lansbury about her friendships with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, mutual friends. Ms. Lansbury mentioned that they came to see her perform and visited her backstage. And when they came, she made sure to have alcohol at the ready for the Burtons. This received much laughter. She noted the beauty of Elizabeth Taylor’s violet eyes. They were striking. One couldn’t help when one was in Ms. Taylor’s presence to not only listen to what she was saying but to note the stunning color of her eyes.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

Charlotte Moore asked Ms. Lansbury about her relationship with Katherine Hepburn who many knew that in her later years became rather prickly; she didn’t suffer fools gladly.  After rolling her eyes at the implication that Katherine Hepburn was a definitive personality, which got a laugh, Ms. Lansbury said that they were good friends and Katherine Hepburn was an interesting and lovely individual. Ms. Lansbury would visit at Katherine Hepburn’s home on Long Island. (Ms. Lansbury pronounced it as the natives unwittingly do running the guttural “g” into the “Island” to much laughter.) She referenced that Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey were partners who would never be able to marry or go public with their relationship. However, she knew Tracey as well and she thought he was a superlative actor and lovely individual.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

Angela Lansbury, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

When Charlotte Moore asked what it was like to work with Frank Sinatra, Ms. Lansbury was specific. He was a gentleman and they became good friends. It was not a romantic relationship. However, he took her under his wing and told her a lot about the Studios and Hollywood and a lot about the industry for which she was grateful and very appreciative. When asked about the nature of The Manchurian Candidate and the character she played. Ms. Lansbury was profound. Without being definitive and ruining it with one theory or another, she implied that The Manchurian Candidate was a complex film. There are no easy answers, especially with regard to the ending which cannot be framed as a thesis/antithesis, either “this” or “that.”

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

Angela Lansbury, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

One of the interesting tips that Angela Lansbury suggested for budding actors is to leave their personality and their identity at home. She always tries to do that, to put aside her thoughts and concerns about her own life and immerse herself in the character she is playing. And she quipped that the characters were always more interesting anyway and that reality and being oneself is rather boring. Again, the audience laughed.

The overarching impression one received from the interview was that Angela Lansbury enjoyed working. Familiar to acting, like second nature, she started acting when she was a child, coming from an acting family (her mother was an actress). When Ms. Lansbury commented that she is British-Irish (her father British and her mother Irish) Charlotte Moore indicated her great pleasure about the “Irish part,” and the two shared the joke, considering that Charlotte Moore has devoted a good part of her life to uplifting Irish culture.

Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, LPTW, Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore, NYPL for the Performing Arts

(L to R): Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Moore, ‘Angela Lansbury in Conversation With Charlotte Moore,’ NYPL, LPTW, Bruno Walter Auditorium Lincoln Center (Carole Di Tosti)

Angela Lansbury actually is British-Irish-American. In fact her family came over during WW II (1939-1940) to escape The Blitz. With her mother and two brothers, she moved permanently to the United States. She studied acting in New York City and then proceeded to Hollywood, Los Angeles in 1942 and signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. There she obtained her first film roles, Gaslight (1944) and The Portrait of Dorian Grey (1945). She struck gold right then and there with two Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe.

When Ms. Moore asked what it was like working with George Cukor, Ms. Lansbury said he was a very fine director and no nonsense. She learned a lot from him, other directors and her co-actors with whom she always got along. Her pleasant attitude seems to always have been about being professional and following the suggestions of the director to enhance her character portrayals.

The easy conversation between Ms. Lansbury and Ms. Moore flew by. The audience was sorry that it had to end. Members of LPTW, friends and patrons of Lincoln Center and the Irish Repertory Theatre gave Ms. Lansbury a standing ovation in celebration of her life and career spreading joy to millions.

 

 

Aidan Redmond in ’79 Parts,’ a Film by Ari Taub, Interview

 

Aidan Redmond, 79 Parts, period action/adventure/comedy hybrid, Ari Taub

’79 Parts’ by Ari Taub (courtesy of the film)

The film 79 Parts by Ari Taub screened and won the Audience Choice Award at the Soho Film Festival (2016) for its madcap comedy, gangster shenanigans and reminiscences of New York City at a time before 9/11, cell phones, Uber, Lyft, Via and “If you See Something Say Something.” I enjoyed the film (a hybrid- period/ action/adventure/comedy) for its performances, humor, and the gritty 1970s feel of NYC. Taub shot it in 16 mm, as a labor of love to get the ambience just right. Along with principal Aidan Redmond, 79 Parts features dynamos Eric Roberts as Douglas Anderson, Tony Lo Bianco as Vincent and Sandra Bernhard as Mrs. Fletcher, all in supporting roles.

Sandra Bernhard, 79 Parts, Ari Taub

Sandra Bernhard in ’79 Parts’ directed by Ari Taub. (photo from the film)

My review of 79 Parts appeared on Blogcritics (click here for the review). It was then that I had the opportunity to sit down with Aidan Redmond in 2016 and interview him.

As a celebration of the release of the film on VOD on all platforms, 7th May 2019, I reconnected with Ari Taub and Aidan Redmond, who plays Irish gangster Dennis Slattery in 79 Parts. In the updated interview Aidan and I chat about the film and Aidan’s career since 79 Parts. He and Ari Taub are thrilled that 79 Parts is screening today, May 1st at 6:30 pm, Wythe Hotel and screening room and bar.

Ari Taub, Aidan Redmond, 79 Parts, Eric Roberts, Tony LoBianco

Aidan Redmond is in ’79 Parts,’ by Ari Taub (courtesy of Aidan Redmond)

So what do you think of our city?

Well, I’m living here, 17 years now.

And you’re not leaving.

And I’m not leaving.

You could live in Dublin. Would you live in Dublin?

I could live in Dublin. I like to visit as often as my time in New York allows. But New York is my home for now. I was back in Dublin performing in a national tour of Marina Carr’s play, The Mai, last Summer (2018) . It felt great to be returning to Ireland, to perform in my homeland.

Where are you from originally?

I am originally from County Meath.

I was in Ireland at the Tyrone Guthrie Center on a fellowship. I met playwrights and screenwriters and that’s how I know there is a lot of work there. They respect actors with experience from America on their resume.

So long as the resume reflects dedication to the craft, all’s well. Nothing beats hard work, whether in Ireland or America.

Your background is in theater. What are some of the things you’ve done there and here?

My studies began at The Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College Dublin. In 2003, I moved to New York, shortly after a national tour of Hamlet with the Roscommon based Praxis Theatre Company, directed by Sam Dowling. I continued my studies at The Lee Strasberg Institute, and began pursuing a career in theatre and film in earnest. Most recently in New York, I’ve played “Dmitry” in The Yalta Game by Brian Friel and “Him” in Woman And Scarecrow by Marina Carr both at the Irish Rep. In 2014, I made my Broadway debut taking over the role of “Dr. McSharry” in Michael Grandage’s West End transfer of Martin Mc Donagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe and Pat Shortt.

Aidan Redmond, Conor Bagley, Two By Friel, The Yalta Game, Irish Repertory Theatre

Aidan Redmond in ‘Two by Friel,’ (‘The Yalta Game’), directed by Conor Bagley, at The Irish Repertory Theatre (Jeremy Daniel)

You were at The Signature Center in 2015? (A Particle of Dread {Oedipus Variations} by Sam Shepard)

I was. It was in  2014. I played “Laius/ Langos/Larry” opposite Stephan Rea and Bríd Brennan in the US premiere of Sam Shepard’s final play, A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations) directed by Nancy Meckler. That was a wonderful experience. Working with the late Sam Shepard was a great honor.

Now, to 79 Parts in which you have a major role. I thought the film was interesting, offbeat. How did the film evolve? How did you get the role of Dennis Slattery?

Well, I think, first of all, it’s Ari Taub’s (the director) love song to New York. He’d done a few shorts in the past and he wanted to tell a story based in New York. The script originally was written in the 1970s. It was shot on 16 mm to give it that look and feel. Everything to make it as authentic to 1970s New York was done. When I came to play the character, he was initially an Italian mobster, but then Ari and the producers thought it would be better to have him as an Irish guy. So then we reworked the story so that the backstory could reflect this.

You helped to contribute to the writing and the creation of the characterization.

Yes, in the beginning. But that’s going back to 2007, 2008, a long time ago. 

I think any time actors help the writer and director bring together characters, plot and themes, it has an organic structure that is grounded. I thought you were grounded in that character and believable. Did you base your character on anyone you may know like that?

Dennis is the kind of guy whose lived with trouble all his life. He’s grown up with it. He’s made his life from it. Taking advantage of it. His life has been spent dodging the system. When he comes to America he is drawn to a life of crime. He sets to work. He makes connections. He meets Vincent (Tony Lo Bianco), commits petty crimes here and there, this and that, then the chop shop. Vincent introduces Dennis to Vera, his daughter. Seizing the opportunity, Dennis marries into the family. When Vincent goes to jail for money laundering; Dennis takes over the chop shop. He uses the opportunity to bring in his crew with car parts from abroad. He meets Anna at his wife’s favorite bakery. They start an affair, he falls in love. From that moment on he begins to want out. Jack arrives on the scene and Dennis’s world starts to get very complicated. I think inevitably he’s trying to get out. He’s not so much a bad guy, as a guy who has gotten himself into a situation that’s too big for him.

Tony Lo Biano, Lisa Regina, Eric Robert, 79 Parts, Ari Taub

(L to R): Tony Lo Bianco, Lisa Regina, Eric Roberts in ’79 Parts.’ Photo by Naoko Takagi.

His development as a person is interesting.

He wants out and he wants to take Anna with him.

Your character is not wicked, and you make him likable. That’s where your grounding comes in.

I’d like to think there’s a little bit of good in everybody. You know…he can be bad when he’s put to it but he wants to live a better life.

Is this one of the larger film roles you’ve had?

I guess it is. I did a movie directed by David Barker called Daylight (2007) which was my first feature film. Shortly after that I played a role in I Sell The Dead directed by Glenn McQuaid. Since then its been mostly theatre with a foray into TV for Daredevil and then another short film I wanted to do, set in the South during the height of the Civil Rights movement, called Delta Girl by Jaclyn Bethany. This is one of the larger film roles though, yes.

Well, you’re focused in a central part of the film.

It turned out that way. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience.

You’ve said, “It’s not his story, it’s my story.” Was that the writer’s or your collaboration with Ari?

I think that came about over time. The script we had in the beginning was very different from the movie we had in the end. I mean the essence of it was still there, but it progressed as time progressed. We’re filming on such a small budget. We’d shoot for a couple of days and then we’d wait 6 months and shoot another couple of days. That spanned over three, four, five years. We were going back and forth a lot.

Eric Roberts, 79 Parts, Ari Taub

Eric Roberts in ’79 Parts,’ directed by Ari Taub. (photo courtesy of the film)

Whose story is it? How did that evolve?

Well, it’s the 1970s. Everyone’s fighting for themselves to tell their story to make their mark on the city. And I think what we found was what started off to be about Jack, ended up being as much about Dennis. To have the two of them face off against one another makes for a better story.

So that happened over time. I noted there were three people writing the script and then you were adding to it with the collaboration…

You know how it is. The actors get on set and something happens. At the end of the day, the actors probably know the characters better or at least as well as the writer. The scene begins to take on its own life. Then we had the voice over on top of that as well. So…

When did they add the voice over, at the end?

Pretty much. 

So he did the editing and then added the script for the voice over…

I think the voice over was always in the back of our minds. In ’79 Parts there are literally so many parts to the story, you can tell it in so many ways, from so many different perspectives, the more we could do to simplify the story, the better. 

Did you get to meet Tony Lo Bianco and Eric Roberts?

Only in passing. I had a one-sided telephone scene with Tony and a couple of scenes with Sandra Bernhardt. We got to sit down and talk. She was fun. 

How did you and Ari get together?

I was doing Daylight with David Barker. We were in rehearsals one day and Ari appeared. From that moment forward we kept in touch.

How do you approach a role. It’s different when as in this instance you were working with the director. Theater is very different.

I approach any role, whether for theatre or film, in a similar way. I like to learn as much as I can about the time and place. In this case, I believe the character of Dennis is not so much a bad guy as a guy in a bad place. If the audience can empathize with my character, then with luck they can sympathize with the scene. So I try to look at character in terms of the character’s humanity. Hopefully, then, when the character is thrown back into the mix, things happen organically. I like when the life of a character happens spontaneously on the set or stage. I like things to happen in the moment. If done right, whether on set or in the theatre, one never quite knows what is going to happen next, but it will be honest and therefore exciting – It’s this story now in front of these people.

Aidan Redmond, Jenny Leona, Irish Rep, The Yalta Game, Brian Friel, Two By Friel

Aidan Redmond, Jenny Leona in ‘The Yalta Game,’ by Brian Friel, ‘Two By Friel’ at the Irish Repertory Theatre (Jeremy Daniel)

It is what is so wonderful about live theater. Do you have a preference between film and theater?

I value any opportunity to work on character. When I was working on The Cripple of Inishmaan, I began as the understudy and afterwards took over the role. In a sense I had to fit my performance into a certain preordained box. For the US premiere of Mr Shepard’s play, I was taking over the role from the actor who had played it in Ireland. So within a certain framework, I still had boundaries. But in some projects, I’ve been able to originate the roll. I had that luxury playing Dennis. I don’t know where I drew him from, but he is a man in love to begin with – as good and honest a place to start as any… 

There’s this ineffable quality that is part of the artistic process. You evolve a process and one day leads to another…

There are certain things that can happen naturally in a performance that occasionally an actor may not fully understand or have a name for. So you know how to play it, but you don’t know what the note is. Once you’ve learned the notes then you can run the board.

Do you have other projects you are working on?

I am directing a beautiful play for the Mint Theatre Company called The Mountains Look Different by Michael MacLiammòir. We open in June and will run through the end of July at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row, 42nd street.

The Mint Theatre does great work. Have you acted with them before?

I’ve acted in three plays with The Mint as part of an ongoing exploration of the works of Teresa Deevy; The US premieres of Wife To James Whelan, Temporal Powers and The Suitcase Under The Bed. Directing Mountains will mark my fourth time working with The Mint Theatre Company.

So you will be at The Mint, and you’re constantly looking for film roles and theater. Anything on the horizon with film?

I’m currently working on a film called Son of The South, produced by Spike Lee and directed by Barry Alexander Brown. The film is shooting in Alabama and set during the Civil Rights movement in 1961.

Do you sing and dance?

I sing on one of the tracks in the movie. There’s a scene at the beginning of Dennis and Anna’s story where they are in the bakery and there’s a song playing in the background. That’s me.

Imperfect Love, Christina Spina, Aidan Redmond, Brandon Cole, Mihael Di Jiacomo

Aidan Redmond, Cristina Spina, ‘Imperfect Love,’ by Brandon Cole, directed by Michael Di Jiacomo (courtesy of the production)

As an Entertainment Journalist I have reviewed Off Broadway over the years and Broadway this year as a Drama Desk voter. I have had the occasion to review productions that Aidan has been in. One was Imperfect Love, which I reviewed for Theatre Pizzazz, Sandi Durell’s magazine about all things NYC Cabaret and Theater. The other review appears in Blogcritics.org of the  Irish Rep’s Two By Friel, The Yalta Game.

Look for Aidan Redmond’s Irish gangster who wants a better life in 79 Parts. online starting 7th May. You can screen the film this evening, May 1st at 6:30 pm, at the Wythe Hotel screening room and bar. Drop in and say hello to the film team and see Ari Taub’s love letter to New York City.  79 Parts will be on VOD on all platforms, 7th May 2019. Click any 79 Parts link to go to their website and see the trailer.

 

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Bryan Cranston in Conversation With David Edelstein, Tribeca TV Festival 2018

Tribeca TV Festival 2018, Bryan Cranston, David Edelstein, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV

Bryan Cranston, Davie Edelstein in Conversation, Tribeca TV Festival, 2018, Tribeca Talks (Carole Di Tosti)

Bryan Cranston, one of the most versatile actors of his generation, spoke with David Edelstein (film critic New York Magazine) in a Q and A during the 2018 Tribeca TV Festival. They discussed salient points about his high-velocity career on TV, film, and stage. Always interesting and vibrant Cranston, spoke about acting considerations and the process. Notably, he attributes his success to hard work and luck. Obviously, Cranston’s passion melded with humility drives him with the knowledge that he must continually be in learning mode. This attitude pays off. For at this point he excels at whatever task he endeavors. Cranston’s quietly forged, dogged determination shines a beacon even for established actors, producers and directors.

When Cranston made a showing in films like Little Miss Sunshine (2006), he already had found a home on the small screen. Notably, his TV credits amass from appearances beginning in “One Life to Live.” As he took acting classes, he accomplished parts on various TV series. And shows like Raising Miranda (1988) and Matlock (1987, 1991) gave him longer stints. Work begets work and for longer work periods. Various films and TV series crossed his path like the TV Mini Series Macross Plus (1994) and The Louie Show (1996).

Bryan Cranston, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018

Bryan Cranston, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

After two decades, he began to strike gold. As Dr. Tim Whatley on Seinfeld, he made an indelible mark. And as the amiable dad, Hal on Malcolm in the Middle (2006), cultural phrases sprang from his character portrayal.  Thus, his hard work cemented the bricks of experience to build a fortress of a career. This fortress enabled him to weather world wide acclaim. And it allowed him to possess the grace within to receive the numerous accolades for subsequent one-of-a-kind portrayals.

Who can imagine the character of Walter White in Breaking Bad without Cranston? White, so incredibly fleshed out by Cranston, will live in our cultural memory for decades. Morphing from a “Goodbye Mr. Chips” teacher to drug empire maker “Scarface,” Cranston pulled every range of emotions from his acting toolkit. Through the show’s seasons, he won numerous awards.  Cranston’s power grid solidified. The starpower gained from his four time Emmy success, enabled him to become one of the producers during the series’ fourth and fifth seasons. And he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series twice.

Ever since, Cranston has been on a roll swallowing up experiences to learn all aspects of “the business” he obviously loves. Reviewing the decades long arc of his career reveals that marvelous events come to those who “put in the time” and “make the most” of opportunity’s breakwaters. In 2014, Cranston won the Tony Award for his portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in Broadway’s All the Way. Subsequently, having created his production company Moonshot Entertainment, he reprised the role for the HBO adaptation of the same name.

Bryan Cranston, David Edelstein, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018

Bryan Cranston, Edelstein, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

During the conversation Cranston discussed how his teenage years and personality gave him the juice to create characters in a TV series he co-created and co-produces i.e. Sneaky Pete. The exceptional casting stars Giovanni Ribisi and currently moves through its second season.  Cranston mentioned that as a teen he manifested a “sneakiness.” But his life took another turn away from “true crime,” and becoming an LAPD officer which he had been working toward in college. His direction switched when he took Acting Class as an elective. Nevertheless, he used the behaviors (lying, cover-ups), and that M.O. to create characters and story. As the positive reviews flow in Season 2, Sneaky Pete remains fresh, bold and smart. And as Cranston enjoys mixing up expectations, they’ve added conflicts and developments that do not allow the protagonist to breathe any relief from his own self-inflicted lying machinations.

Cranston clarified that success builds upon success. As a result his company developed various television series along with Sneaky Pete, in The Dangerous Book for Boys, and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams for Amazon. Included is the Emmy-nominated animated series SuperMansion for Sony/Crackle. The foundation of incredible effort built throughout his career remains stalwart. For indeed the vicissitudes happened upon him in Cranston’s early years, a factor he referred to during the conversation. However, all events in one’s life provide acting and storytelling grist. Though painful, they can be culled and transformed into art.

Bryan Cranston, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018

Bryan Cranston, Tribeca TV Festival 2018, Tribeca Talks (Carole Di Tosti)

This year Cranston was nominated for a 2018 Emmy for his guest-starring role as Larry’s therapist on Curb Your Enthusiasm. And after coming off a sold-out, award-winning run in London, Cranston stars on Broadway as Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky’s ever timely Network by Lee Hall, adapted from the film script. I had tried to see the production in London at the National Theatre in December when I visited the UK. The production was sold out and for good cause. Cranston’s performance was spot-on. He won the 2018 Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Actor in a Play. Also, he won the 2018 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor.

Like many actors, Cranston does not read reviews of his work. He stated that the reviews if negative or positive could impact how he works the character through his own acting instrument. He took many acting classes over the years and left when he received continual praise. Interestingly, Cranston felt he needed to learn more. And if he plateaued in a class, the time had ripened to move on and pick up another tool for his acting kit. Being his own coach and critic, reviews provided nothing useful. Indeed, onstage, the interaction with the audience changes a performance nightly. He mentioned new ideas and a reliance on imagination which infuse the evocation of a character. Being in the moment is paramount.

Bryan Cranston, Tribeca Talks, Tribea TV Festival 2018

Bryan Cranston, Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018 (Carole Di Tosti)

Some interesting points that Cranston made concerned acting. He remarked that actors must give in to their impulses. Indeed, he said, “The more I do that and get off kilter from the norm, the better.” He added that if one “does make a mistake, one apologizes and if one’s life is clean, the mistakes will be minor.”

Edelson bounced back with the adage about the difference between greater and lesser actors. He suggested that “the greater actors are not afraid to appear foolish.” Cranston concurred. And he added that actors must take risks. He cited the quote, “You’re only as good as you dare to be bad.”

David Edelstein, Bryan Cranston, Tribeca TV Festival 2018

Bryan Cranston, David Edelstein in Tribeca Talks, Tribeca TV Festival 2018

Taking chances Cranston credits to be a vital part of great acting. Inherent with good performers is the prerequisite that actors have to be willing to take chances. Not only does this refer to physical chances, but emotional ones. According to Cranston, actors put themselves in emotional jeopardy often. He explained, “When you go through a process like that, your body does not know the different between acting and real life. If I’m putting myself in a position where I’m weeping or heaving with upset, anger or fear, my body does not know I’m acting.”

And Cranston continued about the sacrifices of actors when expressing dense emotion. “Your body can be shaking. It takes a while to come down from that. It can be exhausting but also exhilarating.”

Edelson referenced that Cranston doesn’t show an image persona and one that remains private.  Indeed, the public has seen actors who are schizoid. Sometimes they manifest the artificial “show biz” personality and the separate family or off screen persona. As a compliment, Edelson remarked that Cranston appears measured, relaxed, himself with no difference between public and private individual. He joked that Cranston didn’t appear to have schisms. Cranston used this praise to quip, “Oh, I got a lot of schisms.”

However, the conversation came back around to the work. Cranston reinforced that he is not one to stand around at parties schmoozing, drink in hand “yelling” above the music and din of people talking. He said he didn’t think the atmosphere seemed conducive to making a connection with anyone. He proclaimed, “I’m not good at that.” He also commented that while he has a tremendous amount of energy, he prefers saving it for those things that he wants to do.

In effect he must husband the enthusiasm and grist he does have for projects. Clearly, he has other irons in the fire that he will use to continue to work on that fortress of a career.

See Bryan Cranston on Broadway in Network before the tickets are sold out. Most likely the production and Cranston will be up for additional awards in the US, including a Tony.

‘Revisiting Frances McDormand’ Interview Transcription by Mari Lyn Henry

Frances McDormand is a terrific actress. Her body of work encompasses both comedy and drama, both stage and film. Recently, she has been garnering awards for her work in Martin McDonagh’s searing film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Her “in-your-face” portrayal of a mother who stirs the fire under the police department of Ebbing, Missouri to get them to investigate her daughter’s brutal murder is both memorable and humorous. Indeed, in a matrix of powerful characters, who seek redemption and justice, the film is a tour de force between Mildred Hayes (McDormand), Sheriff Willoboughy (Woody Harrelson) and Jason Dixon (played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell. As Willogoughy and Dixon fight for the police department’s integrity and Mildred Hayes’ struggles to bring them to task for not effectively investigating her daughter’s rape and murder, the action deepens into a profound personal drama about redemption, love and solace of shared humanity and grace.

On Monday, April 23, 2012, The League of Professional Theatre Woman hosted an evening with Frances McDormand. Produced by Cheryl D. Raymond and funded by a grant from the Edith Meiser Foundation, the evening was presented in collaboration with the League of Professional Theatre Women as part of their Oral History Series with the Public Library for the Performing Arts. Kudos went to Betty Corwin for producing the program.  Mari Lyn Henry, a member of the League who was present at the time transcribed the interview that appears below between Frances McDormand and interviewer Sarah Ruhl. The interview took place at the Bruno Walter Auditorium to an enthusiastic audience. Salient excerpts appear below and give one an understanding of how the amazing McDormand evolved along her journey. We see the tip of the iceberg into how she was able to mine her empathy and emotions to evoke the self-torment and desperate love that Mildred Hayes has for her daughter in her award-winning, intensely human portrayal in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Sarah Ruhl:   Tell us about playing Lady Macbeth in high school.

I was 14, not a particularly good student.  But I had a really good English teacher in Monessen, Pennsylvania.  She said it was time for us to read Shakespeare and she had us read Macbeth out loud.  And then we did a scene after school for family and friends. And so I found myself alone on stage doing the sleepwalking scene. And I think it was the power of the words, the power of being 14, alone on stage, and looking out and seeing a lot of adults quiet and attentive.

Frances McDormand

Frances McDormand (courtesy of the site)

Today would  you ever want to play Lady Macbeth?

 I have not done her.  I don’t think it’s ever too late.  Right now I am concerned about doing it because I don’t want to do a bad production of Macbeth.  Maybe because it is a supporting role.  I feel like I have been trained for that. I have been playing wives, girlfriends, mothers for years now.  So I don’t want to be in a bad production of Macbeth. I  (would) want a good director.

What is a good director?

How do you find one Sarah? It is really difficult.  By going to see what is out there. I am looking for a director who can serve the work.  It is different in the theater than it is in film. Actors are in a better position in film because eventually we get a lot of power. In the theater you are in charge of it once the production is open. That being said my last work was with Daniel Sullivan. I worked with him years ago in Sisters Rosensweig at Lincoln Center and we had a horrible time together and I didn’t want to work with him again and then we did a reading of a play by David Lindsay Abaire.  David and Dan had worked together before. We got into the room and it was magic and I adored working with him and I think perhaps because it was a different play, a different time. I was concerned about  working at MTC.  I haven’t always worked on Broadway and am not really attracted to working on Broadway.  Probably more interesting audiences I have worked for have been Off Broadway.  My favorite place to work is at St. Ann’s Warehouse (Brooklyn).  They have performance art and a lot of different disciplines have been held in that arena.  The audiences don’t have expectations. They could be going to the theater or to the circus.  I have been so impressed with them.

Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell award winners in their portrayals in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (courtesy of the film)

Explain the value of the ensemble.

That was what I was led to believe I was going to do.  That is what I was trained to do, a reason to go into the theater.  I went to four years of college. I went to drama school for three years at Yale and I was trained as a classical theater actress.The only choice was to come to New York and start working in the theater. My goal and assumption was to become a member of a theater company.  We were on the dying end of a program that had started in our country where drama schools were made to train actors to go into regional theater companies. When I got out of school you could still be a member of the Guthrie Theatre which I eventually worked at. But people went straight from drama school and that’s why drama schools were invented and  were funded like in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theatre.  It became like Pillsbury out there. All those companies and sponsors were bringing executives from the west coast and they had to offer them something cultural. So these companies  like Seattle Rep, Trinity Playhouse,  the theaters in Chicago, all those great repertory theaters had to have cheap labor coming out as trained labor and that is what I chose to do.

I have to say my first job was in Trinidad in a play directed by Liviu Ciulei. Liviu was with the  Wooster Group, a theater company which I have been involved in for the past thirty years.  We have used the same actors over and over and they also write for us.  The Wooster Group has taken me in like a stray little lamb and I now feel like I have a home with them.  What is really great about that for me is that Kate Valk, who is the queen of the Wooster Group and premier actress of that company has been honing her craft and working with them for thirty years. We got to work together on  To the Birdie, an adaptation of Racine’s Phedre (2002). That was ‘magic’ and what an ensemble should be about.

HIFF 2018, Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell, HIFF 2017 Q and A for ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carole Di Tosti)

There is a tremendous humility when you talk about your work and working with other actors and I find that very rare. I have seen your work and it wasn’t the role that attracted me but your interpretation and what you brought to it. Tell us about your process and how you create a character.

When I came to New York, I was fortunate, coming out of a major drama school. I remember a casting agency experience.  An older woman said to me, ‘Frances you would be a perfect pioneer woman.  Unfortunately they are not making one. Okay, okay, okay,okay!  Finding my type I realized at first, I was not very castable. But I had to pay my rent and didn’t want to do anything else. I had jobs like cashier or at restaurants, but I was really bad at all of them. I had to figure out how to make money. So there was a Pabst Blue Ribbon commercial, regional theater jobs and so on, all the things that young actors have to do, but then I started thinking about this.

I was always getting feedback like ‘You’re too this, you’re not enough that. You’re not enough his. You’re not pretty enough, tall enough, young enough, old enough. I started putting all of this together and decided I am going to be the one that is not pretty enough and I worked hard at that. In most storytelling, not as much in the theater, but in film, the theater is the only place for women of all ages and types. But to support myself outside the theater I took on some supporting roles in films and realized that all genres of films are male protagonist-based. Put a woman or women in these roles but (like Thelma and Louise) they die in the end. That film is  ground breaking with two women. But all those male protagonist driven stories need women in supporting roles so I found I was good at that.  I did girlfriends to some of the best leading male stars out there. Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Gene Hackman.  I’ve kissed them all but more importantly I made their characters more interesting.  I was the off center, not very pretty, a little touchy—you know, mousy-brown-hair-uh-girlfriend. From a business angle, that is what I became.

In the theater I was very fortunate. My husband, Joel Coen, could afford to support me and believed in the theater. I could do theater whenever I could make that choice and not worry about the mortgage payment.  It is not about the part, it is about the play.

 What  about achieving a balance between personal and professional lives? Can one lead a normal life? 

 One of my accomplishments was adopting a son and introducing my son to his father and my husband to his son.  Your universe goes from being self-centered and self-absorbed.  We wanted to rear a child our way. That meant living together and working together, avoiding publicity and keeping our private life private. No scandal.That is my life. I learned this from my mother.

Any roles you regret not playing?

Well if I didn’t do them, I didn’t do them. But there are a couple of roles. Orlando is one, Doubt is another.  Well I have plenty of time to do Doubt but Cherry Jones was the actress for that role.  So I didn’t give up anything.

You have played all the female characters in both Streetcar named Desire and Three Sisters.  How did that come about?

With Three Sisters I wanted to be in a play by Chekhov. First time I played Olga when I was the youngest.  My fourth job was playing Irina at the Guthrie directed by Liviu Ciulei. I was more suited to playing Irina at that time of my life and I was working with a wonderful cast.   I played Masha at the McCarter for Emily Mann. It was an interesting treatment. I was Masha, Linda Hunt was Olga and Mary Stuart Masterson was Irina. And now I want to play Anfisa someday while I direct the play. Anfisa and the servants get what they want in that play.   They know what they want, the sisters don’t.

I’m a transformative actor. I want to go inside a character and come out on the other side. Some actors are better at interpreting certain plays.  I believe that I am a good interpreter (maybe not of Chekhov) but definitely of Tennessee Williams. I need a play that has a woman of my age and the parts that are my age are the parts that every actress is supposed to do. I never planned to do Blanche. I felt very successful as Stella, one of the best things I was able to work on as a young actor. I was given the opportunity by Michael Colgan who runs the Gate Theater to do Blanche in Dublin to an audience of extraordinary performers (you know every Irish man or woman can tell a great story) so when they come to the theater they are tough (Fran makes a face like them) and to feel the temperature of that audience every second is exciting.  I had the opportunity to play Blanche which I am not suited for but the director wanted to do it against the traditional type. She was delicate but she was also a caretaker for the death of the plantation and the family who she had watched die in the family home. It was an interesting production. Everyone gets a role like this but you shouldn’t do more than one. That’s my opinion.

Sarah  What do you think  about plastic surgery?

What society has pressured men and women to do to capture eternal youth! I read an article about so many of these things that are being used—botox, ingesting into the system without any question.  It hasn’t been long enough to know what effects it will have and what the emotional repercussions will be. When you are talking to someone who is stressed you feel their stress.  If their brow furrows, your brow furrows because your empathetic nature is reaching out to what they need. If you can’t do that you can’t do that. Your neurological response sends a trigger to your brain to care about that other person, to care what they are going through to sit there long enough to read their expression and to find out what else is going on. If you can’t do that, you are not getting that signal. THAT IS PRETTY SCARY.

Literally I will walk down the street sometimes because we are walking around in a society that is absorbing without question people’s fear. One of the reasons that I haven’t done press or publicity for about ten years now in relationship to my work is the unspoken rule that we don’t talk about that. For me it is not the same thing as not talking about someone’s private life. If I have information about someone I have worked with who has a certain amount of celebrity, I would not share that with you. It is none of your business. I started feeling like I need to make a list and I need to start walking around with a sandwich board with a list of all the people I know who have somehow altered themselves for the service of something that  they were perpetuating—I think we have to be careful.

Plastic surgery is the Greek mask of our generation.

I think that when someone ages beautifully, it is partly because of an internal condition and it can relate to what they have done from suffering or comes about as a result of suffering and I think that plastic surgery is an erasure of suffering.

What was your road trip like?                 

We took a road trip last summer and we hadn’t done that in a while. I love road trips and everything that goes along with them. One problem was that we didn’t get our AAA map guide. We could unfold it and figure out what road we wanted to take. Oh let’s go on that road instead. I had my iPAD with the little blue dot. I spent the entire time doing  this (shows iPAD to face) watching the blue dot. ‘Oh my god where are we?’ We had to stop and get a map because we were not enjoying the trip. This is my map and I can pick where I want to go, what direction I want to take and it all started when I met my son 17 years ago.

Sam Rockwell, David Nugent, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing missouri, HIFF 2018

(L to R): Sam Rockwell, David Nugent, HIFF 2018 Q and A for ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’ (Carole Di Tosti)

QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Could you speak about Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day?

 We made the movie in 2006 which is not as witty or naughty as the book. I wanted to see a project from beginning to end and I really loved the story. In the book, it is about a day in the life of Miss Pettigrew and the friendship she makes with a whore, a woman who is living with three men. But that doesn’t come out like that in the movie. She is simply being kept. The other character is the fashion designer. In the book these three characters form a friendship. We had a lovely director.  It was his first feature. He was a lovely man but not a visionary. We connected but he didn’t feel as passionate as I did about this film.  As the producer I knew it would be a challenge to sell the film with a middle-aged female.  But we were fortunate to have this really wonderful actress (Amy Adams) and she looks great in lingerie.  It turned out okay, but it wasn’t great.

Could you tell us about working with Lili Taylor in a play with students

We are both members of a company called the 52nd Street Project. It started 30 years ago near the PALeague across from the Ensemble Studio Theatre.  Kids in the neighborhood go take boxing lessons at the PAL after school. Curt Dempster, the late artistic director of EST, sent Willie Reale, a young actor/playwright, to teach the kids playwriting. It helped give the kids an honest creative outlet. He founded this program which eventually became a non-profit organization.  We have two boards in a newly developed building on the corner of 53rd and Tenth Ave. Kids have to take the playwrights course or write a play they can stage and perform in. They go away for a weekend and have a monitor help them write their plays. When they return, they cast from a group of adult professional actors with a dramaturg and a young director and they get to see their plays performed.

Do you ever get star treatment?

I am getting it right now. I don’t want to be a star or known as a star. That being said if I want to get a table at Cafe Luxembourg, Joel will have me call. I will use shamelessly whatever advantage my name gets for a restaurant reservation.

Could you talk about how we get more roles for women.

 I think the most important thing is female writers. I spent years beating my head against the wall and I would say to my husband, “Joel why can’t you write better roles for women?” Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) and Nicole Holofcener write great films with behavior and character and have a lot of trouble getting their films made. Here is what is going to be good.  When the actor who is also on the board of the 52nd St. Project has a company who is going to liaison with the money market world for the goal of making money and to get them to invest in their film and money into female-centric films whether written by women, directed by women with a good business plan—a terrific spreadsheet  with what has been made, what needs to be done, how it can be done, take a chance on us. That will help. It is a business. Theater is not it.  I can stand up to do a sleepwalking scene right now and that is theater or on a sidewalk, but unfortunately it won’t raise money. I am trying to raise four million dollars for a film which I think is a lot of money. but in terms of films, the last epic film cost producers 300 million dollars so 4 million is nothing. But they won’t give it to you for  a nice family-oriented film.

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