Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Artist at Work

I love this interview with veteran stage actor Reed Birney, who's starring in a new production of Uncle Vanya (with Michael Shannon and Merritt Wever) and seems to have been ready for the right role to come along.
GR: You mentioned a period of despair from earlier in your life. Did that have anything to do with the trajectory of your career after your debut with Gemini?

RB: Yes. I did start well out of the gate. Of course, as a young actor I had great expectations, and, for whatever reason, it just wasn't happening. I felt like I was doing my job, but people weren't buying, it seemed. One spends a lot of time in fallow periods where you think, "What have I done wrong? Should I have done this play instead of that? Should I have moved to California?" And when you're in the middle of it, it's deeply confusing because you're so aware of time passing and opportunities going by. In dissecting my career, Gemini was such an iconic play in the '70s, and Randy, my character, his leading characteristic was that he was ordinary. I really think, in a funny way, it hurt me for a long time after that, because Randy was such a goof ball and I think people really thought of me just as that guy. I think what I've learned is that I really needed to be older to express myself in the way I should be expressing myself—that, as a young actor, the parts weren't right for me. It really wasn't until Blasted that things changed, both for me personally and professionally. And the irony was that it was a part that I would never ever have thought I would play.

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