PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Roy Dotrice

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Roy Dotrice There were a number of sure things going into Sunday's Tony Awards ceremony, but few so sure as Roy Dotrice netting the prize for his supporting turn in A Moon for the Misbegotten. While some admired Gabriel Byrne's turn as the sodden, defeated Jamie Tyrone and other praised Cherry Jones' robust, heartsore Josie Hogan, all bowed to the seemingly effortless charm and mastery of Dotrice rascally tenant farmer, Phil Hogan. The play is Guernsey-native Dotrice's tenth trip to Broadway, though that's not what the RSC veteran choose to boast of in his bio, which dwells almost entirely on his World War II record (he flew with the Royal Air Force Bomber Command and spent three years as a prisoner of war), his three daughters (all actresses) and his prowess at America's national pastime, baseball. Dotrice talked to Playbill On-Line a couple days before claiming his Tony.
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Photo by Photo by Aubrey Reuben

There were a number of sure things going into Sunday's Tony Awards ceremony, but few so sure as Roy Dotrice netting the prize for his supporting turn in A Moon for the Misbegotten. While some admired Gabriel Byrne's turn as the sodden, defeated Jamie Tyrone and other praised Cherry Jones' robust, heartsore Josie Hogan, all bowed to the seemingly effortless charm and mastery of Dotrice rascally tenant farmer, Phil Hogan. The play is Guernsey-native Dotrice's tenth trip to Broadway, though that's not what the RSC veteran choose to boast of in his bio, which dwells almost entirely on his World War II record (he flew with the Royal Air Force Bomber Command and spent three years as a prisoner of war), his three daughters (all actresses) and his prowess at America's national pastime, baseball. Dotrice talked to Playbill On-Line a couple days before claiming his Tony.

Playbill On-Line: Your co-stars have been very open about their travails during A Moon for the Misbegotten. Gabriel says he feels destroyed at the end of each performance and can't wait for the run to be over, and Cherry Jones has discussed her difficulty in getting a handle on her part. Do you have any similar complaints about the rigors of your job?
Roy Dotrice: I think I was fairly lucky. I was on top of my performance very quickly. I think the other two were working up to it slowly and by the time they got to Broadway they were right on top and, I think, quite brilliant. The only thing I find is it is terribly exhausting, particularly O'Neill's second act, which is the last half of our first act, when I have all that drunken stuff, because it's so physical. To be that paralytic drunk and slurring and slobbering and still have to carry on a rather devious plot and carry that narrative all the way through, I find excessively tiring. On matinee days, I feel totally exhausted. And for someone my age to be leaping over stones is quite a physical endurance.

PBOL: Well, you seem very agile up there.
RD: Well, I love playing the part and I love working with those two actors. Gabriel is one of those few actors whose company I enjoy tremendously, because he talks about sport all the time. Did you know he was a professional footballer? He played internationally for Ireland as a soccer player. So we have a lot of chat. He's such a nice guy and a generous actor. And the nice thing that has happened to me on this tour is the fact that Gabriel was trying to devise a television series based on three generations of Irish and in Chicago, he asked me "Would you be interested in playing my father?," an old Irishman who comes across from Ireland. I said, "Of course." We did the pilot and it's been picked up as a series. So, we're going to be working here in New York -- even after the play closes - on this series. It's called "The Madigan Men." The first episode was directed by James Burrows.

PBOL: You have one of the most appealing program bios in New York. Barely anything about acting, just World War II and baseball. Why did you want to introduce baseball to the RSC?
RD: Basically, because it was the only sport I was really good at. I was in a German prisoner-of-war camp with Americans and Canadians and they taught me how to pitch baseball and I pitched eight hours a day for three and-a-half years, so I had to be fairly good at it. I adored the game and I still do. The Dodgers are my team now and I follow every game they play. When I went to Stratford-on-Avon, it had been a cricket stronghold, ever since the days of Frank Benson. Frank Benson was the old actor-manager, who thought that cricket was so important, he once sent a cable to his agent, saying "Send me a good slow bowler to play Laertes." I tried to break this awful cricket tradition and in 1959, I managed to get this team together. I pitched for them and we played all the American air force bases in the area. It was during those Cold War days. They gave us a wonderful time. They came on in all their baseball gear. We didn't have any of that. We played in black tights and white Hamlet blouses. It was very interesting to hear the women. They weren't so interested in the baseball, the way we played it, but "Oh my God, look at those legs." But we did have a good team, though, as you saw in the program.

PBOL: Yes. At first base, Paul Robeson; second base, Sam Wanamaker; third base, Laurence Olivier; short stop, Peter O'Toole; Charles Laughton as umpire; and Albert Finney as catcher. Is O'Toole as shortstop a good idea?
RD: Yes, it was! Actually, Peter is a very good cricketer. He had a natural ability to hit the ball and field the ball. PBOL: Did Sam Wanamaker, as an American, outshine the British players?
RD: He certainly helped us on the coaching. And, of course, Paul Robeson was an American as well. Charles Laughton wasn't particularly sportive. But with him behind the plate as umpire, you didn't argue with Captain Bligh.

PBOL: Who were the best hitters on that team?
RD: Albert Finney, I think. And when Paul connected it was a good time. But he didn't always connect. Finney always got on base.

PBOL: What are your three actress daughters doing right now?
RD: Well, the eldest, Michele, is married to the actor Edward Woodward. It's his 70th birthday. I just spoke to them in Paris and they're having a romantic weekend. She is doing, would you believe, a cooking program at the moment. She's very interested in cooking so they did a pilot. They have this beautiful home down in Cornwall with one of these huge kitchens. They came in and did a program of her cooking and Edward in the background assisting rather badly. It's been picked up as a series. My middle daughter, Karen, who did "Mary Poppins" and all those Disney films as a child, she is coming over to give some encouragement at the Tonys. She is married to the president of Universal Worldwide Television. She doesn't do any acting there days. She has three children and has a great time doing that. She really doesn't want to do any acting anymore. My youngest daughter, Yvette, she's given up acting, too.

PBOL: Does that disappoint you?
RD: Yes, it does rather. Because I thought some of them were rather good at it. But they were never that dedicated that they could suffer the kind of rejection that Dad did along the way. Luckily, they married rather well!

--By Robert Simonson