PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Robert Foxworth

Brief Encounter   PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Robert Foxworth It is perhaps an injustice that a large section of the public continues to think of actor Robert Foxworth as a television talent.
Robert Foxworth in August: Osage County
Robert Foxworth in August: Osage County Photo by Joan Marcus

Though his tenure in the nighttime soap "Falcon Crest" left a lasting impression on viewers, the man has never stopped treading the boards since his Broadway debut in 1969. He starred as John Proctor in the 1972 Broadway revival of The Crucible, headlined a revival of Candida in 1993, played opposite Kevin Kline in Ivanov at Lincoln Center Theater, and did a turn in Twelve Angry Men. Along the way, he has worked at countless regional theatres in works by Chekhov, Shakespeare and others. Recently, he stepped into the role of gentle Charle Aiken in the vicious Broadway hit August: Osage County. Foxworth spoke to Playbill.com about the latest credit on his long resume.

Playbill.com: You're only one of two new cast members in Broadway's August: Osage County who wasn't culled from the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble. Any idea how you got the job?
Robert Foxworth: (Laughs) I've asked myself the same questions. I have a feeling that there wasn't anyone available at the moment from the Steppenwolf company. And I had done a play last fall for Manhattan Theatre Club called The Receptionist. Josh Charles, who was in the show, is a friend of [August director] Anna Shapiro and [playwright] Tracy Letts. They came to see him in the show. I just happened to meet them in the lobby afterwards. I had seen August a week or so before that when it was in previews. We chatted a bit, and I thought nothing more of it. Three weeks later I got a call from my agent, who asked if I would be interested in replacing someone in a show on Broadway. I said, "What?" No more had they got the word "August" out and I said "Yes."

Playbill.com: That was a nice bit of luck. In August, the men seem to be the saner characters, the ones who are trying to put out the forest fires all around them. What is your take on the character you play, Charles.

RF: I think he's one of those wonderful guys that you see more of in the South and the lower Midwest — these guys who are very basic, honorable and sensitive men. They live very sparely and they work hard. I think he was probably raised in a very loving and religious home, and it's part of his nature. He is by nature an easy-going, peace-loving kind of guy. He just happens to be in love with Mattie Fae and has been in love with Mattie Fae all these years. He kind of came into this whole situation by marriage and finds himself in this utter madness that takes place. I think he's flabbergasted by it to some degree. For example, the dinner scene, which is in some sense the climax of the play for some characters…

Playbill.com: You get to speak that comically meandering grace before the meal.
RF: (Laughs) Right. But I think he sees the dysfunction of the family in a way he had never quite observed it. I think he really is shocked by Violet's behavior toward her own children and toward other people in the room. It startles him, having been a friend who cared a lot about Violet's husband Beverly. I think there were guys who went fishing and probably enjoyed the silence of one another. He is kind of awakened by what he sees, and finally pushed toward the end to fight back a little bit, to fight for his son. Playbill.com: You've done many plays over the past 40 years. Can you name a few that have been more important to you?
RF: I've done a lot of theatre. It's been what I've mostly done in my life. Television and film have really been sort of a sideline. And a nice one, I must say. It's helped me be able to afford to do theatre. Interestingly enough, one of my favorite productions was a play called Honour, which I did a few years back on Broadway with Jane Alexander and Laura Linney. I was really frustrated by it, because I felt it really didn't achieve what the play had to offer. I did a production of it again a few years ago in L.A, and it was really rewarding this time. We got to the core of the play. So, that was one. I did a production of Uncle Vanya in Cleveland that I thought was one of the great Chekhov productions ever, even though I was in it. I did a production of Othello, in which I played Iago, at the Guthrie a few years back. And, I did a production of Julius Caesar directed by Dan Sullivan at the Old Globe, in which I played Brutus. I've been so fortunate. I've done wonderful theatre in wonderful places.

Playbill.com: Your Broadway debut was in Henry V back in 1969. Do you remember anything about that production?
RF: I do, I do. It was crazy. Len Cariou was Henry V. Roberta Maxwell was in it. Michael Maguire, who is now doing Beverly in August, was in the production. It took place on a playground. It was weird. It was very '60s.