The stage and small-screen actor has been cast as the dashing, wayward Jazz Age author F. Scott Fitzgerald in Allan Knee's new play, appropriately titled Jazz Age. Other characters in the drama, presented by the Blank Theatre Company in Los Angeles, are Fitzgerald's tempestuous Southern belle wife, Zelda, and his literary colleague and lifelong frenemy, Ernest Hemingway. Macfarlane, who last appeared on the stage in Playwrights Horizons' The Busy World Is Hushed, is juggling the play with his usual responsibilities on "Brothers & Sisters," now in its third season. Macfarlane talked to Playbill.com about his dual life on stage and screen.
Playbill.com: Before accepting this role, were you a fan of Fitzgerald's work?
Luke Macfarlane: Well, I'm from Canada, and it's a testament to his broad reach that we're asked to read "The Great Gatsby" in Canada. I read it as a kid. It's one of those things that sticks with you. I hadn't read much of his work since then. When I got the role, I went on this binge, reading a lot of the short stories, thinking I wasn't going to have time to read the novels. Then, you know what, I felt I had to read those novels. So, I downloaded them on Audible.com — a wonderful way to hear his work.
Playbill.com: He doesn't have a huge canon, so it doesn't take that long to get through his work.
LM: No, he doesn't. He only wrote a few novels, but every one of them is remarkable.
Playbill.com: Hemingway is also in this play. Are you a fan of his writing?
LM: I had read "The Sun Also Rises," and in preparation for the play I read his "A Moveable Feast," because he speaks a lot of Fitzgerald.
Playbill.com: And not a lot of it too complimentary.
LM: Well, no. It was an interesting time for Hemingway, because Fitzgerald was dead when he wrote it. But there was always a kind of competition between them. Ten years after Fitzgerald's death, there was a kind of resurgence for his work, so some people have speculated that this was Hemingway's way of kicking him a little bit.
Playbill.com: This is not a naturalistic play, is it?
LM: It's very ambitious in its scope. It encompasses Fitzgerald's life from the time we find him when he was 21 to shortly before his death. There are moments when you have to use direct address. The play imagines a visit that we don't actually know if it happened...Hemingway visits Fitzgerald when he was living in Hollywood in 1942.
Playbill.com: You have been able to fit this in with your schedule at "Brothers & Sisters"?
LM: Yes. It's been kind of insane. For the most part, they have been really accommodating. I work early in the morning and come to rehearsal around 6 PM.
|photo by Andrew Eccles/ ABC|
Playbill.com: How is everything on "Brothers & Sisters"?
LM: Very well. We're almost done with our third season. It feels nice to be a series regular, after all this time. Playbill.com: For many theatre people, the initial attraction of the show was that it was created by playwright Jon Robin Baitz. Do you stay in touch with him?
LM: I don't really stay in touch too much, but he really championed me early on, and he'd seen my work and thought I would be great for the role of Scotty. I was really lucky to have that connection.
Playbill.com: When he was suddenly no longer involved in the show, did that come as a surprise?
LM: They do a really good job of insulating the actors. I think it was more painful for some people because of their closeness to Robbie. Obviously [co-star] Ron [Rifkin] and Robbie go a long way back, and I can't begin to speculate on what that may have been like for them. But, yeah, I think that was a surprise.
Playbill.com: Was it a rough transition, or did the show just sail along seamlessly?
LM: It certainly didn't sail along seamlessly. (Laughs) They brought people in and the tone of the show changed. Who knows if it was for better or for worse, but we all felt the shift for sure. Robbie was such a good father figure for the show.