Ed Harris doesn’t need much to get into character as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, currently running at the Shubert Theatre. The performer, who replaced Jeff Daniels in November, told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show that his nightly routine is pretty simple thanks to the Tony-nominated costumes from Ann Roth.
It’s the wig, though, that Harris loves the most. It’s fun to tousle his hair and rock a look from the ‘30s, he said, swapping out hat-wearing characters like The Man in Black from Westworld and showrunner Christof from The Truman Show.
The trickier part was getting the accent right. Coming from New Jersey, Harris didn’t have much experience with a southern drawl, so he listened to audio recordings of Harper Lee. The Tony nominee from 1986’s Precious Sons also told Colbert that he saw a lot of his own father in Atticus, in terms of the character’s tolerance, gentility, and intelligence.
Towards the end of the interview, the pair discussed playwright Sam Shepard, whom Harris initially met on the set of The Right Stuff. “He was one of a kind, very influential in my life, and a very good friend,” the Broadway alum said. “He went out tough...but I respect how he left the planet. He kept working until the end.” Shepard, who wrote plays including True West and Buried Child, died in 2017.