PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Jeffrey Tambor

By Kenneth Jones
07 Feb 2011

Jeffrey Tambor as "Georges"
photo by Josh Lehrer

There's a great sense of "play" and "performance" to both Georges and Albin, in their relationship.
JT: There's a great sense of play in this. There's a great deal of "fun" and there's a great deal of seriousness, and I think that has melded beautifully in the piece. Plus, he gets to learn a life lesson, taught by his heterosexual son, that just slaps him in the face [and] makes him learn about his own kind of love and reinvigorates his own [relationship], which is quite, quite [wonderful]. And Harvey and I — we knew each other from before, but he treats me as if I'm his first, so to speak. He's seen them come and go. He's great and he's sweet and lovely. … We're having a good time. He works hard.

 

You're working with the author. Is there a sense of flexibility to the script?
JT: There's a bit, yeah. They're giving me a bit of room. It's very interesting, because sometimes I go, "Forget my room! There's a tried and true way here, and I'm listening to that." My predecessors are very good. Kelsey [Grammer] is magnificent, Doug [Hodge] is magnificent, but I'm going to try to find Jeffrey's way in, as well. That's my name. Jeffrey. Jeffrey Tambor.



 

You don't know what it's like until you get in front of an audience, particularly when you're partnering with an audience in the nightclub scenes…
JT: That's the fun. It's all throwing the dice. I remember directing a play, Burn This, and I didn't know it was as funny [as it is] until opening night. They were screaming, and I went, "Well, of course! Ha, ha…" No idea it was that funny. And I'm not the first.

When Georges is playing with the audience, there's a sense of doing "bits," vaudeville gags…
JT: Bits!? I don't do bits! Yes, I steal from the best! …You go, "Oh, what have my predecessors done?" And either you borrow and say, "Thank you very much," or you say, "Well, I see the territory and I'll find my own way." I think you're foolish if you go, "Absolutely not!" [and don't steal from other actors]. You're foolish.

You're not afraid of an audience?
JT: This is a film, isn't it? An audience — what audience? No, I love audiences. As you said that, my adrenaline [shot up.] Really. But that's the fun.

(Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Write him at kjones@playbill.com. He's also on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.)