THE LEADING MEN: Brian d'Arcy James Takes a Giant Step Into a New American Musical

By Mervyn Rothstein
15 Nov 2012

James in Giant.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Where you were born and raised? When did you first become interested in acting?
BDJ: I grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. I love the fact that I'm working at the Public Theater right now because that fits in with why I do what I do. My sister, Anne, when she was younger, I think on her 13th birthday, came to New York to visit my aunt and uncle and they took her to see The Pirates of Penzance in Central Park [presented by the Public Theater], with Rex Smith and Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt. And she fell in love with the theatre and it changed her life. She is now a theatre administrator at New Trier [Township] High School in Winnetka, Illinois. She's really good at her job and passionate, an important teacher there.

By virtue of her experience, I absorbed that. She started doing high school theatre, and just by being two years younger than her and always following her around, that's how I became involved in theatre. I've always said I give her credit and I blame her for why I do what I do. So the fact that I'm working at the Public now is a full circle moment for me.

What really put the nail in the coffin was in college when I started studying theatre at Northwestern University and decided that was in fact what I was going to spend my life doing, or at least pursuing.

Is there some role you'd love to play that you haven't had a chance to?
BDJ: It seems a little sacrilegious perhaps or a little audacious of me to even say it because of what Tracy Letts is doing now [as George] in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but that is a role that someday I would love to be able to tackle. Because I love the play. Something about it speaks to me. I love the combat of it and the nature of that play. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to take my crack at it.

I've got a lot of things in the fire that I'm doing for myself creatively. I have a television show I'm trying to sell called "Shiny People," about my experience working in industrials, or corporate theatre, and the bizarre clash of art and commerce in that medium. I've got things that are incubating and hopefully will have a chance to live.

What do you have coming after Giant?
BDJ: I'm doing a one-man concert at Town Hall next May. [Other than that] I don't know. I'm looking at the fiscal cliff.

View highlights from the Public Theater production of Giant.