In Nora Ephron's Tony-nominated Best Play Lucky Guy, three-time Tony nominee Courtney B. Vance plays Hap Hairston, the real-life former editor of New York publications such as Newsday and the Daily News, who worked closely with the play's title character, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mike McAlary, aka the "Lucky Guy." Although Vance's character is based on a noted editor in the world of 1980s journalism, he confessed that, after doing his research, he didn't have much material to pull from when creating his character. Vance, who received his third Tony Award nomination for his performance in Lucky Guy — having previously been nominated for Six Degrees of Separation and Fences — credits his success to another 2013 Tony nominee, George C. Wolfe, director of the new work. Following his nomination, we caught up with Vance, who talked about working with the director, exploring the world of journalism and obtaining his wife's (Oscar-nominated actress Angela Bassett) blessing to take on Lucky Guy.
You received your third Tony nomination for Lucky Guy. Your last nomination was in 1991 for Six Degrees of Separation. How did it feel to be Tony-nominated again after all these years?
Courtney B. Vance: I haven't been on Broadway in 20 years, and to come right back and get another nomination… I owe it all to [Tony-nominated director] George C. Wolfe because there was no research I could do on this gentlemen, [Hap Hairston] — there was nothing to be found on him. The play was kind of in motion, in flux, and I didn't know the landscape [of journalism in the 1980s] well because, when I was here in the mid-late 80s/early 90s, my head was in a script and doing plays… I didn't have a lot of time to get involved in the tabloids…so I was at sea during the rehearsal process. All I could do was really try to figure out what George [wanted], and I would base my character on [his direction]. So I had to work from the outside in. It was very frightening [and] nerve-wracking because, as I said, I haven't been on Broadway in a long time [and] away from family. [In taking on the show], I wouldn't see [my] kids for four or five months except for Skype and FaceTime, so it was a pretty scary time for me. But, George C. Wolfe — what a maestro. We all just called him "boss" and waited with bated breath on his every word! We all ended up in the same place, [thinking], "Okay, he knows exactly what he's doing. Let me focus on him… Let's just focus on what he asked us to do, do it — so he can see it — and then move onto the next moment."
|photo by Joan Marcus|
What was the deciding factor that got you back to Broadway? What attracted you so much to this project? I know you have twins, so it must not have been an easy decision to immerse yourself in an eight-shows-a-week schedule.
Vance: It was a very hard decision. The deciding factor was [Tony-nominated co-star] Tom Hanks and George. I had heard so much about George, and I had done the reading with him a year-and-a-half prior. I knew it was going to be grueling, and I needed a strong director to guide me through it. And, if I was going to come back on Broadway, what better way to do it than with Tom and with a director who's very strong in what he saw and wanted to do.
Vance: I had to get [my wife] Angela [Bassett]'s. I had told her I didn't quite know what the character was, how large or small it was — it's an ensemble [show centered] around Tom… But I said, "I really feel I need to be a part of this world, and even though it will be taxing on the family, I think it's time for me to do something like this. I don't think I should turn it down." And, she said, "Okay." And, she knew that she was going to be [busy] because she had the "Olympus Has Fallen" opening in March, and she was shooting a movie, "Black Nativity." But the kids were seven, and we had spent a lot of time [discussing] behavior… My mom was [watching them] at the time, initially, but our nanny was there full time, so we said, "Let's go."
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