Golden Globe Nominee Jessica Chastain Will Not Be Broadway's Heiress for Four Upcoming Performances

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and Kenneth Jones
07 Jan 2013

Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain
Photo by Joan Marcus

Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, who is currently performing the role of Catherine Sloper in the Broadway revival of The Heiress, has been nominated for a Golden Globe, Critic's Choice and SAG Award for her role in "Zero Dark Thirty." She also is the winner of the National Board of Review Award for her performance in that film. The actress will miss four performances of the Broadway production in order to attend ceremonies for each of the aforementioned awards.

Mairin Lee will perform the role of Catherine Sloper on Jan. 8 (The National Board of Review Awards Ceremony), Jan. 10 (Critics Choice Award Ceremony), Jan. 13 (Golden Globes Award Ceremony) and Jan. 27 (SAG Awards Ceremony).


The new Broadway production of Ruth and Augustus Goetz's period drama The Heiress opened Nov. 1 following previews from Oct. 6 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Oscar nominee Chastain ("The Help") plays the awkward Catherine Sloper, with "Downton Abbey" star Dan Stevens as a handsome suitor, Morris Townsend, who arrives on her doorstep. Windows and doors figure prominently in the 1947 drama set in 1850 New York City.

In the durable play about manners, mores, marriage and money, inspired by the 1880 Henry James novel "Washington Square," Oscar nominee and Emmy Award winner David Strathairn ("Good Night and Good Luck," "Temple Grandin") plays Catherine's widower father, Dr. Austin Sloper, with two-time Tony Award winner Judith Ivey (Steaming, Hurlyburly) as romantic-at-the-core Aunt Lavinia Penniman, who advocates for Catherine and Morris' practical (if potentially precarious) bond.

The socially stunted, shy-around-men Catherine — billed by her own father as not "clever" — learns the rules of the world as she is caught between newcomer Morris (whose motives are murky) and her cold father, a prominent medical doctor.

The American classic by Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz is directed by Tony Award-nominated playwright and director Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, 33 Variations, The Laramie Project). His cast also includes Molly Camp as Marian Almond, Kieran Campion as Arthur Townsend, Virginia Kull as Maria, Dee Nelson as Mrs. Montgomery and Caitlin O'Connell as Aunt Elizabeth Almond.

British actor Stevens is known to millions of international TV viewers as romantic lead Matthew Crawley on the period drama series "Downton Abbey," also about a rich daughter seeking love and the protection of her estate. Stevens has a university degree in literature, and had knowledge of the work of Henry James before this project.

"The American poet Hart Crane was somebody I wrote my dissertation on," Stevens told in between rehearsals. "He wrote a very famous poem called 'The Bridge,' all about the Brooklyn Bridge in the '20s. I became obsessed with him. So, New York has always been very close to my heart. And Henry James: I obviously read him as a student, and was always intrigued by him. I did an adaptation of a British novel called 'The Line of Beauty' a few years ago which was almost a direct homage to Henry James. I got very interested in him back then. He's a very interesting author. He's somebody who translates, dramatically, extremely well. He really understands private inner lives and the way that they interact, and that makes for really intriguing drama."

Stevens said that he's enjoyed biting into his Heiress character's inner conflict — "that paradox of when you fall in love with somebody and you fall in love with their things, and their way of life. Both of these things are attractive, and yet in order to get through to the truth of one you have to try and remove the reality of the other. It's a great thing to explore."

Read the November Playbill magazine feature about Jessica Chastain.


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