Broadway has seen its share of Presidential portrayals. Lincoln, Truman, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, Nixon have all graced the stage — as characters, of course. No actual Presidents have appeared in a Broadway play; not even a Presidential candidate. Until now.
Fred Dalton Thompson, who ran for President in 2008, plays a judge in Rupert Holmes' stage adaptation of John Grisham's legal thriller A Time to Kill. Thompson is far from shy about the intriguing asterisk that accompanies his stage debut. In fact, he amended the information, with a hearty laugh, pointing out that he is also probably the only former Senator to have acted on Broadway.
"These things have kind of presented themselves along the way," he said of his variegated career, which has for 30 years ricocheted regularly between politics and acting. "Doors opened and I walked through them."
The door that led to A Time to Kill began when his agent called him and told him of the project, the first stage version of any of Grisham's many bestsellers. He met with the producers, director and writer and, after some consideration over logistics, accepted the part. "I have a family, and we're in Virginia right now," he explained. "We were actually talking seriously about moving back to Nashville, which is my home, and that move would have to be put on hold." In the end, it was the Amtrak schedule between D.C. and NYC that made his acceptance possible.
As a former small-town lawyer from the South, nobody had to explain to Thompson the plot of A Time to Kill — whose protagonist is a small-town lawyer from the South.
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