STAGE TO SCREENS: A Chat with Gale Harold Plus Upcoming Stage-Related Films

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22 Oct 2006

Gale Harold
Gale Harold
This month we chat with Gale Harold, currently starring as Dr. Cukrowicz, opposite Blythe Danner and Carla Gugino, in Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre, where it officially premieres Nov. 15.

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Gale Harold, the Atlanta-born actor who grew up in Decatur, GA, gained fame as Brian Kinney in the Showtime series "Queer as Folk" (2000-05), appeared as Wyatt Earp in two episodes of HBO's "Deadwood" and played FBI Agent Graham Kelton for the first seven episodes of the FOX series "Vanished."

When asked whether "Queer as Folk" — the sometimes controversial series that concerned a group of gay and lesbian friends and the challenges they faced — was a good experience, the somewhat interview-wary Harold says, "It was full of different experiences. Working with the cast and the directors and pushing myself to places I didn't expect to be in was very positive and difficult and frightening. I'm very grateful that I had the experience to do it. It opened some doors to me. Overall, it was very positive."

Playing Wyatt Earp in "Deadwood," claims Harold, "was fantastic! Working with David Milch [creator and head writer] and the actors and everybody on that show was really invigorating. I don't know what the best descriptive word would be. I loved it! I didn't want to leave."

A few weeks ago, his character on "Vanished" was killed, or at least seemed to be. "He's been shot. Three times in the chest with a nine-millimeter pistol. So we're going to have to assume that his chances are slim." [Laughs.] Then, he's definitely off the show? "I'm definitely doing the play," says Harold. So, the character is not slated to recover. "That's a question mark that could always be changed to a period or an ellipsis."

"My interests are not really with television, per se," he explains. "I was very fortunate, as a starving actor, to get a great job that offered me a lot of opportunity. But because of the way that television works and because of the way that it's exploited by the people who create it, all of a sudden you go from a point where you say, 'This is something I'm proud of,' or 'I'd rather not talk about this' to having everything you ever did out there."

Harold admits, "I'm very happy to be out of L.A. for awhile, even happier to be in New York and working on something that I really feel so excited about and connected to. I think I have some sort of affinity to [Williams'] work because I was raised in the South. And I was raised in similar conditions to some of the things that [Williams] writes about.

"To be here, working on the play, and with Blythe Danner and Carla Gugino and [director] Mark Brokaw and for the Roundabout — those are the things I want to focus on. I'm really striving to continue having the opportunity to work here. That's what it's about for me right now."

Previously in New York, he appeared with George Morfogen in the 2000 Off Broadway play Uncle Bob. Harold rattles off names of plays in which he's appeared outside of New York: "Long Day's Journey, 'Tis a Pity She's a Whore, Cymbeline, The Misanthrope, Me and My Friend. . . . It's somewhat scattered over the past ten years because I was on a series for five years."

Does he have a lock on his current role? "Not completely. It's an interesting play. Sort of a memory play, but at the same time a psychological examination that seems to go back and forth across the lines between characters and archetypal representation in such an explicit fashion. I'm not exactly sure what is going on. The doctor is definitely a functionary, a conduit between the battling forces of Mrs. Venable [Danner] and Miss Catherine [Gugino].

"At this point, the other characters are much clearer to me than mine. It fits the action of the nature of the play. The doctor doesn't understand the situation because he doesn't have all the information. He's learning as the audience learns; he's sort of the eyes of the piece."

Did Harold research the role? "Yeah, I did. I researched the history of [lobotomy] and how it made its way from Europe to the U.S., and the background of the patients who were most commonly candidates for it. It seems to be — if not strictly autobiographical — definitely inspired by [Williams'] experience with his sister [who had a lobotomy] and his experience with analysis. The doctor's interesting because he's both a therapist and a surgeon."

Montgomery Clift played Dr. Cukrowicz in the 1959 film, which also starred Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Harold's seen "parts of the film, a long time ago, but I did not go back and look at it again because so much is extrapolated from the play. I wanted to lock myself into the situations that we're working with. I do like to see other actors' performances of roles I might be interested in, or might have the opportunity to do. But that adaptation [the screenplay's credited to Gore Vidal and Williams] had a lot that was not in the play."



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