Only in her mid-thirties, the stunning raven-haired actress is currently making her Broadway debut opposite Patrick Stewart in the critically lauded Chichester Festival Theatre production of Macbeth. Playbill.com caught up with Fleetwood, a Best Actress Tony nominee, at the May 14 Tony nominees press reception.
With a resume that includes such Shakespearean women as Desdemona, Helena, Juliet, Rosaline and Viola, Fleetwood says of Lady Macbeth, "I didn't expect I'd play it so soon and that's thanks to the interpretation. (To have a younger trophy wife). It's normally played a bit older."
When asked about the overwhelming critical reception that this Stalinist inspired production of Macbeth has received both in London and New York, Fleetwood responded, "We've been really fortunate that audiences have 'got it.'"
"Screw your courage to the sticking-place," is among Lady Macbeth's most famous words, and Fleetwood explains that "in the first half really, the way we've interpreted it, she's really the power behind the throne – she wants to be the power behind the throne."
Fleetwood also addresses the challenges in being a powerful female figure: "[In] the first 40 minutes for me, I've got to get the right energy. I can't be too over-powerful otherwise people will switch off," she cautions. "It's a real fine line in being a bitch from hell and somebody that you can kind of see why she would do it. It's a challenge to play a part that people know so well." When first cast in the role, Fleetwood admits the idea was intimidating. "You get the job," she says, "and you think, 'Oh God, I've got to do that? That's really scary!' And then you get into rehearsals, and all those fears start to subside because you're working with your team, colleagues, and your vision of the show starts to come together and those fears start to wane. Because you are doing it."
Fleetwood, a mother herself, states, "I have a son, and it's a bit like giving birth," when describing the initial reaction to approaching such a classic role. "You're saying, 'I can't do it, I can't do it!,' and the midwives are going, 'but you are!' So, it's a bit like that, all those fears you have and the preconceptions about playing something fade."
Though the role requires a great deal of energy, the actress looks back fondly on her time spent with Stewart and the latest incarnation of Macbeth. "My ideal scenario," she concludes, "would be that I could perform Lady Macbeth in this production once a month for the rest of my life."
The Tony nominated revival of Macbeth ends its limited engagement at the Lyceum Theatre May 24. Prior to its U.S. premiere, Macbeth enjoyed a limited engagement in the West End and played the Brooklyn Academy of Music last February. The production arrived on Broadway March 29.
The Broadway incarnation has garnered six Tony nominations including Best Revival as well as Best Leading Actor and Actress in a Play for, respectively, Stewart and Fleetwood as the murderous couple.