Becky Ann Baker is a constant. For nearly 40 years she has been a mainstay on stage and screen, appearing in a film almost every year since 1985. Theatre fans cheered her casting as Lena Dunham’s mother on the groundbreaking HBO series Girls—a riveting and completely unguarded portrayal that earned Baker her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination.
Baker has said she doesn’t think she’ll see that kind of writing again in her lifetime. So, where do you go after Girls?
In a career that has been dedicated to inhabiting the work of new writers, Baker turned to the theatre. She’s about to begin rehearsals for the world premiere of Greg Pierce’s Cardinal, which begins January 9, 2018, at Second Stage Theatre Off-Broadway and officially opens January 30 at the Tony Kiser Theatre on 43rd Street. Visit 2ST.com for tickets.
“One of my favorite things to do in this business is to work with young playwrights, or on any new play with any playwright,” she says. “I feel like as an actor, you actually get to be part of the process and you have a voice in how the story is told and how the character is developed.”
In Cardinal, Baker plays Nancy, the owner of Bread & Buttons Bakery, whose Rust Belt town in upstate New York is in a deep financial crisis. When the community votes to paint the entire downtown area “cardinal” red in order to attract tourists, Nancy begins to realize she may no longer fit in a community that is rapidly changing around her.
While Loreen on Girls would have raised hell, Nancy fights back in subtler ways.
“She’s the exact opposite of Loreen,” she says. “Instead of the kind of angry, forceful Loreen, who is so confident about her opinions, Nancy is soft spoken. She’s easily surprised by all of this change that’s going on. And she’s the standard to which we are changing. She has a real appreciation for another time, and the town she grew up in. She’s deeply maternal, in a way that Loreen never was. Loreen had her good points, but soft and cuddly was not one of them.”