Prior Walter may be a beast of a role, but Andrew Garfield didn’t hesitate when he was asked to reprise his performance when the Angels in America revival announced it would move from London’s National Theatre to Broadway.
“It’s a play that we need right now, I think,” the Oscar and Tony nominee says over tea at the Algonquin, when rehearsals for the latest incarnation of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work were not yet underway. “And I would have been very upset with myself if I had for whatever reason decided not to do it. It doesn’t get better than this play, it doesn’t get better than that part, it doesn’t get better than Marianne [Elliott, the director], than this company of actors. It’s one of those dream situations.” He pauses. “Which happens of course to be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.”
Anyone who saw Stephen Spinella’s Tony-winning performance in the original two-parter—which, like the revival, had both Millennium Approaches and Perestroika playing in repertory—or Justin Kirk in the acclaimed HBO adaptation understands that Garfield isn’t overstating the toughness of the role. Over the course of two plays (and several hours), Prior battles AIDS, watches his relationship crumble, and finds himself on the receiving end of some extremely frightening encounters with an angel.
Working alongside a cast that includes Nathan Lane, Denise Gough, and, new to the American cast, Lee Pace, Garfield is excited to re-explore the world Kushner created 25 years ago—even as he might wince at the sheer scale of his role in it. But all mock-exasperated actor complaints aside, Garfield is very clear about one important thing.
“It has been the privilege of my life to play this play,” he says near the end of the conversation. “It doesn’t get better than this. I partly wish I could just sit and watch this play because I’ve never seen it live before. But I think it is one of the most profoundly transformational experiences as an actor, and for audiences, that I’ve ever been a part of, no doubt.”
Angels in America opens March 25 at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Take a look at the London production below: