BWW Interviews: BWW Award Winner Olivia d'Abo Opens Up About SLOAN and Other Career Achievements
Actress Olivia d'Abo is BWW's Best Lead Actress Award winner for Entertaining Mr. Sloan. She is best known for TV's The Wonder Years and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Few may know that she is also an accomplished musician. In our chat, d'Abo speaks fiercely about her passions, showing just how consummate a performer she truly is.
How does it feel to win the BWW Award as Best Actress in a play for 2011?
I ran into Ian Buchanan and little did I know he was already cast in the role of Ed. He called me a few days later and asked me if I knew the play, as it was an English classic and would I be interested in playing his sister Kath ........"It's a dark comedy he said " and the role of Kath is a sort of Blanche Dubois. Of course I knew Joe Orton's work, but wasn't as familiar with Sloan as some of Orton's other plays. I was intrigued enough to have a conversation with the director Stan Zimmerman ......who coincidentally I'd also met before, but hadn't seen in a long time. Ironically enough ,Stan and I were very close to working on a pilot together a awhile back called Olivia Master's Life for Brillstein Grey and ABC. So he was quite familiar with my comedic skills and I had a feeling Stan would know exactly what to do to bring out my humor to play Kath and be a brilliant director for this play, and he was.
Describe Kath in detail.
We spoke about flair of the piece and the music that was coming out of England at that time.Then we got into the light and shade of the character of Kath. He asked me how I felt about playing Kath, losing the beauty and playing her as a very plain, frumpy, heavyset, middle aged woman ? I thought to myself why not ? How refreshing ! No make up, wear a wig , a fat suit, get pregnant in the second act .... which meant more padding and then dive in and stretch! To me all those things was what was so captivating about the role. What it's meant to my career thus far is that she came into my life for a reason and at the perfect time. I was able to discover different things about myself as an actress and about myself as a person through her.
I found a different sexuality in her, a different kind of beauty "inside first” which then permeated to an outside glow, a different kind of movement .......I swayed once I put the padding on because I felt more grounded, less light so I felt more solid and planted. A character's obstacles are always an inspiration to me. However, Kath's strength, her determination, conviction and her courage to pull herself up and out from being crippled and oppressed by her family. And the tough breaks of her life were a revelation to me and a testament to the human spirit. It was important to me that she was seen for who she is in the play, not as a one dimensional person or a parody of the the character. I just wanted her personality to shine and outweigh everything else. I also discovered playing the underdog is where the "gold" is for an actor; it's a deeper more satisfying journey.
So for the play's audition I gave Gwendolyn a brash Spice Girls cockney twang, a loud laugh and snort to go with it and played her from East London .....well luckily they loved it. She was lovable, funny , zany ........ not the sharpest knife in the drawer but earnest with a big heart. I loved playing Gwendolyn Pigeon with my on stage sister Cecily Pigeon for 11 months. I adored working with both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick; they were absolutely joyous to watch and act with every night. Sometimes we'd crack up on stage so badly we could hardly contain ourselves and the audience were right there with us....... Matthew and Nathan are notorious for that. I wasn't on stage as often as I was in Sloan so it didn't necessarily challenge me in the same way. But when you do Broadway there are other challenges as well, that require just as much muscle including doing 8-9 shows a week. Every experience is unique in and of itself.
Let's talk a little about The Wonder Years (1988-92) and what playing that role did for your career in Hollywood. Doing TV or film, I know, is not as rewarding as stage. Did you feel suffocated doing a supporting role?
You’ve played a princess in the theatrical film Conan the Destroyer and done many other roles including Nicole Wallace sociopath/psychopath in TV’s Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Considering all other roles you’ve played, is the female role in Sloan still the best you've ever had, do you think?
Is there another part you'd like to play on stage - classical or contemporary?
Olivia d'Abo is the kind of actress that makes things happen...she is the one to watch.