2005 Tony Awards Q&A: Gordon Clapp

Clapp is most known as the Emmy-winning actor who charmed viewers as Det. Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue. Beyond that show NYPD Blue, Clapp has maintained a vibrant career on both sides of the camera. His recent films include Moonlight Mile, Rules of Engagement, Skeletons in the Closet and Sunshine State, his fourth film with director John Sayles. TV appearances include Deadwood, Less Than Perfect, American Family, Wings, Cheers, Night Court, Civil Wars, and several TV movies. Armed with a theater degree from prestigious Williams College, the New Hampshire native spent much of his early career in Canada, performing in numerous regional theaters and as a company member of Ottawa's premiere National Arts Centre. He was nominated for a Dora Moore Award, Toronto's equivalent to the Tony, for his work in Trafford Tanzi at Toronto Free Theatre, and starred in a Dora-winning production of Spring Awakening at Toronto's Centrestage. He also appeared as a series regular on the USA Network comedy Check It Out! while his work on the Canadian drama Street Legal earned a nomination for a Gemini Award, Canada's equivalent to the Emmy. Notable American theater credits include Of Mice and Men at Philadelphia Drama Guild, Ah Wilderness at Buffalo's Studio Arena and The Snowball at Boston's Huntington Theater.

How did you hear about the Tony nomination?

The phone rang at 8:30 in the morning. I'm thinking, `What kind of crazy person is calling me this early? Don't they know I'm on theater time?' So I ignored it. Ten minutes later, it rang again. I'm thinking, `OK, someone's died.' When I saw the caller ID was the number for the show's publicist, I thought I'd missed some interview. Then she said, `Good morning Mr. Tony Nominee.' I was like, "You're joking.' (Actually, I said a slightly spicier version of that, but this is a family publication.) It took me a few minutes to realize it wasn't a practical joke."

Who was the first person you called with the news?

"My girlfriend, Sue, was with me, so I could actually share the moment with her. We just stared at each other in disbelief and then burst out laughing. Of course, now, she brings it up all the time: `See, I told you to take this job. You should listen to me all the time from now on!' I then started on East Coast calls and worked my way west: my siblings in New Hampshire, my cousins in Connecticut and Virginia, Sue's folks in New Jersey. By now, my son in LA was getting up, so I called him.

What has your Glengarry experience been like?

It was one of the most challenging pieces I've ever had to learn, and one of the most rewarding to play. The dialogue has a musical cadence to it, and one misplaced word can throw off the rhythm. As exacting as it is, I still find little nuggets onstage nightly. This is one of the most generous , talented casts I've worked with. Everyone works to serve the play. And because of the difficulty mastering it, there's been a real camaraderie - like we've braved a treacherous expedition and come through the other side.

What was your previous experience with the piece, had you see the movie?

Twenty years ago, I happened to be walking by the theater where Glengarry was playing and stopped at the box office to find out when it was opening. The guy said, `In 20 minutes.' It turned out to be opening night and they had a ticket available. It was the most electrifying evening I've ever spent in the theater. I secretly wished that one day I'd get a shot at playing the role of Dave Moss. The movie was a different dynamic. It was moodier and less energetic than the play. The movie takes place in several locations, which undermines the claustrophobic feeling you have with the play, which traps these men in this seedy, vicious world.

You've traversed the worlds of stage, TV and film. What place does theater hold in your life?

Theater is how I started, so it was like returning to a first language. Unlike TV and film, where scenes are done out of order on different days, theater enables you to probe the psychology of a character and develop and deepen it over the course of the play and its run. TV and film enable more nuanced performances, because of the close-ups, but in theater, there's a power that emerges from having to project and own your space. It's also a much more interactive medium, because you're drawing the energy from the audience. Each medium fulfills a different element of acting and they inform each other. For me, the best career enables me to visit all three.

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From This Author Robert Diamond