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BWW EXCLUSIVE: Brian Murray Talks DREAM HOUSE, Albee & More

This afternoon I had the chance to conduct an InDepth InterView with Drama Desk-winning stage actor and director Brian Murray who currently stars alongside Elizabeth Ashley in Edward Albee's new off-Broadway farce ME, MYSELF & I. BWW will be running a series of articles on that production and its performers all next week, but this news was too good to hold all weekend! Murray dishes on his new 2011 "horrific chiller" co-starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts directed by esteemed director Jim Sheridan (MY LEFT FOOT, THE BOXER, GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN', BROTHERS), as well as playing Alec Baldwin and Nathan Lane's alcoholic father on 30 ROCK (married to Elaine Stritch!) and his warm words to his TWELFTH NIGHT co-star Kyra Sedgwick on her Emmy win as Best Actress for THE CLOSER last week! This is merely the "I" of the "Me, Myself & I" of InDepth InterView: Brian Murray and the series on the new Albee play! Stay tuned.

Brian Murray is one of the finest Shakespearean actors of our age, having proven himself to be the most formidable interpreter of at least two of Shakespeare's most unique and essential - and most treacherous to navigate - characters: Sir Toby Belch in TWELFTH NIGHT and Claudius in HAMLET. Both of the landmark productions in which he essayed those roles were recorded so you may seek them out if you have not had the overwhelming pleasure of partaking in them, both the Kevin Kline led/directed 1980s production of HAMLET and the late-90s production of TWELTH NIGHT which was done as part of The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park series. That terrific au natural TWELFTH NIGHT also starred Oscar winner Helen Hunt and recent Emmy Award-winner Kyra Sedgwick. In this tease of the complete InDepth InterView: Brian Murray, the eloquent and convivial actor and director reveals what he loved about working with Alec Baldwin, Nathan Lane, Molly Shannon and Tina Fey on 30 ROCK and what makes it such a successful show, his experiences working with Helen Hunt and Kyra Sedgwick on TWELFTH NIGHT, as well as the first news about the new Jim Sheridan dark thriller DREAM HOUSE and going toe to toe onscreen with fellow Broadway baby and Hollywood star Daniel Craig. DREAM HOUSE - described by Murray as "about madness and murder" - will be released in movie theaters nationwide in early 2011 but you can catch Brian Murray live onstage alongside Elizabeth Ashley (InDepth InterView coming next week!) in Edward Albee's ME MYSELF & I tonight and all this month. Check out the links for tickets and be sure to check back next week for the full article where we talk much more Albee, more ME, MYSELF & I and, of course, more Murray!

PC: You got to work a lot on set with Nathan Lane and Alec Baldwin in your great scenes as Alec's father on 30 ROCK, didn't you?

BM: Oh, yeah, yeah. Very definitely! It was - God, how long ago, what - two or three years ago now.

PC: Tell me about that experience on the set of 30 ROCK.

BM: It was one of the nicest sets I've ever visited. Everyone was so happy. It was the first season.

PC: And they were very unsure then if the show would continue on, especially when you were filming the back episodes.

BM: Yeah, yeah. But, it was so filled with... it was like family. And, of course, that particular episode was about family.

PC: You, Nathan Lane and Alec Baldwin - what a family!

BM: And Molly Shannon!

PC: And Elaine Stritch! Plus Tina Fey, of course.

BM: I didn't actually get to work with her onscreen, because she just came and said, "Hi" and visited. On my particular days of my stuff I didn't get to work with her but she was lovely to talk to.

PC: And, of course she is very influential in the casting of every role and writing your part.

BM: Oh, of course. Absolutely. And, I've known Alec for so long so to work with him was just enormous fun.

PC: Did you ever work together, even on a benefit or something?

BM: No, but I've just known him. As you do when you live in a kind of situation where you're in the business for a long time. I knew Alec when he was doing... LOOT!

PC: Oh, wow!

BM: Really back in the old days.

PC: That was before I was born!

BM: (Laughs.)

PC: It was before ‘84. Wasn't it ‘82?

BM: You ought to know! (Laughs.)

PC: Do you know if they are going to have you back soon?

BM: I don't know. They said they were!

PC: Fantastic! We need some scenes with you and Elaine Stritch!

BM: That would be wonderful!

PC: You're busy anyway.

BM: I've been kind of busy. I don't know if they checked on my availability. But, when you are doing a show [on stage] you can't really do a TV show because you have to be at the theater by seven o'clock and they can't always guarantee that, you know?

PC: Precisely. That's why Jane Krakowski and Cheyenne Jackson don't do any Broadway shows unless they can swing it.

BM: Exactly.

PC: Can you tell me about working on TWELFTH NIGHT with Helen Hunt and Kyra Segwick. Did you know she just won the Emmy for Best Actress this week?

BM: Oh, yeah? Good on her. I loved working on that. It was a very, very happy experience. Helen I adored, Kyra I loved. It was so much... it was a wonderful company. Nicholas Hytner brought a great deal of love and support, and it was so beautiful to look it. I was very proud of it. It was lovely to be in.

PC: What was it like acting with and being directed by Kevin Kline in HAMLET?

BM: He was extraordinary. He was wonderful as the director. He was so generous and so thoughtful and so helpful in so many ways. His bringing of Claudius's theme to the forefront - using the theme of the two mighty opposites - he said, "I want the audience to be able to think he could outwit [Hamlet]. I don't want him to be an evil man." So, I found a way of playing him that I was so in love with Gertrude that mostly had to do with the queen and less the power grab.


PC: Speaking of queens, theatrical and otherwise, tell me about working with Elizabeth Ashley - a force of nature - on the new Albee play ME, MYSELF & I.

BM: She... (Pause.) Well, you know, of course, there is a difference between her and my former co-star.

PC: Tyne Daly.

BM: They were very different people, different actors.

PC: Totally.

BM: I love... I love Elizabeth Ashley. We have a wonderful relationship on the stage, and - I think - off. She's very sensual. (Pause.) I just love working with her.

PC: What's your favorite moment every night working with her?

BM: The picnic. The picnic. I really look forward to that.

PC: It seems like Albee is making a joke about THE SANDBOX.

BM: I think he's often doing that. I think he's often self-referencing.

PC: It's the Wagnerian gestantunkerst, the idea of having all the works in your oeuvre interrelated in some way. A great canvas.

BM: There's a constant through-line. He's never moved away from it in all of his work: the mother and the family and the dysfunction. It's like he's saying, "I'm going to do this until I get it right!"

PC: You can never perfect it. Isn't that the joy of acting?

BM: Absolutely.

PC: Define collaboration.

BM: Well, without it, there's no point. (Pause.) In this day and age, sort of being able to work together... you have to understand that I believe it is not only crucial: it's super-essential. Anything less than absolute complete collaboration is a waste of time. I don't know how we could get anything done in the theatre without it.

PC: Unquestionably.

BM: It's a collaborative art. A collaborative craft, certainly, which is to say: in terms of the moment you go in front of an audience. They are entering into your world, and you are entering into theirs. You've got to collaborate happily and successfully and have fun with it, and them.

PC: Especially in this new version of ME, MYSELF & I. You and OTTO are always addressing the audience!

BM: (Laughs.) In this new version there's much more of the interaction. Especially with older OTTO.

PC: I love how Albee starts the play with OTTO directly addressing the audience!

BM: Oh, so you do know the new version, then! Great.

PC: Tell me about the new movies you have in the can.

BM: I have a new movie coming, I'm don't know when it's coming out.

PC: Who are you acting in it with?

BM: Daniel Craig.


PC: Oh, no way! James Bond!

BM: Yeah.

PC: He's also such a great stage actor. Of course, he just did A STEADY RAIN with Hugh Jackman last season on Broadway.

BM: Yes, he's great.

PC: But, my favorite performance of his was in A NUMBER by Caryl Churchill.

BM: Oh, really? He was in that?

PC: I'm assuming you are familiar with Churchill and the play.

BM: Oh, of course.

PC: He was in the original production as the first son/clone.

BM: Where? In London?

PC: The Fringe.

BM: Oh, I didn't know that!

PC: Did you have a good time working with him?

BM: Oh, yeah. I don't know how it will turn out ultimately. It was directed by Jim Sheriden.

PC: Oh, he's a great director - MY LEFT FOOT and BROTHERS.

BM: Jim Sheridan is a brilliant, brilliant director.

PC: What's the gist of the story?

BM: It's a chiller.

PC: Oh, really. So, is it like SLEUTH?

BM: No, it's not quite like SLEUTH. It's a chiller, not a thriller. It's about madness and murder.

PC: Oh, like a dark drama, with a horror edge!

BM: Yeah. It's an adult chiller, too, you know?

PC: So, the script is well-written.

BM: Oh, yes.

PC: So, you loved working on the film with Sheridan and Craig?

BM: Oh yeah, but I don't know what to think of it because I'm not very good at thinking about films, but it's coming out soon.

PC: It sounds like it is going to be great! How exciting.

BM: Yes, it is.

PC: Starring in the new Albee play with grande dame Liz Ashley, going toe-to-toe with Daniel Craig on screen: you're at the top of your game, Mr. Murray!

BM: Thanks so much. I've really enjoyed this.



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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)