BWW Interview: CONSTELLATIONS' Ginnifer Goodwin & Allen Leech - Shining Stars Converging To Be Terrified - Live!
Two well-recognizable and popular television actors Ginnifer Goodwin and Allen Leech will be making their respective Los Angeles and United States theatre debuts in playwright Nick Payne's award-winning CONSTELLATIONS at The Geffen Playhouse beginning June 6, 2017. CONSTELLATIONS imparts the "What if?" query for a beekeeper and a quantum physicist in their quests to find love.
I had the chance to shoot Ginnifer and Allen a few questions into the ethers just before they settled in and alighted on The Geffen stage.
Thank you, Ginnifer and Allen for making the time for this interview.
Have either of you seen any previous productions of CONSTELLATIONS before?
Allen Leech: I saw the original production in the Royal Court. We have a lot to live up too!
Ginnifer Goodwin: I haven't. I doubt I'd have had the guts to pursue this role if I'd seen, say, impeccable Sally Hawkins or GENIUS Ruth Wilson play her as they did at the Royal Court and MTC, respectively.
Ginnifer, how would you contrast and compare your character of Marianne in CONSTELLATIONS with those of Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard you play in Once Upon a Time?
GG: I don't know where to begin! These characters couldn't differ more. I think they only have in common that I play them. So they'll seem similar because it's not like I can actually get away from myself. The amalgamated Snow White/Mary Margaret is hopeful, impulsive, terribly selfish and utterly selfless. Marianne hides behind her intellect and uses it as a shield. She embarrasses herself constantly and brazenly, which does make her brave in my book. I suppose that makes both characters brave. Marianne comes to the table fairly complete. She's also witty and prideful and isolating. I'd like to be friends with Marianne. Though I can't imagine she's a Disneyphile.
And, Allen, how would you contrast and compare your character of Roland in CONSTELLATIONS with Tom Branson on Downton Abbey?
AL: I think there is a strong similarity in their warmth and their heart. But Roland is funnier and has a much darker side to him.
Ginnifer, this will be your Los Angeles stage debut after how many years living in LA?
GG: I lived in LA for exactly the years that I worked on Big Love. I then moved to Vancouver for Once. I have only just returned after six seasons.
What made you pick CONSTELLATIONS as your first cross on your Los Angeles boards?
GG: I truly stalked everyone at The Geffen Playhouse for this job. I had been starving for theatre. I mentioned this to a director friend who asked, "In what plays are you interested? Are there characters you are itching to play-stories you are dying to tell?" I was stumped. I also realized I was completely out of touch. I called The Drama Book Shop in NYC and ordered boxes of contemporary plays and classic pieces I had missed along the way. I fell hard for CONSTELLATIONS. Then the LA Times suddenly published an announcement about The Geffen's upcoming production. That was last summer or fall, some time. I immediately called my manager and agents and asked, "Can you please get me into a room with the director?" I hopped a plane to LA, I wrote letters, and here we are!
Allen, this will mark your United States stage debut. What made you pick CONSTELLATIONS to make your first U.S. stage appearance?
AL: A combination of so many things. I love the work The Geffen Playhouse has put on in the past. I'm a huge fan of Ginnifer's work. And I love this play. So I feel very lucky.
So you're familiar with Ginnifer's work?
AL: I am. She's a phenomenal actress.
GG: I was a Downton Abbey junkie. I also loved The Imitation Game. I am a huge fan. I have to work not to call him "Branson."
Ginnifer, you received your BFA from Boston University after studying in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and training with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Did your paths cross, by any chance?
AL: They have not, she has clearly been avoiding me.
GG: I never met Allen until we recently went on a double date. We, then discovered that we have an uncanny number of social circle overlaps. Now that we are both Angelenos, I suppose we will run into each other, extra-curricularly, more often.
Ginnifer, what do you miss about living in London?
GG: West End theatre; Tate Modern and National Portrait Gallery; curry; omnipresent history (being from a country that's a relative baby); Sunday roast and around-the-clock tea, both traditions we honor in our California home; leaving London for the countryside; my English friends; walking. I'm half-English and like to think I'm entitled to London somehow. My English friends tease me about this.
Are both of you familiar with any of Nick Payne's work?
AL: Yes, I am. He has a beautiful style of writing. ELEGY at the Donmar Warehouse was fantastic. I love the questions he asks. No more so than in CONSTELLATIONS.
GG: I have only read CONSTELLATIONS and IF THERE IS, I HAVEN'T FOUND IT YET. I will next read his ELECTRA. He is a favorite playwright.
Allen, by any chance did you ever go to the National Theatre bookshop in 2008 or 2009? You might have been waited on by your playwright working as sales clerk then.
AL: I did all the time! Wow! I would love to think that I did meet him.
You both have worked with some TV and screen legends, (and, at least, one Dame). Tell us a wonderful piece of advice from one or more of them.
AL: Dame Maggie says, "Say it faster, say it better!"
GG: My co-stars have taught me mostly by example. Julia Roberts starred in my first movie. She was always on time and the first person to set. She always made everyone feel like a million bucks. Even when she had the flu and had been shooting all day, she gave a full off-camera performance for the extras. I strive for such professionalism and cannot abide less from others. I suppose Julia did give me verbal advice, too. She encouraged me to keep my private life private and to remain, as I mature in this business, as "me" as possible.
How does the schedule of working on this play compare with your other 'regular' jobs on Downton Abbey and Once Upon a Time?
AL: We work shorter hours on CONSTELLATIONS than we did on Downton Abbey. But because it's a two-hander, the work is a lot more intense.
GG: For Once, if I am in every scene over the course of a week, I will work for 80 hours and won't rehearse before that day's blocking call. A season is nine months long. CONSTELLATIONS will be less grueling, time-wise, at 36 rehearsal hours, and then eight performances a week. The whole experience will only last from May until mid-July. That being said, I expect the stage process to seriously kick my butt in all other ways.
Does the danger of performing live with no retakes entice you?
AL: Theater is where I started acting, so it's nice to come back to that fear and excitement. It never goes away.
GG: Yes, I am terrified. But I was looking to be terrified.
Aside from the obvious economic benefits from larger television and film budgets, which would you like to spend more time acting in: theatre, TV or film?
GG: I love the TV series life. When a movie is fulfilling, I believe in magic again. But theatre is home.
AL: I would like to be greedy and do all three all at the same time, if possible.
What message would you like The Geffen audiences to leave with after your CONSTELLATIONS' curtain call?
GG: I want them to find their own messages after asking themselves lots and lots and lots of questions.
AL: If they leave asking questions about love, the chances in life that you've missed and the ones you've taken, I'll be happy!
Thank you Both again! I look forward to seeing your shining stars converging in your CONSTELLATIONS.
For ticket availability and show schedule through July 16, log onto www.geffenplayhouse.org