BWW Interview: Eddie Arnold Looks Ahead to Life After BETRAYAL
With poetic precision, rich humor, and an extraordinary emotional force, Betrayal charts a compelling seven-year romance, thrillingly captured in reverse chronological order. Arnold brings humor to the revered Pinter play, not only starring as the Waiter, but also understudying 'Jerry' and 'Robert'- roles played by stage and screen stars Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston.
Before Betrayal, Eddie starred in stage productions of Hamlet, The Vote, Journey's End, Jumpy, Saki. His film credits include: Mary Queen of Scots, Dead in October, Guardians, The List. Television credits include: "People Just Do Nothing," "Sticks and Stones," "De Infiltrant," "Man in an Orange Shirt," "The Vote."
As the play begins its final weeks on Broadway (closing on December 8, 2019), Eddie checked in with BroadwayWorld to reflect on the show's journey so far and how he is preparing to say goodbye to Broadway.
I know that a lot has happened in the past year, from opening in London to coming here... has it all hit you yet that you're really on Broadway?
I don't think it will hit me until it's too late and I get back home and say, "Oh no, it's over!" [Laughs] I feel like I'm living in this hyper-reality of the world that I used to be in. London was so incredible and such a lucky experience to get to share the stage with these three geniuses, and to be directed by Jamie [Lloyd], and to speak Harold Pinter's lines. But to then have the opportunity to come to New York, which I've only been on holiday to, and be able to come and offer it up to a new set of eyes is incredible. The American audience gets to experience it in a different way now. It was all so incredibly lucky. I feel like i've been floating on this bubble of happiness the whole five months I've been here. I've fallen in love with this city.
You're now a few months into the run. How has it been going at the Jacobs since opening night?
We are definitely all counting our lucky stars every night that we got this lovely, beautiful theatre that we've been invited to perform in. The audiences have been so receptive and so responsive. The funny thing is that the play has so many different threads that you can follow throughout, that an audience can be laughing hysterically one night and almost silent the next night... and yet they are just as into it at the end. They end up getting lost in the words and liking or disliking one of the characters for whatever reason. Or the next night someone else becomes vilified or loved or pitied. Each time it is so different.
It's really beautiful to see that every night, because I get to listen to it through the relays for about two thirds of the show. I get to watch how the audience is gauging it and how the actors are honing in on parts of each scene and working it in a different way. It really pumps me up. Like a football team has "Eye of the Tiger," I get to listen to Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton perform scenes 1-6.
The magic of live theatre! Every time is something different...
Coming into the show in a later scene, in a production where the other characters don't leave the stage, I always get this beautiful feeling as the audience turns and watches me walk on. They're going, "Who the heck is that guy and why is he on stage?" And then it moves to, "Oh, ok! Here is a new dynamic that we haven't seen that will spice things up." They warm very quickly. I think Pinter has written it in a really great spot, where all of these characters that have been onstage before have been firing at each other constantly. Now suddenly, they have this new person who they can direct all of their anger and sadness and annoyance at. He's not going to beaten down that easily though!
This being a drama, with some comedic moments, you're the biggest moment of comic relief in the play. Is there pressure in that?
There's never any pressure going on because you've got to live in the reality of the moment- there are these very angry, posh men in front of you, who are trying their best to conceal their feelings for each other, especially with the information and power they hold over each other. So I've been caught up in this very awkward conversation and how do I talk my way out of it as quickly and effectively as possible? And of course they keep going in berating me. The comedy is really written into it already. So I just try to go into it as naturally as possible. Sometimes people laugh! At the end of the day you just have to be truthful to what you're playing and hopefully the writing and direction will help you out when you're not firing on all cylinders.
Were you intimidated at all at the beginning of the rehearsal process in London?
I had seen a lot of Jamie's work before. Three Days of Rain was such an incredible production and I had seen lots of the Pinter stuff as well. Obviously he is very big director who has done a lot of acclaimed work in London. Then the other guys, if you don't know who they are, you've been living with your head in the sand. At the end of the day I just wanted to nail the part as much as possible.
And luckily for someone like myself and others in this industry, between jobs, you serve at bars or restaurants. It's part of being a gigging actor. I made sure that I brought all of that experience- how many times I've bitten my lip at someone dropping their food and looking to me to pick it up... I thought, I can do this. I've done it before. It's actually a lot more pleasant this way because I can do it with lovely people and we can have a laugh about it in the end.
So intimidated wasn't it... more like honored. I'm so happy to have been allowed to perform and learn. You learn so much just from watching actors of this much talent and ability. Hopefully some of it will seep in and I'll be able to take it to my next job.
Have the four of you become close?
Oh yes, we've had a lovely time!
Your Halloween costumes were incredible.
Oh! They were great, weren't they? Captain America fit the bill for me. And I had to come out first as the leader of the Avengers. But we had so much fun dressed up like that. It was pure laughs backstage.
You've got a lot of time offstage throughout the course of the play. How do you occupy yourself?
I've read quite a few books! Right now I'm halfway through Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It is about 800 pages and people call it the most remarkable achievement of the modern era of novel-writing. Then I've got another called A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. That one is about 700 pages long! So I'm trying to eat my way through both of those.
Then Dylan [S. Wallach] and Jesmille [Darbouze] are right above me. We get to hang out and catch up, which is lovely. We watch the show and run lines once or twice a week. Then I get to chill in pants and wait for my turn to go on.
So you have your own dressing room?
Yes! I bought a couple of plants to zhuzh it up, but I'm going to be really sad to leave it. It's been home for the last five months and it feels very much a part of me. I have very quickly adapted to life here.
What have you enjoyed the most about being a New Yorker?
Everyone is so incredibly welcoming. Also, New York has the best Italian food ever- I love Italian food. I still haven't bee to the Bronx, where I'm told the proper, old-school Italian restaurants are. That is definitely on my list of things to do before we finish.
Also, there are all these sports that don't even exist in England, like basketball and American football, baseball, ice hockey. I've been to see the Knicks and the Mets! I'm really trying to soak up every but of this American lifestyle before it gets taken away from me. [Laughs]
Have you gotten to see any other shows?
Oh goodness, yes! We saw Sea Wall/A Life, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge. That was incredible. In the same way as our play, it felt so natural and timeless. It was so beautifully acted. I went to see Dear Evan Hansen as well. That was phenomenal. Tom and I went to see it and then we've been singing the songs ever since. We're backstage singing our hearts out! That kind of acting, where you come on and sing for two and a half hours... it seems like an alien thing to me. I cannot imagine ever being to do that. How do they do that?
So doing a musical is not on your bucket list?
It might be on my bucket list, but I don't think that anyone would come to see it! [Laughs]
With just a few weeks until the end of the show's run, what are you most looking forward to in the time you have left?
I want to eat as much American food as I can! [Laughs] No, it's about not taking anything for granted. Everything becomes so happy and easy until these last few weeks and now I have to start saying goodbye to people. I need to make sure I've said thank you to about 500 people who have made this experience what it is. I need to seek them out and tell them personally. Any of my free time will be spent hunting people down to show my appreciation.