BWW Interview: Tony Nominee Thomas Sadoski on TAKE CARE, THE NEWSROOM, New York Theatre Community
The new independent film TAKE CARE stars Leslie Bibb and Thomas Sadoski. Since 1998, Sadoski has been one of the most reliable performers in the New York theatre community, being seen in world premieres by Lucy Thurber, Rajiv Joseph, Neil LaBute, and and Jon Robin Baitz, amongst many others. He earned a Tony-nom for REASONS TO BE PRETTY, and Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards for the original Off-Broadway production of OTHER DESERT CITIES.
In TAKE CARE, when a car crash leaves Frannie (Bibb) immobilized, she is brushed off by everyone she can count on. With nowhere else to turn, Frannie reluctantly calls her ex, Devon (Sadoski), for help. It isn't before long that old wounds emerge, and are made worse when Devon's crazy new girlfriend (Betty Gilpin) also shows up.
Recently I spoke with Sadoski about the film, his love for the New York stage, and the final season of THE NEWSROOM. The result was one of the most honest and insightful discussions I've ever had about a great actor's process.
Check out TAKE CARE's trailer, then look for it in selected cities around the country, and on VOD.
BWW: Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, it's a real pleasure.
Sadoski: Oh, man, no problem. Thank you.
I really enjoyed TAKE CARE. I thought one thing that was really interesting about it is that you saw a lot more character development in it than we are used to in romantic comedies, I wondered if you could tell me about a little bit about how you saw Devon.
Well, you know, I think that it's a sort of a product of great writing, and Liz is a great writer, and from the very beginning when I started reading the script, I clocked that there was a little bit more meat on the bones than in your normal romantic comedy. I think the brilliance of setting it in such a claustrophobic situation, means that it has to be a story about people, and it has to be a story about characters, and so, it was important for me that we set out to create a character that, at the beginning, you didn't know that you necessarily liked very much, or were rooting for very much. But then as time went on and the story progressed, and as you learned more and more about what their relationship was like, and what exactly it was that happened to him, with his illness, and her, with having to be his caretaker, you sort of understood why there was sort of a harder exterior, a, tougher shell, at the beginning, and as it peeled away, and as you got to understand the character a little more, you would in fact find some sort of compassion or sympathy and understanding for why that had to be. And as it drifts away completely that you're actually celebrating along with the characters, as the walls come down; as the guard comes down, and hopefully, by the end, you're really excited that these two people are able to see eye-to-eye again, are able to, without giving away too much about the movie. So, that was important for me, I wanted to really give that a good shot, and hope that it reads, that it translates. So, it's nice to hear that it did to you.
Yea, it absolutely did. I think this year, for a lot of reasons, there's been a lot of talk about the evolution of the romantic comedy, as film-makers are starting to veer away of the rom-com tropes that we are all used to, and I thought there were some moments in TAKE CARE that, if it were a different movie, some more cliche decisions would have been made, and I really appreciated that. Was that something that the cast and creative team was conscious of during shooting?
You know, Liz is, like I said, and it bears repeating, most of this came from a great script, Liz is a great writer, but it was something that everybody was really conscious of on set. I think that sometimes when you're trying to push back against something like that, when you're trying not to make the obvious choices, when you're trying not to fall in lock-step with the way that things have been done before, it can create a little bit of conflict, and it can make things a little tense and a little bit messy at times, but that's exactly what you want to have happen. To me, that let's you know that you are pushing the bounds in the right way, that something creative and interesting is happening. We had those moments, when it was like, "Is this really funny enough?"
And the response was sort of, "I don't care. I don't care if it's funny or not." What I want is to play the situation honestly, which I think is, frankly, in the genre of romantic comedy, to play something honestly, to play something from the gut, and to push it into that realm, is actually taking a risk. This is Liz's first time directing, and I was super proud of her for being willing to take those risks, and being willing to collaborate; even though at times it may felt uncomfortable, or seemed a little bit like we didn't know what we we are doing; or we're deviating too far from the path. Once we were all on board, and we are all willing to give it a couple of shots on the day, I think it paid off.
She's very smart, and she's very talented, so she was able to recognize the benefits of going the way we were going with it, and to add her insight and her talent to the process, and if there are any exciting differences in the movie, they are there because they were either inspired by the mind of Liz Tuccillo, or they were guided into being by Liz Tuccillo.
That's great, especially from a first time director. I also think that she put together a great ensemble cast, which was led by you and Leslie Bibb. What was it like working with her? So much of the time that we see her in a film or on TV, it is in a supporting role, so it was nice to see her drive a story.
It was fantastic. Leslie is an incredibly dedicated actor. She knew that story inside and out, and simultaneously she was totally willing to throw everything that she knew away, and just go for it at any given moment. I agree, I am very very happy to see Leslie playing the lead role that her charm, and her talent are capable of supporting. I think she did a great job, it was a blast to work with her. We had an amazing time.
And, like you mentioned, that ensemble cast is insane. Betty Gilpin is incredible. Marin Ireland, of course I have a very very special place in my heart for Marin, and so, to have her on board was such a huge, huge boon for me. But Betty and I come from the same family of Off-Broadway, Lucy Thurber Theatre Mafia, and I love working with her. I thought she was brilliant, as I expected her to be. Marin was brilliant, as I expected her to be. Nadia Dajani and Michael Stahl-David and Yul Vazquez and f*cking Tracee Chimo, you know what I mean? We have this amazingly cool, members of the theatre community banging around in this movie, and it was so awesome to watch these people show up on set for a day or two. It was just exciting. It was like, "Oh wow, this is why you make independent films in New York, because you get all of this incredible talent."
We were all doing it because we're all friends and we all wanted to work with each other. We're making this movie on a shoestring, and I think it really shows that we were all in it for the right reasons, and that we were all having a blast with it. It's hard to buy that kind of talent with money. You have to associate that kind of talent with your project out of passion and love and friendship, and I was really excited to see all of those guys have a little part in it.
One of the things that has been really cool over the past few years, and I know it is due in part to the new state tax incentives, but it seems like with more TV shows and movies filming in New York that traditionally theatre actors are getting more opportunities to be seen by a wider audience. Is that something that those of you inside the community have noticed?
Yea, I think that there has, and it's an exciting development. I have to say, I'm a little bit resentful about it, because I moved to Los Angeles three years ago (laughs). So, like, I moved out of time at the exact time the film industry moved into town. But, of course, I'm just saying that in jest. For me, as someone who loves the theatre as much as I do. Listen man, it's been my greatest joy, and the only dream I ever wanted to ever accomplish was to be a member of the New York theatre community. So, that dream came true for me a long time ago, and it's my badge of honor; it's the thing that I hang my hat on. My career could end tomorrow, and I would consider it a success, because I accomplished the one goal that I wanted to accomplish, which was that I was a member of the theatre community in New York City. So, I am a huge fan of, and I learn from, and I am inspired by all of these amazing theatre artists who have been banging around in that town; I've been doing this for almost twenty years, and I know, and have seen, and have worked with some of the most talented people that are working in this art right now. To see them get an opportunity to show up on screen, so that larger audiences are getting to witness their talent to me, as a fan, it is something that I am really really excited about. I'm also excited, as a professional, because I understand that the film and TV work provides a paycheck that allows people to continue their theatre habit; you know what I mean?
You can shoot a couple of episodes of a TV show, and then that will give you the financial space to be able to invest yourself artistically in something Off-Broadway, and not have to sweat it so much about whether or not you are going to be able to make rent. It's a big, beautiful thing man. I'm really excited; I'm really excited that it's a development.
My worry, of course, is always that, in some sort of way, the flow is going to get reversed. And then you're gonna have a lot of people who don't know, or have the chops, to handle big epic plays, or big epic theatre experiences come in and give it a shot, and try to reverse-engineer their careers. That always worries me a little bit, because I don't want it to cost theatre actors jobs in the theatre, but I am very excited to see those guys the exposure, frankly, that they're due.
I couldn't agree more, and you mentioned great theatre actors on TV, so I would be remiss if I didn't mention the final season of THE NEWSROOM. Now that you've completed the final season, what are some of the memories you have of working with that great ensemble; which, like you, has quite a pedigree on both stage and screen.
Oh man, you know, it was a great season in a lot of ways; it was a difficult season in a lot of ways. It was a great series to work on in a lot of ways, and it was a difficult series to work on in a lot of ways in the whole arc of it, but the one thing that was never an issue, the one thing that I never had to worry about, when I showed up on set on any given day, that I was going to learn something from some actor that I had a great deal of respect for; be it Sam (Waterston), be it Jeff (Daniels), be it Jane (Fonda), Marcia Gay (Harden), Allison (Pill), Johnny (Gallagher Jr.), whoever it was. There was someone whose work I knew intimately from the theatre world who was a great artist that I was going to be able to learn from.
I also knew that I was going to show up on a set that was going to be run very much like a theatre company is run. Our set was less like a TV set than it was backstage preshow. It was dedicated, it was focused; everyone knew their job, but we had so much fun. We were a wonderful little family gypsies running around out there making this TV show in Los Angeles, and we had a great time doing it, man.
If there's been success, or if the show was any good at any sort of level, which, you know, that's up for debate, it's not my place to say, but if it was on any sort of level, I think it is largely because we had this incredible group of theatre actors who loved each other, and loved working with each other very much.
Well, other people can debate it, but I've enjoyed it from Day One. To bring it back to TAKE CARE, you mentioned that Devon is the kind of character you aren't sure if you like at first, but he grows on you, and that's not all that different from Don on THE NEWSROOM, is that something about you that casting folks think you aren't that likable at first? Are you being typecast in these roles?
(Laughs) Oh man, I... I... I don't know. I hope that people are able to like me right out of the gate. I don't think I am a bad dude, but maybe so. For me, artistically, I think in terms of arcs, right? I think in terms of a longer through-line of a story, and I think it comes from growing up as the son of a college professor. My father is hugely into literature, so I was reading from a very early age. So, development of story, and arc of story, and development of character, is something that just interests me artistically. Those are just the sorts of stories that I am interested in telling.
As somebody who has tried very hard throughout the course of my life to understand what it is to be a human being more and more and more, I rarely come across somebody that I understand fully the first instance that I meet them. So, for the characters that I create, I'm interested in what the arc is; I know that most writers are interested in what the arcs of their characters are. How is this character different at the end of the play, or at the end of the story than they were at the beginning. That's what makes the story interesting to the audience, and that's what makes the story, ultimately, interesting to me too.
I think that's work that I've been trying to accomplish throughout my career. I feel like I did the same thing in terms of discovering that arc in REASONS TO BE PRETTY; I worked trying to discover that arc in the same way in OTHER DESERT CITIES. I think it's been something that I've been very mindful of throughout the course of my artistic life is ensuring that my character is a different person at the end of the story than he was at the beginning of the story.
Does that mean that I have to start out unlikable to end up likable, I don't know. If that's been the case these last couple of times out, then that's just been what it's been. I hope it's not a reflection of me as a person, and if it is, let's go get dinner five or six times, then at the end hopefully I'll be the kind of guy you want to hang out with.
I'm sure it's not a reflection on you as an individual. Before we go, do you have plans on being back on stage anytime soon?
I am coming back to the theatre in the spring, man, and I can't wait. I'm doing a new Neil LaBute play at Second Stage called THE WAY WE GET BY. Leigh Silverman is directing, it's a two-hander; it's me and Tatiana Maslany from ORPHAN BLACK.
Wow, I don't know how I missed that announcement, but that sounds incredible. Well, continued success with everything you are working on, and I can't wait to see what you do next.
Oh, thanks man. I really appreciate that.
Would you let Thomas take care of you? Let me know if you check out the movie this weekend in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt. Also, don't forget to follow @BWWMoviesWorld on Twitter and Like us on Facebook for all of the latest movie news.