Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Interviews: RICHARD KLINE

Actor Richard Kline, best known for his role in the classic sitcom, Three's Company, will return to performing in Connecticut at the Westport Country Playhouse's upcoming production of And A Nightingale Sang. Kline has never performed at the Playhouse, but he has ties to Connecticut.

Born in Queens to an actor who held an Actor's Equity Card until the Depression put the kibosh on his career, Kline first acted in junior high school. While in summer camp in Litchfield, he and a camp mate lip-synched the musical, The Flying Saucer. "People were laughing and screaming," he recalled, and it was then that he realized that acting "is something I'd like to do forever."

Forever is a very long time in the acting business, but Kline has survived. He studied acting in Queens College and later at Northwestern University. He's smart, too, because at the time he attended Queens College, which is part of The City University of New York, students had to get high grades. That was before the university went the route of open admissions. Northwestern is also an extremely academically demanding college. He minored in French, and his Master's thesis was to translate Georges Feydeau's Le Dindon into English. He spent months in the library with five different French dictionaries. The translated play was produced and, by coincidence, the lead was Mark Lamos, now Artistic Director of the Westport Country Playhouse.

Obviously, he wasn't waiting for the role in And A Nightingale Sang to bring him back to Connecticut. In between camp and And A Nightingale Sang, he served in the army. He immediately got work as an actor and did five years of commercials before he went to Los Angeles. "I never had any other job," he says. "I've just been very fortunate."

Do roles come to him, or does he have to campaign for them? "My agents campaign for me," he says. "There's a fine line between proactive and being a nudge. The person who got me my agent was Blythe Danner. We were doing Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center. I did a scene from Barefoot In The Park and they signed me." Still, he admits that there are thousands of rejections. "It never stops unless you're one of the top five leading men in Hollywood, and then the roles come to you." That said, he campaigned to get the rights to the one-man play, Boychick, written by Yale graduate Richard Krevolin. He performed the show Off-Broadway to favorable reviews and then took it to other venues. He also played the lead in By Jeeves at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre, where it did well on the smaller, more intimate stage.

His most challenging role was How I Got That Story, which Carole Rothman directed in the early 1980s at the Kennedy Center. "My role was playing 21 characters," he recalls. The play, a dark comedy about the war in Vietnam, required him to duck behind Japanese shoji screens to change costumes for his various characters, which included a military officer, a teenage prostitute and a Buddhist monk.

In And A Nightingale Sang, Kline plays Andy, a World War I vet who is coping with life on the home front during the Second World War. He praised the Westport Country Playhouse team for presenting the actors "with a tremendous amount of research," including the protocol of hugging and kissing, what's in the kitchen," and other minutiae of daily life during that era. "I'm a Vietnam vet, although I did not see combat. I know what it's like to have a military background," he explains. "I pretty much approach a role that is there in you that resonates with this character. You have to dig into the character."

In addition to acting, Kline is well-respected as a director and acting coach. Burt Reynolds approached him about directing for his theatre in Jupiter, Florida. He directed Crimes Of The Heart and Social Security there. He won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for directing Noel Coward's Present Laughter. Reynolds also got him to direct an episode for his show, Evening Shade. "Burt was my mentor," he says. "I loved directing. The reason I direct is because I teach a four week sitcom class. I love helping actors and getting them to the next level and getting them prepared in a practical way for their auditions. That helps them get jobs." He also finds it stimulating creatively.

What else is he passionate about besides acting and directing? He adores his wife, Beverley, administrator of a forensic psychology practice in New Jersey. He is also passionate about doing crossword puzzles and the New York Mets. That's a totally different lifestyle from the Stott family's life in Newcastle during World War II.

And A Nightingale Sang will play at the Westport Country Playhouse from June 9 through June 27. For more information and tickets, call 203-227-4177 or visit www.westportplayhouse.org. For more information on this prolific actor and director, visit www.richardkline.tv.


Related Articles View More Connecticut Stories

NOS Dance

From This Author Sherry Shameer Cohen