How did you first become aware of Machinal?
A friend of mine who works in the theatre said you should read the play because there's a good role for you in it. I read it and thought, Wow, what an extraordinary piece of writing. It's part-Beckett, part-German Expressionism, part true-kitchen-sink human drama. I remember thinking this is an important play and I can see how it can still be radical and polarizing. But it has a potential to be disastrous if a director comes along and wants to put a big production on top of it and show off the pyrotechnics.
When did you realise Lyndsey Turner was the right person to helm your production?
When I met Lyndsey, I said my two big questions were, "Are you going to see the electrocution at the end?," and "Is it going to be a big, flashy production that's going to eclipse any human element in the play?" She said it could never do that because the only reason to do this play is to make the play be heard again. Whatever the production does will support what the play is, from moment to moment. And I think she said the words, "And nobody's going to see you do electrocution acting, because nobody wants to see that and it's grotesque." From then, I was pretty much in. I think the production is breathtaking. It's flashy in parts, but it totally supports the humanity of the play.
Are there differences between performing on Broadway and performing on stage in the West End?
It's difficult to say. There are always differences, but I really think that when an actor does theater, you're more aware of the differences night to night. Whether [the audience] decides to laugh or [not] laugh or how much their energy is with you or not, that's the stuff you notice. That's so variable from night to night, show to show. Larger comments, I don't know if I could discern them.
Did your dad provide you with any words of wisdom before you started off on the Broadway journey?
He tends not to presume that his advice should be given unless I ask for it, which I always do. [laughs] I think we had a general chat about Broadway. There was nothing specific about this play. He doesn't know [it] so well.
Do you think this play and production would work on the West End?
I think people would love it in London. I think people would love it in most places. I think "love it" is a strange word. I think it has a strong effect on people. I don't think people instantly come out and say "I love it" because I think people feel a bit shaken for a while. It will always have a tendency to shake people up and polarise people. It's not necessarily the kind of play that makes it really easy to have a pizza afterwards. [laughs] And I think that's a good thing.
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