Tate Donovan landed his first major film credit alongside John Cryer and Demi Moore in the 1984 comedy No Small Affair. He followed the introduction up with larger roles in Space Camp, Clean and Sober and Memphis Belle. Off those successes, Donovan co-starred in his first leading role with Sandra Bullock in Love Potion No. 9, and has built a career that has kept him busily bouncing between films such as Swordfish and The Pacifier and TV stints on Friends, Ally McBeal, The OC and Damages. In June, he follows up his 2010 Broadway run on the Southie based drama Good People with something that he tongue and check considers contemporary.
It’s a common theme, 13th Century Ecclesiastical politics.
Of course, what’s the play? The Midieval Play by Ken Lonergan. He’s one of my favorite writers and he happens to be obsessed with Midieval history and the politics of the church.
That’s sounds good for him but what of the rest of us stuck in the 21st Century? It’s a farce and sort of has a Monty Python take to it.
That works .Like other farces, the more things change the more they stay the same. So even though we’re talking about the papacy moving from France to Rome, we could just as easily be talking about Obama vs. Mitt Romney.
What Role do you play? I play a Knight. Josh Hamilton is the lead and I’m his best buddy.
Will there be jousting? No but today we got fitted for our armor. Let me tell you something, it’s intense. It’s so hard to move and do anything in armor.
Does it get hot? It gets super hot. A lot times we have our masks down. You can’t see anything, you can’t hear anything…
So why leave the comfort of a TV or movie set? For actors, the stage is definitely the place to be. Never boring, you get to build the character from A to B, while film and TV is more about the director, the writer, etc.
What do you notice when you look out into the audience? The audience is like the third person in the scene and every night it’s different.
How so?It’s hard to describe but you really get a sense of how they are following the story. This makes things that much more exciting. It also keeps you on your toes because just when you think you’ve got a funny scene down, something changes and you don’t get a laugh for three weeks. It leaves you wondering what the hell is going on and trying to figure out how to get it back.
How about when the critic from the New York Times is in the audience?Yeah, that’s a lot of pressure. When I did Good People last year, I had a scene where I stop and look out into the audience. Just then, I pick Ben Bradlee out of the crowd.
Uh oh.He just looked at me and then looked down at his note pad and started writing. I said, Oh my God… It’s an actor’s worst nightmare.
How did it turn out?Personally, I got a good review.
How do you compensate when a mistake is made onstage?
Say you drop a line or have to get across certain information, you have to make a quick decision on whether the audience really needs it and how to fit it back in.
It sounds like teamwork among the actors is definitely part of delivering the message?
I did a play a while ago with Judy Dench and if anything went wrong she just went blank.
Dame Judi Dench?
Yeap. I think the British are less comfortable with the American style of going with the flow. One time as an ash tray was left off as a prop, she had no place to flick her ashes. The whole scene came grinding to a halt. So I came up and dropped a tea cup on the table for her. She lost the ashes, got back in the game and then gave the greatest performance of all time.
Did the audience notice?
No, it’s amazing to me how the audience doesn’t pick up on it. They think everything that happens is supposed to happen.
Switching to your other mediums, does stage acting then make TV and Film easier?
No, they’re kind of a different animal. I have to readjust myself because stage acting becomes too big and loud for the screen.
The cameras are so close that you just don’t need to do as much.
How do you compare the grind of a series and a Broadway play?
If you’re involved in something that is well written neither is a grind – even if you’re putting on 8 shows a week or working til four in the morning.
That said, you did three seasons of Damages with Glenn Close and sort of took a dive on the way out?
I was so bummed. What a crappy way to die. It was the worst death of all time.
Being drowned in a toilet bowl?
I thought they must really hate me or something.
Still, it was pretty dramatic and original?
I think I’d rather die in a more noble way but what can you do.
After the director yelled Cut, Did Campbell Scott raise his hands over his head and stand over you in victory?
I think it was more like I can’t believe I got to do this to this guy. No matter, I really loved being on that show.
Nonetheless, I think you’re still one of those actors whose face is recognizable but not his name. Is that frustrating?
Sometimes. Like I was on the subway a few weeks ago and this guy comes up to me and says, “Hey you – TV.” Yes, I’m Mr. TV, thank you, I told him.
I admit I had to look up your name too but as I fan of Damages, I was immediately psyched.
I can’t complain and sometimes I can get a good table in a restaurant because of it. I’ve also never had any bad experiences because of my celebrity. It’s a great way to make a living too.
Do you aspire for that name recognition anyway?
The only reason I would want that is because it definitely allows you to do more projects. At the same time, I’m at a place where I’m always working and when I do get someone who knows my name, I’m kind of thrilled.
Thank you for taking some time to talk to me
Your welcome and I’m glad you figured out who I am.
Me too but I’m still going to tell my mother I just interviewed the guy who was drowned in the toilet bowl on Damages.
No problem. Just tell her I’m ok, I didn’t really die.
Got it and good luck in the play
This article originally appeared on rmonetti
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