Five Burning Questions with Hand to God Tony Nominee Geneva Carr
May 5th, 2015
by Josh Ferri
It's no surprise to anyone who saw the jaw-dropping comedy Hand to God that leading lady Geneva Carr would nab a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut as Margery, a recent Texas widow who throws herself into the church only to end up surrounded by her son, his demonic sock puppet, the pastor that wants a piece and the teenage delinquent she can't help but bang.
Below, BroadwayBox chats with Carr about her one-of-a-kind character, that outrageous sex scene and why she chose Broadway over banking.
1. Margery is such a lovable mess. When do you love her most? What scene really endears her to you?
The easiest part for me to play is the car scene ironically because she’s trying so hard to hold everything together. Instead of giving her son a smack, she just screams. I admire her for that. She could have taken the easy route but she didn’t. And I fell deeply in love with her when she shoves that paper down that stupid kid’s throat.
2. Ok, let’s talk about that scene. The sex scenes with Michael Oberholtzer had me in tears I was laughing so hard; what was it like to get them on their feet in rehearsal?
People think it’s funny but we are playing it like it’s tragedy. Margery is not even attractive to that ill-behaved, unclean, lippy teen; it’s almost like I have to f#ck him to teach him a lesson. And it's a surprise to me that I get off on it, and when he starts choking me and it’s terrifying but I realize how sexy it is, that's when there’s no hope for Margery. She’s gone to the dark side.
Working on it was intense because it’s very physical and luckily Michael is a former tap dancer, which I find amusing, so he’s a physical guy—he’s willing to do anything— but he’s such a gentleman. He doesn't want my skirt to be raised for me. So a couple of times onstage, in the middle of show, he’s tried to pull my skirt down so the audience doesn't see my panties. And I’m like, ‘Michael in real life you wouldn't have to. No one cares. Just let the panties show.’
3. What TV mom do you just adore?
The New Adventures of Old Christine—oh my god, she’s one of my favorite actresses of all time, and her in that show. I’m a woman in my 40’s I get that battle: you’re not young and hot but you want to be young and hot, and you really know how to talk to a teen but you've got to hold on to it. That really resonated with me.
What would she say about Margery?
I think [Christine] would love [Margery]. Christine and I are getting drunk after the show, that’s pretty clear.
4. You’re fluent in French and you’re the first American to receive your MBA from ESCP. What brought you to Europe? When did acting happen?
I went to basically the Harvard of Paris and it was $3,000 a year. I taught English privately and went to business school. It was the only way I could find the money to do it. And I had no intention ever of being an actor. I did Arsenic and Old Lace in high school (I was Aunt Abby) and that was pretty exciting but that didn't seem like a life.
I went to business school and I was a banker and I happened to go with a friend to see Appointment with a High-Wire Lady with Victor Slezak, Suzanne Shepherd and Frances Conroy. I saw this play—and there were maybe 10 people in the audience—and it was such a touching, funny, moving, interesting performance I thought, ‘What f#ck am I doing banking?!’ And I quit and became an actor and thought, ‘That's what I want to do; I want to tell stories to people.’
5. What’s one thing your Tony dress has to have and one thing it positively cannot have?
It absolutely has to have a pocket for lip balm or I’m in trouble (because I’m an addict); and it absolutely cannot show my Cleveland, as my husband calls it. He’s Japanese so he recently learned cleavage and he had called it Cleveland for many years. The Japanese don't show Cleveland—they show legs—so I’ll be hiding my Cleveland.
See Geneva Carr's Tony-nominated performance in 'Hand to God' at Broadway's Booth Theatre.