Five Burning Questions with Hughie Tony Award Winner Frank Wood
February 24th, 2016
by Josh Ferri
Tony Award winner Frank Wood is back on Broadway opposite Oscar winner Forest Whitaker in Michael Grandage's gorgeous production of Eugene O'Neill's haunting one-act drama Hughie. Wood, who won a Tony Award for Side Man in 1999 and was most recently seen on Broadway in the Pulitzer Prize & Tony-winning Clybourne Park, plays the new night clerk at the faded hotel Whitaker's Erie Smith calls home. BroadwayBox caught up with Wood to find what he's thinking during Whitaker's Hughie monologues, where he keeps his Tony, and what roles have affected how he approaches acting.
1. You are giving a master-class in listening. How do you stay engaged? What’s happening internally with your character during Erie’s big speeches?
I have developed over the course of rehearsals and preview performances a very vivid landscape outside the hotel lobby and absorbed the bits and pieces of inner monologue that O'Neill wrote down in the stage directions as well. They are tips of an ice berg and I am trying to build the stuff below the surface.
2. What was the most important or illuminating thing director Michael Grandage said to you to inform your performance?
Early on Michael told me that he believed the play had a happy ending. It hadn't occurred to me when reading it. That changed the way I read the play and the assumptions I made about my character's inner life.
3. Which stage role of yours do you think changed you the most as an actor?
Well, in high school I played the title character in Jules Feiffer's Crawling Arnold. It was the first time I figured out that acting included self discovery: that the character (a full-grown, able-bodied man, living at home and still crawling) was doing something to express anger and resist external forces. In virtually every other role up til then I was trying to get the role right by placing my voice and body just so. It may have been that our teacher and director Virginia Smith pointed it out but it was the first time I hooked my own psyche to the arc of a character. Side Man changed my career and proved to me that disconnection is a very active choice and can be part of a successful Broadway show. Roy Cohn in Angels in America taught me that I could willfully go after a character that I did not initially see myself playing.
4. Where do you keep your Tony Award?
I keep my Tony on a book shelf in the back room of our apartment. It is there for guests to find. I hope they are impressed with my achievements and my modesty.
5. What’s the last TV show you binge watched?
The last show that Kay and I binged watched was The Knick. Or Homeland. I'm not sure. We watched two episodes of Downton Abbey last night.
See Frank Wood and Forest Whitaker in Eugene O'Neill's captivating drama 'Hughie' at the Booth Theatre through June 12.