first_img View Comments Adam Gillen in “Killer Joe”(Photo: Marc Brenner) Adam Gillen recently finished an extended and electrifying run as Mozart in the National Theatre’s glorious revival of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, only to segue from the world of European court composers to trailer trash America in the Trafalgar Studios revival of Killer Joe, opening on June 4. The Tracy Letts play boasts Orlando Bloom in the title role, and Gillen was articulate on the topic of his starry colleague and much more in conversation with you juggling rehearsing this play and performing Amadeus at the same time?There was a crossover of about a week, but it was a fun juxtaposition to move between the two worlds. The key to any enjoyable career is variation, and you couldn’t get more varied than the distinctly different worlds of the Viennese court and trailer park America!So, you weren’t tempted to interpolate a bit of Mozart into Tracy Letts’ American southern Gothic, with you playing a deeply indebted drug dealer?[Laughs.] Funnily enough, no. I didn’t think it would be quite the right flavor for this particular show.How is Killer Joe going so far?So far, I’m finding that it’s much funnier than I expected people to find it. It’s such a dark story that I hadn’t seen the humor in it, but that’s just as well because if we all knew a gag was coming, we’d be playing for it.Did you know the piece at all beforehand, perhaps from the 2011 William Friedkin-directed film, starring Matthew McConaughey?I steered clear of the film because I didn’t want to be influenced by anybody else; if I saw someone else doing [the role of] Chris, it wouldn’t feel like I owned it. But I first heard about the play from drama school and knew Tracy Letts from August: Osage County, which I thought was an amazing piece of work and a beautiful film as well.What do you think of Chris as a character?He’s someone with ideals above his station who is just about keeping his head above water: a scrappy guy who wants to be somebody, and in this world, there aren’t many options, so he becomes a drug dealer. The options are few, and he is making the best of what he’s got.As an actor yourself, can you tell that Letts is an actor as well as a playwright?Absolutely. I think you often find when actors write for other actors that everyone gets an equal piece of the storytelling. Tracy has written an ensemble play in which every character is so brilliantly individual; this is truly a group of entirely different and differentiated people.How are you dealing with the more “out there” aspects of the text?I think it’s nice to feel that people don’t know what’s coming next; it’s as if you’ve got a little secret. It’s a truly shocking play and a truly surprising one, too. It’s so intense that it feels as everyone is bearing down on you, a bit like gladiatorial combat. This play shocks and appalls, and it makes you question everything.For such a quintessentially American play, does it feel odd to have an entirely British cast?Steffan [Rhodri] is from Wales, Neve [McIntosh] is from Scotland, Sophie [Cookson] is from down south but has a Scouse [Liverpudlian] father and, of course, we’ve got Orlando, so I guess it’s all very British in that sense. But Orlando obviously lives in L.A. and has a real grasp of Americans, and I also think with a play this beautifully drawn and particular that you just have to step inside it and trust that Tracy’s got your back. He’s already given us about 70% of what we need.Is playing American new for you, or did you do some of that at drama school?No, we didn’t do American stuff at RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art], so it’s new for me to explore this, definitely. What’s exciting, for the actor as well as the audience member, is to find yourself in an entirely different world that in your own life you’d never be able to even touch. You can choose via your imagination to put yourself in these people’s shoes, and the joy lies in finding empathy even in these extreme circumstances.Didn’t you do some of that with your Mozart in Amadeus?I’d seen the film growing up, and Tom Hulce’s performance [as Mozart] was one of the ones that turned me on to acting. But what I tried to do in taking on the role for myself was to try to block his out, beautiful though it was, and get at the animal nature of the man: I wanted to communicate something of the guts of the man, and the dirt, alongside the genius.After giving so much of yourself to that role over two separate and lengthy National Theatre runs, weren’t you wanting a rest?For me it just comes down the old variation thing. This was absolutely a part I couldn’t turn down, and a play I couldn’t ignore. I like to be constantly challenging myself; that may be hard but it’s also a joy and a privilege.What can you tell us of your starry leading man, Orlando Bloom, here marking his second-ever West End appearance? [The first was in 2007 in the David Storey play In Celebration.]What Orlando is doing is really honorable. He didn’t have to do this, but it’s clear to us all that he wants to carry on learning and for somebody with such an established career, I think that’s really admirable.Are you watching him settle into his role?I actually do find myself being truly unnerved by Orlando on a regular basis, which is so strange because he’s such a lovely man—such a kind and generous soul. It seems, though, as if he’s beginning to enjoy being a menace, so I better get a dressing room far away [laughs].Once this finishes in August, will you finally allow yourself a break?I don’t really like being an idle, but maybe I’ll take a weekend away: a spa break would be nice!last_img

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