British Actress Says LA Isn't A Theater Town - As She Stars In A Show Here In LA
By Darby Maloney with Caitlin Plummer
Lesley Manville has had a crazy busy year, highlighted by an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Phantom Thread as the icy, no-nonsense sister of Daniel Day-Lewis's Reynolds Woodcock.
Now she's getting rave reviews for her performance in Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical family drama Long Day's Journey Into Night at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, which runs through Sunday.
"I did research into morphine addiction and how that affects somebody, and the speed it would affect you and the ups of it and the downs of it," Manville told The Frame.
Manville stars as Mary Tyrone, the morphine-addicted addicted wife of aging actor James Tyrone, played by Jeremy Irons. She initially dove into the role two years ago, playing Mary Tyrone in another production of the show in England.
"I had two women ... who came up to me who found it quite hard to speak, and they were very tearful, and they said it was, sadly, their family's story," Manville said told The Frame.
She said the show hits a nerve thanks to the opioid epidemic here in the U.S.
"I mean, yes, the play is set in 1912. It was first performed in , which was three years after [O'Neill's] death — although he had written in his will that he didn't want it performed for 25 years after his death, but his wife managed to overturn it," Manville said. "Presumably, she saw what a wonderful piece of writing it was."
The play is about a family, their addictions, their problems, and their issues trying to keep it together — while also being in denial, Manville said.
"I know an audience is with me when can hear a pin drop," Manville said. "I get quite excited when that happens because I know that they are really really listening, and there's a lot of speeches that I have — we all have, all the characters actually have quite big speeches — but she has rather a lot."
Manville said that London audiences are different because you're playing to a "culturally stimulated audience" in a theater town, similar to New York. We're not sure a lot of Angelenos would agree with that assessment, but Manville added:
"You sort of feel it's different here, because it's not such a theater city. It's all about the movies and TV."
Manville's focused her career on theater more than TV and film — she said it's a generational difference.
"I grew up and started working in a generation when you didn't really think about coming to L.A. for pilot season, or coming to the States at all," Manville said. "I worked a huge amount in theater in England in my early years, and for me then, television and films was an exception."
Still, her first loyalty is to the stage.
"It's a really good balance and I wouldn't want to ever not be on stage for too long, because it is, in my opinion, the ultimate test. You can edit around a not very good performance on television or film. You can't edit on stage," Manville said. "The audience can look at you for the whole three and a half hours if they want and you've got to deliver."
She says she likes the fact that nobody shouts "cut," with the actors ultimately being responsible for the experience the audience has that evening.
She doesn't envy the ways younger actors have to promote themselves to get roles.
"I feel sorry for younger actors now. I think the pressure is on for them to tweet their lives, Instagram everything, audition on an iPhone — it's a really really sorry state of affairs," Manville said.
Sorry, you can't tweet at her about that — she's not on Twitter.
Long Day's Journey Into Night runs through Sunday, and the second season of her Hulu series Harlots premieres July 11. So, she clearly doesn't think TV is that bad.