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Upclose with Maureen Anderman

Ahead of a sold out “Richard III” performance at the HKAPA, lead actress Maureen Anderman speaks to Beverly Cheng about returning to the stage after motherhood and how working with Kevin Spacey and director Sam Mendes is better than winning a Tony.
Sep 14, 2011

HK Magazine: Having starred in many Shakespearean plays (“Othello,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth”) do you still enjoy being a part of the tragedies?
Maureen Anderman: I used to think that I had an affinity with them. Because they require a large cast and they’re not done often in America, I haven’t done any for a while. I’ve always enjoyed the grand passion and larger scope of Shakespeare and I really enjoyed working in those arenas.

HK: How did you land the part of Richard III’s mother, the Duchess of York?
MA: This wonderful casting director named Daniel Swee in New York knew my work and he brought me in to meet Sam Mendes. We had this wonderful meeting where we just talked and laughed. We spoke very honestly about our fears of leaving the country [America] for so long, but I saw it as a great opportunity.

HK: How did you put your own touch to the role?
MA: The Bridge Company is made up of 10 British actors and 10 Americans. With Kevin [Spacey] being American, I think it was important to have an American playing his mother. I knew Kevin briefly and we have some mutual actor friends that were both mentors to us, including Coleen Dewhurst, and I carried a bit of [her] in my role.

HK: As a parent yourself, how did it help you to play the role of Richard III’s mother?
MA: I know how to say “you better listen to me,” like I mean it. [Though in the script] it’s still sometimes difficult to say these terrible, terrible things to Richard, her son.

HK: How did you make a comeback after stalling your career to take care of your children?
MA: I always kept working, but not as much in New York. If I hadn’t stopped, my career would’ve continued along a more visible path—but people didn’t forget me. I had a great career, but I loved being a mother. I did ballet, brownies, piano and I was in a committee directing the plays at their high school.

HK: Was it hard to leave your family behind for a world tour?
MA: Many actors don’t want to leave their comfort zone, their friends, their family. I knew that it would be difficult to leave, but the opportunity for someone like me to work at the Old Vic was so major and so important because I went to school learning about it. I grew up idolizing that place and for me to step out onto that stage—it was a very important opportunity for me.

HK: So what was it like stepping out on stage for the first time?
MA: Well, overwhelming. I went out on the stage one day alone, so I could deal with the emotion and so I wouldn’t be embarrassed. There are a lot of spirits of great performances in that place.

HK: What was it like working under director Sam Mendes and collaborating with Kevin Spacey?
MA: Sam is one of, if not the most brilliant director… No, I will say THE most brilliant director. I would watch the rehearsals because I loved the way he brought it all to life. I would see him change things; he sees things in his mind and makes it happen on stage. It was wonderful to see Kevin put together his character piece-by-piece. He’d try a little bit of movement—something with his leg or arm— and his physical presence slowly became whole.

HK: Would you say that this is the climax of your career?
MA: Yes, just about. I’ve had a very good career and I’ve done exciting things, but this is the topper—it’s the high point.

HK: Is this the role that’ll finally get you the coveted Tony?
MA: Doing this is my Tony. No, the role doesn’t warrant that and we’re not going to be on Broadway, it’s going to be in Brooklyn. If it went to Broadway, Kevin and numerous actors would be up. But my role, it’s a little gem and Sam has cut it and changed it into a little jewel. But I think that just by being part of this and doing this is worth more than a Tony for me.

If you were lucky enough to nab a ticket before they sold out, can catch Maureen Anderman in the role of The Duchess of York in “Richard III” Sep 16-18, Lyric Theatre, Academy for Performing Arts.