Interview with Angels in America star James McArdle

James McArdle

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, and a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, James McArdle is currently making his Broadway debut as Louis Ironson in the National Theatre's 11-time Tony-nominated revival of Angels in America at the Neil Simon Theatre. He earned an Olivier Award nomination for his turn at London's National Theatre and has been honored with a host of accolades on this side of the pond, including a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk nomination.

After graduation in 2010, McArdle quickly became a regular on the West End theatre scene, beginning that same year in Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe and going on to appear in such critically acclaimed productions as Spur of the Moment at the Royal Court Theatre, Emperor and Galilean at the National Theatre, and the role of Harold Abrahams in Chariots of Fire at the Hampstead Theatre and Gielgud Theatre. In addition, he has appeared in popular Chichester Festival Theatre productions, including A Month in the CountryIvanov and winning the Ian Charleson Award for his performance in the title role of Platanov. He has also played the title role in The Heart of Robin Hood at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), as well as the title role in James I: The Key Will Keep The Lock, which premiere in his native Scotland at the Edinburgh International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland, before transferring to the National Theatre in London.

With such an established stage career in just eight years after leaving RADA, the future looks very promising for the young actor. Performing the multi-layered role of Louis Ironson, a Jewish New Yorker, in front of New York audiences is perhaps the toughest test of his career so far, but also one he has passed with flying colors. We recently caught up with the young Scot to see how life in the Big Apple is treating him...


James McArdle in Interview
(Photo by Austin Yang)

Congratulations on your Broadway debut, James!

Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.

How does life back at the National Theatre in London compare to life now, here on Broadway?

Well, firstly, we don’t have anything like this whole Awards Season. Every day you find yourself at the front of a press line. It’s just a different way of doing things. It’s so nice to be recognised by this theatre community on my Broadway debut. It’s been lovely!

Do you feel you could get used to all the attention?

(laughs) Well, it’s different… It’s very different… It’s work, isn’t it? It’s what you’ve got to do. I mean, I say it’s “work”. My friends back home have proper jobs! (laughs)


James McArdle in Angels in America
(Photo by Brinkhoff & Mögenburg​)

Was it a nerve-wracking experience as a predominantly British cast to take on an American play, perform it in London and then bring it back to America for American audiences?

Yes, it was a weird thing. We felt the responsibility when we were invited to bring it over here and there were some reservations. But then we felt like: “Who are we to NOT give America its play back?!” and I couldn’t wait for Awards Season (laughs)… Most of the cast are English, but I am very Scottish and I’m playing a real New York Jewish guy. You know, it was one thing doing it in Britain, but it was daunting because I knew if I didn’t do it properly out here, then the sharks would be out for me… and quite rightly! I did feel the pressure. There was a lot of pressure to make sure this was represented properly.


James McArdle & Andrew Garfield in Angels in America
(Photo by Brinkhoff & Mögenburg​)

What would you like American audiences to leave the theatre with, after seeing the show?

I just hope that when they leave they understand that they are responsible for political change as much as anyone is. You have to look at change openly and pursue it. It’s not going to just happen for you. If we’re going to be passive members of this democracy, then nothing’s going to happen. You can’t really moan if Trump is in charge, if you’re not taking responsibility to make change possible.

And hopefully we’ll see you back on Broadway in the not-too-distant future, James.

Oh, I’m coming back next year and the year after that too! (laughs)


(Photo by Austin Yang)

Angels in America Tickets are available now for performances through to July 15, 2018.