Interview with The Iceman Cometh star David Morse

David Morse

Stage and screen veteran David Morse is currently taking on one of the most challenging and rewarding roles in the Denzel Washington-led Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre... Just as well then that he has been recognized with his first Tony Award nomination for his efforts!

Mr. Morse first made his mark on the New York theatre community with his Lucille Lortel, Obie & Drama Desk Award-winning performance as Beck in Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive, off-Broadway in 1997. Since then, he has starred in the Broadway premiere of The Seafarer in 2007, and as the title character in the 2013 Roundabout production of The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin. He is, of course, also known for his film roles, most notably as Brutus 'Brutal' Howell in "The Green Mile" and Colonel Reed in "The Hurt Locker," as well as Emmy-nominated TV appearances as Michael Tritter in "House" or as George Washington in "John Adams".

We recently caught up with the Tony Award nominee to chat all things awards season, the star vehicle vs. ensemble piece debate, and who he feels should also have been nominated alongside him...

David Morse in Interview
(Photo by Austin Yang)

You’ve been nominated for more than a handful of awards this season, David. How important are awards and recognition to you as an actor?

Well, obviously being on stage is wonderful and being with this group of fantastic people is wonderful. But being recognised like this, of course, is great. I’m sort of taking it as recognition for all of us. I’d like to think of it that way - rather than just for myself - because we’re all up there working our butts off!

That’s interesting that you say that because as I was watching it, the production felt like it was a kind of balancing act between an entire ensemble piece and a star vehicle. Do you know what I mean?

I totally know what you mean - especially when you have Denzel Washington up there above the title. You know that there’s a huge crowd coming just for him. But then when they get there, they’re seeing this fantastic world and this fantastic group of people. And I’m the only one who’s on that stage and awake throughout the entire show. So, I get to see all that work in everybody’s performances. It’s pretty great.

David Morse, Denzel Washington & Colm Meaney in The Iceman Cometh
(Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

And, as you say, you have a lot of stage time and Larry Slade is such a meaty role. What were your first impressions when you were initially cast?

Actually when I was first asked to do the role and I read it, I thought: “I’m not sure I want to do this.” I didn’t really see it. I don’t really know what I didn’t see at that point, but I was looking for some big scene or something else that would tell me I have to do this. I didn’t see it, but everybody that represents me said: “No, no, no. Read this and look at it again.” I then got to see that you experience him throughout the course of the whole play and he’s affected by not just Hickey but everybody else in that story. And then there’s his amazing backstory, so now I’m delighted that I got it.

If you had to single out some of your cast mates that you feel should also be nominated alongside you, who would they be?

Well, that could be anybody, but I’m going to start with Austin Butler. He’s a young guy and he and I do a lot together in this play. It’s the second play he’s ever done in his life. He’s phenomenal and he’s up on that stage doing wonderful work. And Dakin Matthews, who is at the other end of the spectrum agewise, is playing this great South African Boer gentleman. He’s been doing this thing forever and I never doubted his character for a moment. Then there’s everybody else in between, but I’m just singling out the two of them because I have to.

Denzel Washington & David Morse in The Iceman Cometh
(Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

Finally, if there was just one thing you’d like these modern audiences to leave the theatre with, after seeing The Iceman Cometh, what would it be?

I think it would be surprise. I hope that they are surprised at their experience. There’s an anticipation that this is going to be a long play. It’s a dark play and a challenging play to sit through. Obviously there’s that element to it, even though we’re doing the short version of it at four hours. But I hope they’d be surprised at the humor, love and affection that’s on that stage every night. I think those are the factors that make this play great.

(Photo by Austin Yang)

The Iceman Cometh Tickets are available now for performances through to July 1, 2018.