Interview with Tony Award winner Reed Birney
We recently caught up with Tony Award winner Reed Birney, currently starring as O'Brien in the Broadway premiere of George Orwell's 1984, adapated and directed by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan, which continues at the Hudson Theatre through to October 8, 2017.
Mr. Birney won his Tony Award last year for his performance as Erik Blake in the critically-acclaimed production of The Humans. He also earned a Tony nomination in 2014 for playing Charlotte in Casa Valentina. Other Broadway credits include the 2013 revival of Picnic and his Broadway debut in Gemini in 1977.
On screen, he is perhaps best known for his recurring role as Donald Blythe in House of Cards, and for his role as Tom Connolly in The Blacklist. Other screen credits include What's Your Emergency, In Your Eyes, Adult World, Morning Glory, Kings, Gossip Girl, and Four Friends.
Here's what Mr. Birney had to say about Broadway's most chilling production:
Thomas Hayden Millward: I believe 1984 enjoyed no less than four celebrated West End engagements in London. Did you ever get to see the play over there?
Reed Birney: I did not. I’m both sad and glad that I didn’t get to see it because I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I do wish I had seen it.
THM: I’m guessing you read the George Orwell novel before?
RB: Sure! In eighth grade… Didn’t everybody read it in eighth grade? (Laughs)
THM: (Laughs) Thank goodness for the school syllabus! How does this stage adaptation compare to the book in your opinion?
RB: What’s wonderful about this adaptation of 1984 is that I think other adaptations have sort of just reduced the book to its plot. What I think is remarkable about the book is how it disorientates you. This production is attempting to capture what the book does to the reader.
THM: Could you tell our readers a little bit about your character of O’Brien?
RB: Well, O’Brien is the bad guy… Or is he?... Maybe he’s the good guy. I don’t know whether he’s write but he wants to get Winston Smith [played by Tom Sturridge] to join the Party because Winston will be happier when he stops fighting.
THM: How do you feel the themes of 1984 relate to the current state of American society?
RB: Well, when we read it in eighth grade it was science-fiction and now it feels like a documentary. It’s quite terrifying in so many respects and I’m very proud to be involved with it. I feel we could be shedding some light on where we could be headed.
THM: I also just wanted to say, I was a big fan of ‘The Humans’ and wondered if you would like to share a memory or a little anecdote that springs to mind, when you think of your time in that production?
RB: Oh, thank you. Well, it was supposed to just be a three-month run off-Broadway and then it miraculously just turned into this phenomenon. I think, having been in show business for 42 years and seeing miracles happen for so many people and never for me, it just felt so thrilling to be at the centre of something miraculous.