Interview with Tony nominee Michael Shannon
Oscar nominee Michael Shannon can currently be seen in his Tony-nominated performance as Jamie Tyrone in the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of Long Day's Journey Into Night at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre.
Michael previously made his Broadway debut in Grace in 2012. Off-Broadway he has appeared in the Public's The Little Flower of East Orange, Soho Playhouse's Killer Joe, and Mistakes Were Made, Our Town and Bug, all at the Barrow Street Theatre.
He is also well known for his extensive screen career, including roles on Boardwalk Empire, The Iceman, Take Shelter, and DC Comics' Man of Steel.
We caught up with Michael to talk about the lasting appeal of Long Day's Journey Into Night a
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations, Michael, on both your Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations for ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night.’
Michael Shannon: Thank you. Yes, it’s quite an honour.
THM: So, what do you think it is that keep’s bringing people back to see this classic play? What keeps it relevant in today’s society?
MS: Well, for my money, it’s the most deeply personal piece of writing that I’ve ever worked on as an actor. The depths to which [Eugene] O’Neill unearthed his own family and the pathology of his own family is really astonishing. I think because he was so willing to go so deep and so personal, he was able to unearth truths that reverberate with families all over the world. I look at the character of Mary Tyrone now and I think of the epidemic of opium addiction in our country. This isn’t an antiquated problem. It’s still alive and well. And of course, alcoholism is thriving as always. It’s a period piece, but it’s not. It’s like Mary says in the play: “I can see this clearly, as if it were happening tonight.”
THM: You mentioned alcoholism, and of course, your character Jamie Tyrone spends a good portion of the play inebriated. You did the best ‘drunk’ acting I think I have ever witnessed on stage. How do you prepare yourself as an actor for that?
MS: Well, I think a lot of people get kinda uptight about it. There’s a stigma about it. The big key for me is just to relax and not worry about it very much. You can’t let it overwhelm the story and you can’t let it overwhelm the language. You want people to hear the play. But it is important that Jamie is drunk in that scene, otherwise he wouldn’t be saying what he is saying. One thing I do in the long break I have before I come back on, I turn off all the lights in my dressing room and I spend a long time in the dark, which is very disorientating. I find that helps a little bit. But it’s mostly just about being relaxed. That’s what alcohol does. It relaxes you. I just try not to give a sh*t.
THM: I also thought your sibling relationship with John Gallagher, Jr. as Edmond Tyrone was really quite moving, and brutally honest at the same time. What was it like working with John and developing that relationship together?
MS: John is up for anything, you know. He’s so open. He’s such a great scene partner because he’s attentive and alert. He gives me permission to kinda go every which way with it. I still find I’m sifting through it each night, trying to find more and that requires having a real, deep trust, and I’m able to do that with him because he’s so generous and unafraid.
THM: And as a comic book fan, I can’t let you go without thanking you for your work on “Man of Steel” portraying Zod. You did a tremendous job in bringing such a complex villain to life.
MS: Ah, thank you so much. I appreciate that. Have a good one.