Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we speak to actors about a characters who tangible their careers. The catch: They don’t know previously what roles we’ll ask them to speak about.
The actor: Frank Wood has been a informed face in New York-based cinema and radio shows for scarcely twenty years. A repeated actor on Flight Of The Conchords (as Murray’s assistant) and some-more recently The Knick (as one of a sanatorium house members), Wood has acted alternated blink-and-you-miss-them appearances in films and TV episodes with meatier clarity parts. He was Charlie Skinner’s fraudulent CIA source on The Newsroom; a pivotal Kennedy confidant in a claustrophobic Cuban Missile Crisis play Thirteen Days; and a phone association trainer who sets off a comfortless sequence of events in Clint Eastwood’s Changeling. Over lunch before a opening of Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie, conflicting Forest Whitaker, Wood described some of a ins-and-outs of life as a day player, and how he adapts his technique from a theatre to a screen.
Hughie (Broadway, 2016)—“Desk Clerk”
Frank Wood: It had a brief operation period, shorter than was creatively intended, so there was a lot of time where Forest Whitaker and [director] Michael Grandage finished adult carrying time alone. But it’s been usually beautifully realized, we think, and I’m unequivocally enjoyed it.
The A.V. Club: Why was it shortened? Because of Whitaker’s availability?
FW: Yeah, he was in a film and it went over schedule. It’s a lot to take on for any actor, we think, underneath those circumstances. It’s him articulate a whole time. He’s such a beautifully loose performer, and he’s tough on himself, yet in a march of opening he’s unequivocally good during vouchsafing things go. If one impulse doesn’t definitely work out, he’s unequivocally good during recuperating for a subsequent moment.
O’Neill has about 4 places in a book where he describes clearly what a night clerk is thinking, so there’s a lot of content where we can say, “Okay, these are my thoughts. My thoughts are outward a hotel right now.” A lot of characters that have a lot of theatre time yet tiny to say, there competence be a outline of a peculiarity of their thoughts, or even what they’re meditative about, yet frequency an tangible middle digression created out, with other characters in it. That’s unequivocally unusual.
Small Time Crooks (2000)—“Oliver”
FW: That competence be a smallest entrance in anything on film I’ve ever had. Auditioning for it was some-more engaging than a day of shooting. The try-out did embody being in a room where we saw Woody Allen sitting over there, this peculiar male sitting off to a left in a comfy chair, as we review a 3 lines or so that we had with a casting director.
She told me before we went in, “He’s not going to speak to you.” So we review it and we pronounced appreciate we and we walked out. Then doing it was—Hugh Grant and we were partners in an art gallery. We shot it from one camera angle, and afterwards we had to make a indicate that we had to be behind in time for Side Man [on Broadway], and we consider that competence have been obliged for a fact that we usually see me in form for a second. So it was a large bargain to get a role, and afterwards it incited out to be a unequivocally tiny part.
AVC: I’ve listened that Woody doesn’t speak to his actors much.
FW: Yeah, we consider he likes to expel a right people, that demeanour and sound right, and they’ll figure it out. we was looking during a slide, and he pronounced something like, “Maybe we can reason it adult a tiny bit higher, maybe during an angle here.” Something technical. But there was no genuine review about what’s going on in a scene.
Pollock (2000)—“Frank Pollock”
FW: That was similar. Ed Harris was not un-conversational, yet we don’t remember anticipating a proceed to do anything yet uncover adult and kind of travel by a margin and lay for a photograph. It was a unequivocally peculiar experience, given we didn’t know, really, what we have to do to be in a film. Ed Harris was unequivocally enthusiastic. He was a unequivocally good man to work for given he was into it, and he was into all a people he had operative with him, and he was enlivening and all that. But we didn’t unequivocally know what questions to ask.
AVC: You won a Tony for your purpose in Side Man in 1999. You were in a array of large cinema a year after that. Did that award, and that production, assistance to launch your film career?
FW: The prolongation of Side Man was positively like a watershed for my career. And a Tony, obviously, partial of that. First of all, when we started doing Side Man Off-Broadway, we called an representative whom I’d been arrange of in association with off and on over a years. we said, “I’m in this play, come see it, and we need representation.” So he concluded to paint me, and when that altered initial to a Roundabout and afterwards to Broadway, it began to be a play that had adequate traction so that we started removing auditions I’d never used to get before. That enclosed film and TV, that truly, with some unequivocally few exceptions, we had never left adult for. It altered a arrange of work we was being seen for.
Thirteen Days (2000)—“McGeorge Bundy”
FW: I did research. we knew a lot of people flourishing up. Part of my childhood was in D.C., and my father worked in a Johnson administration, so there were all these family friends. we met McGeorge Bundy’s widow, and talked about him. But it didn’t supplement adult to what was in a script, and in a finish a film they were sharpened was formed on a story they wish to tell, not indispensably on a chronological truth.
AVC: So we couldn’t lift your palm and say, “But McGeorge Bundy wouldn’t have pronounced that…”
FW: Right, right, exactly. They had already figured that out. They had already motionless they didn’t care.
AVC: You have one large theatre with Kevin Costner, personification a Kennedy aide, where he chews Bundy out for not display correct honour to a president.
FW: we don’t have a unequivocally good memory of what we did. Through that movie, we would uncover adult and there would be opposite configurations of scenes. The theatre was during a desk, afterwards unexpected we were walking down a hallway. And we had a unequivocally tough time anticipating these relationships, anticipating a proceed to make myself commend this miss of honour for him. How would it perceptible itself? How would we lift myself? How did McGeorge Bundy select to proceed this day? You’d get off a set and you’d go home—I was staying during a friend’s apartment—and we usually arrange of didn’t know what to do with these tiny snippets, a proceed these things were written.
So we consider a outcome is comparatively flat, instead of nuanced, given it was tough for me to reason on to a indicate of perspective about these scenes, what was happening. we remember being unhappy that we was not some-more like McGeorge Bundy—not as quick, not as deft, and not a egghead gravitas that he had. Thinking about those things wasn’t quite helpful. we consider had we run by a content as written, and asked questions directly from a text, it would have been a tiny some-more useful. It was so tough with a book like that to find an arc. we consider we was always arrange of looking for a day when we would weed by a book and make these decisions. In a theater, we get a lot of sketch out from your executive or a other actors, a lot of “Let’s stop here and work with this” and “Let’s see how we can make this work.” There isn’t that psychological design when you’re operative on a movie.
AVC: Thirteen Days is this momentous assemblage of 30 or 40 of a biggest “middle-aged white man in a suit” clarity actors. What was it like to be partial of that?
FW: we remember we got to a airfield that initial day to go to California, and Henry Strozier was there. He’s not someone we knew well, yet he was personification Dean Rusk, and he had a somewhat asocial opinion about going out to make this film as a kind of income pursuit yet not a critical work of art. And we had given adult Side Man, that was going down to D.C. to a Kennedy Center, yet yet me, to be in this movie. So we was all like gung-ho, yet afterwards feeling somewhat [deflated]. But being there, it was fun, to accommodate Kevin Costner and have people work on my hairpiece and accommodate this arrange of bar of actors.
AVC: How did Costner fit into that ensemble?
FW: He was unequivocally accessible and affable, and unequivocally encouraging. He helped me from time to time. We would run lines if we was carrying difficulty arrange of staying in it, that we did a integrate of times. we was fumbling a tiny bit, and he took me divided and we walked it [off]. He was poetic and relaxed, yet we know, a ensemble, for a film like that, there’s unequivocally a clarity that there’s a core and everybody else arrange of takes their place concentrically around it. Your moments come and go, when you’re critical and not important, and we attempted to be supportive to that.
AVC: Just technically, scenes around a list are tough to shoot, aren’t they? And many of this film was people sitting around a discussion table.
FW: Right, it was around a table. we volunteered to be one of a smokers, that of march incited out to meant we was smoking constantly, and we would need a cigarette that was cut down to a length it was in a final shot. And there was a lot of usually repeating paltry things and reconfiguring a organisation of group and determining where they were during a table. It’s humorous how we travel from your trailer, when it’s time for your theatre or whatever, and afterwards we wait a prolonged time and they figure things out, and afterwards what happens and what’s pronounced feels unequivocally inconsequential. Important events in a story of a Cuban Missile Crisis feel like unequivocally tiny expressions of drama, unequivocally fragmented. we suspicion Bruce Greenwood as Kennedy, both he and Steven Culp as RFK, were indeed unequivocally good during capturing those guys and capturing their tempers. A lot of us, we feel like it was usually a word here and a word there, and hang your conduct in. [Laughs.]
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)—“Hotel Manager”
FW: Wes Anderson expel me, and we showed adult for dual days of work, dual weeks apart, during a Waldorf Astoria. Wes Anderson was unequivocally eager about introducing me to Gene Hackman, who was arrange of erratic around a Waldorf Astoria, that was [reserved] usually for a movie—there was nobody else there. But Gene Hackman clearly was not meddlesome in me. You know, whatever he was doing, he was not meddlesome in assembly people or observant “Hi, poetic to know you.” So he shook my palm and looked vaguely distracted. we consider what was engaging about him was that he was clearly operative from a indicate of perspective of his character, even when we weren’t shooting, and we was unequivocally many tighten to my possess affect, and anticipating unequivocally tiny we could consider about other than observant a line and kind of anticipating my possess comfort zone.
I even during one indicate asked Gene Hackman either something we was doing was useful to him, and he was like, “Oh, no, don’t ask me, ask a director.” So that was a useful thing to learn: Don’t build tiny protecting choices. Go, do stuff, let a chips tumble where they may, and afterwards they’ll tell we to do something differently if they wish we to. But it doesn’t assistance one actor to hear if a other one has a immobile proceed to work: “I’m going to try this in a scene.” At slightest to Gene Hackman, entrance from me, that was not useful. He didn’t wish to stop and consider about things like that.
I favourite it, yet it’s still partial of a kind of hotchpotch of things we do in film/TV where, if we don’t have a principal role, it all feels a tiny bit like a crazy day that happened to you.
The Sopranos (2001)—“Dean Ross”
FW: we consider it came by being in Side Man with Edie [Falco]. We met during her unit a day before and we review lines, given we hadn’t been in a lot of TV. We did it a integrate of times and she said, “Are we nervous?” And we said, “A tiny bit.” She said, “Don’t be.” Then we got by it, and we remember a executive wanted to get a tiny some-more regard out of me, and we was not certain how to do that. we suspicion we was being arrange of approach and suitable to a dean, a proceed a vanguard would be. “More like a man who knows how to get income out of people.” “Oh, okay.” So afterwards we attempted to be some-more [like that], and Edie was enlivening and helpful.
The Knick (2014-15)—“Mr. Havershorn”
FW: From a technical indicate of view, it’s engaging what [Steven] Soderbergh is doing. He spent so many time building a proceed to have this camera so that he doesn’t have to pierce a light setup any time he wants to change angles—and he doesn’t change angles that mostly anyway. So it’s impossibly economical. The initial day we shot that took me by surprise. Since he’s in assign of a script, and he’s in assign of editing, there’s unequivocally tiny consultation he has to do with anyone. So if he’s motionless he spent adequate time on a scene, and we still haven’t pronounced all a lines in it, it doesn’t matter to him. So initially, we was usually arrange of starting to relax into [the scene] and get this book figured out, and we had altered on. But we grew to adore that. we grew to adore going into a room and meaningful it’ll be over flattering soon.
AVC: Where did that accent come from?
FW: [Laughs.] It came from my decision, on training that we had got expel in a role, my fear that we would not be enough. Like, if we usually talked like this, we wouldn’t remonstrate myself that we lived in this universe as this guy. And we went and found some recommendation from Deb Hecht, who’s a chapter coach—she works during Juilliard, and she worked during NYU for a prolonged time. we used doing a kind of New York Brahmin accent. It was ostensible to be arrange of George Plimpton.
AVC: Yes, of course, nonetheless we theory my untrained ears purebred it as a Boston accent.
FW: It’s close, given they all accommodate during Groton. It’s definitely, like, [Franklin Delano] Roosevelt. And there is a anxiety, carrying worked on it, that Boston is unequivocally close, so we theoretically would work out some sum to make it some-more New York-based. But that’s a ideal instance of something we kind of wish we could do over again. Watching a series, it’s so many improved when people are usually gentle with themselves. You know, we didn’t need that accent; we could’ve usually talked. we would have been fine.
AVC: When we make a preference about something like that, do we speak to anyone about it beforehand, or do we usually do it?
FW: No, exactly, we was meditative about that, and there’s no arrange of probability for that conversation. we suspect we could have emailed somebody during a prolongation and said, “I’m meditative about an accent.” But we was fearful that that would—I’m not certain what we was fearful of. Whenever we get hired in a TV job, we somehow feel like there’s no entrance until we get on a set. Which isn’t wholly true. But we motionless to do it on my own, and nobody pronounced stop. So we kept doing it. And it felt good to me. But I’ve watched it given and my greeting was, “Not so good.”
AVC: How do we feel about examination yourself on screen?
FW: I’ve gotten used to it, and we find that if we was happy with a day’s work when we did it, we will mostly wish to see it. But we unequivocally went by a duration where observant myself on shade was upsetting. we would usually see myself as working falsely. I’ve watched a integrate of things on The Knick, where there was one thing finished me remove 3 days of sleep, and there was one that we watched where we was like, “Oh, okay—not so bad.”
AVC: Do we remember that scenes those were?
FW: The initial time we see me was arrange of in soothing focus, and you’re unequivocally examination Jeremy Bobb as he learns that all his skeleton are exploding or whatever. The day of sharpened that, we was so satisfied. we had a museum actor’s compensation with a peculiarity of my work. But we was unequivocally too big, and I’m not articulate to anybody. we suspicion we was arrange of grotesque. There was something weirdly imbalanced about my performance. [The other scene] was a one where we see me mostly in form in a house meeting, we was like, “Oh, we seem to be of a piece, we seem to be whole. we don’t see my effort. It sounds like we indeed am that guy.”
So we like examination myself, yet it is filled with probability for recrimination and self-judgment.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)—“Evaluative Services Doctor”
FW: It was [filmed on] Roosevelt Island, and it was arrange of beautifully awful and grungy. Again, it’s usually always so many some-more truncated than we imagine. The day can be long, yet a communication with people—the executive and Philip Seymour Hoffman—is mostly arrange of small. It was fine, it was lovely, yet it was usually unequivocally technical. Hanging around and doing those lines and removing a tiny bit of direction, like, “Yeah, we know, put those lines a tiny closer together. No pauses.” Or, “It’s holding a tiny too long.” You unequivocally have to be prepared for all a technical things to usually be H2O off your back, and infrequently I’m unequivocally anxious. So that was a ideally good experience, nobody was meant to me, yet we left going, “Aaah. Oh, well. we don’t know.”
Changeling (2008)—“Ben Harris”
AVC: What was your clarity of Clint Eastwood as a director?
FW: He’s unequivocally economical, unequivocally soft-spoken, and never says anything like “Action.” He usually arrange of turns to a camera crew, and afterwards during some indicate we go, “Oh, we theory I’m ostensible to be talking.” You kind of figure it out. At one indicate we finished a technical error. He’d asked me to mount subsequent to Angelina Jolie—they wanted to approach focus, for a lights and everything. So what we did [during a take] was accurately what we did when they focused a lights: we stood there for a impulse and afterwards we walked away. Theoretically, we was ostensible to mount there and listen there a whole time she was on a phone, articulate to whoever. Rather than redo it, they usually followed me as we walked away. Clint Eastwood said, “Actors infrequently have a right instincts.” Which to my mind wasn’t instinct, we was usually creation a mistake. we favourite him unequivocally many as a director.
That’s a unequivocally good instance of remembering that a resources of a story matter some-more than a lines. we got out there and we had this theatre with Angelina Jolie, and we met her, and a initial thing she pronounced to me was, “I don’t unequivocally have all a lines down, so I’m usually going to improvise.” we said, “Oh. Oh, okay.” And afterwards we remember seeking her if she could contend this line or that line—I had in my conduct that we indispensable to conflict to what this line was in sequence for a rest of what we pronounced to make sense.
If we had it to do over again, we would’ve been like, “Oh, this is a good event to improvise with Angelina Jolie. We’ll travel by a travel and she’s usually going to contend things and I’m going to contend stuff, and if it doesn’t work out, Clint Eastwood will say, ‘Do it again, and make certain this happens.’” And when we was bringing this up, Eastwood said, “Oh, yeah, we substantially should contend those lines, Angelina.” But usually observant that I’m her trainer and we kind of have a vanquish on her, instead we started meditative we wish to get that line in, so we can have this reaction. And that’s not—the good reactions we get when we get in front of a camera are not a ones we designed to have. we don’t consider many actors would be astounded to hear that, yet we keep carrying [to relearn it]. In a way, film is unequivocally improvisational, nonetheless someone like Aaron Sorkin wants all a difference said. All a prepositions, all a “of”s and “it”s. So we get bogged down in that, too. But a proceed his speeches are finished is unequivocally critical to him.
The Newsroom (2013)—“Shep Pressman”
AVC: So Aaron Sorkin was on a set when we filmed your scenes?
FW: Yes, he was on a set. we had dual scenes, and he was unequivocally significantly on a set a second time, where we slapped Sam Waterston. That was some-more like theater, in that it was an heated evening. The initial scene, that’s in his office, that was a prolonged night of shooting, with a lot of lines to say, and everybody was arrange of geared adult for it. Sam and we had worked together on a King Lear beforehand, so when we got out there he was friendly. He called me a day before we were going to fire and said, “Do we wish to get together on lines?” Again, it was unusual. So we got to his trailer and we ran a lines, that on a set is so tough to do. But that was exciting, given it felt like we were both about to give a performance, and everybody was profitable a lot of courtesy to us. Even yet it still was technical—like, “Don’t take so many sips of your scotch.”
Then doing a theatre in a garage was also fun. Like a line where we contend something with a shout, we can’t remember what a word is, yet we scream something. The initial time we ran by it, we didn’t scream it, we usually arrange of pronounced it, unemphasized. Aaron Sorkin came over and he said, “You know, you’re a poetic actor, and we honour you. Whatever choices we make are fine. But there’s room here for an explosion.”
Dan In Real Life (2007)—“Howard”
FW: That was an instance where a executive unequivocally famous a value of rehearsal, and he got many of us, some people couldn’t be there, a week before a sharpened started. We played a lot of variations of a games that they play in a movie, football and crossword puzzles and stuff. We did an opera, and we schooled a tools for this talent show. A lot of that was usually worked on before a sharpened began.
Peter Hedges was arrange of given this script, and some writer or prolongation association said, “We consider you’re a right executive for this.” Because it was a formulaic regretful comedy, and he attempted to arrange of massage it into something a bit some-more plausible. we consider that’s one proceed he did it, to get us all together so that there would be fewer jokes or punchlines and some-more [natural behavior].
AVC: What was Steve Carell like to work with?
FW: He was as we see him [onscreen]. We went out a few nights together. People would commend him in a bar, and we remember this one lady [beckoned him with] her finger during him on a dance floor, and he went “No!” in a unequivocally arrange of easy way. we didn’t get to know him unequivocally well. we had that greeting to unequivocally successful, famous actors. we mostly get kind of reluctant to do a elementary thing of creation review with them. That stays a bent we have, to try to disappear sometimes. But we favourite him a lot.
Here’s another thing: He and Peter were articulate about a theatre that they were usually about to shoot, and they were deliberating either he was in adore or not. we remember thinking, in a play, that review would have happened by now. Not in between takes, we know?
The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2009)—“Police Commissioner Sterman”
FW: John Benjamin Hickey and we traded roles. we got expel as a assistance to a mayor, we had one day where we were both practical extras in a theatre that was shot from a prolonged distance, and afterwards over a weekend we got a call from Tony Scott, a director, saying, “You know, I’d like to switch you.” we don’t know since that happened, yet we pronounced okay. So we became a military commissioner instead of a assistance to a mayor. That was a kind of uncover adult and see what happens, reason onto your pants and live, given in that fire there was a lot of extras, a lot of action, a lot of tempers flaring. we mean, in a scenes, generally in a fort for a MTA, there were all these fights happening, and we usually have to spend a time watchful between takes kind of vital with yourself and reliving a scenes, walking around and gripping [that energy] alive.
AVC: In a purpose like that, where your clarity is especially tangible by his purpose in a plot, what accurately are we gripping alive? we mean, do we emanate a whole middle life for this military commissioner who doesn’t have a initial name?
FW: Right. No, that’s a unequivocally good question. we kept perplexing to consider of, what is he endangered with? Saving face, and removing somebody to listen to him.
Flight Of The Conchords (2007-09)—“Greg”
AVC: What was your take on a Conchords, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie?
FW: They were unequivocally good to work with, given they were carrying a good time. we consider they were tired by carrying to come adult with dual seasons’ value of material. But they were lovely. They were unequivocally many themselves—dry, humorous New Zealanders. They were intensely good guys. Sometimes I’d be in a play, and they both came during opposite times to see me in a play.
I auditioned for dual roles. One was for Greg, and a other was a crazy fan’s husband, that finished adult being played by David Costabile. But we remember unequivocally many bargain holding adult a print and saying, “How about 3 exclamation points?” and observant “Well, we don’t consider that’s necessary.” we knew unequivocally tiny else about what he would be—somebody’s assistant. And we did not know a Flight Of The Conchords materialisation during a time, and a scripts roughly didn’t register as thespian or interesting. But that was one of a improved jobs we ever had. That truly was a repeated purpose where we felt like we showed adult and we could relax. we mean, we had to demeanour during those scenes and make certain we accepted a premise, yet there weren’t a lot of lines to learn, and when we did have a few they always got altered anyway. we always got to do variations on them. And we got to do my possess arrange of dry, mocking schtick, that was loyal to me even before we did Flight Of The Conchords.
The Favor (2007)—“Lawrence”
AVC: The Favor kind of left after screening during a few festivals, yet it’s a film in that we played a heading role.
FW: That was a initial time we had a probability to be there for a lot of a movie. That’s where we schooled how to take shortcoming for a choices we made, or how to possess a role. If you’ve usually got one day on a film or even 3 or 4 days, it’s tough to feel like we have any authority. Eva Aridjis destined it and wrote it. It was about a man who meets his aged high propagandize girlfriend, and they haven’t seen any other in years, and she has a son. She has a weird accident, and he takes on shortcoming for a caring of her son. It was shot in Bayonne, New Jersey, mostly.
I remember feeling underwhelmed—every time we shot a scene, we couldn’t trust that was it. we consider a lot of actors will contend of their initial bearing [to filmmaking], “Really? That’s what’s going to be a performance?” But when we watched a film we was like, oh, okay, not bad. we saw that my efforts amounted to something. But what we felt was function during a time was totally unacceptable. we mean, we didn’t stomp around complaining, yet we remember withdrawal during a finish of a day going, “That was awkward. That feels unrealized.”
AVC: we haven’t interviewed many actors who have been as vocally self-critical as we tend to be. Those scenes in The Newsroom are amazing!
FW: we consider there are copiousness [of self-critical actors] out there, yet yes, we am self-critical. Particularly given we can watch yourself in movies. When we knowledge life on stage, we feel like we take flight. Sometimes we unequivocally have this clarity of revelation. That also competence be definitely false, yet we will leave a opening on a given night and go, “This is what I’m vital for.” And we so frequency feel that proceed in film and TV. we can see when people do, though, that we admire and envy. On The Knick, there are these dual people, a Irish ambulance motorist and a nun, Chris [Sullivan and Cara Seymour]. we don’t know either when they’re filming it has a same arrange of chopped-up feeling we have when I’m doing something, yet we watch that and we go, they are holding onto something. Individually as actors, and also that attribute they’re building, it’s unequivocally lived-in and we admire it. So, anyway, we am self-critical, yet it’s tough not to be. All we can contend is I’ve had these practice where we feel like we have finished good work, and I’ve had practice where we go, “Oh, that’s usually not….” What I’m after is some clarity of transformation, a clarity of starting here and finale adult here. That competence not be necessary, yet it’s a thing we keep entrance behind to, a arrange of flog I’m looking for.