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Luke Macfarlane Is Ready for All That Jazz

The Brothers & Sisters star takes on the role of author F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Jazz Age.

By Los Angeles
Luke Macfarlane in The Jazz Age
(© Rick Baumgartner)
Luke Macfarlane in The Jazz Age
(© Rick Baumgartner)
In one of those unusual cosmic coincidences, Luke Macfarlane is spending his days playing two very different characters with the same name. By day, he's shooting his scenes as Scotty Wardell, the usually patient and occasionally exasperated husband of lawyer Kevin Walker on ABC's primetime drama Brothers & Sisters, while at night, he's "Scotty" -- better known as author F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Blank Theatre's production of Allan Knee's The Jazz Age.

So far, though, mix-ups have been kept to the minimum, says Macfarlane: "It can be insane doing the double-duty dance, but so far the worst that has happened is that I entered our apartment on the Brothers & Sisters set and said one of the lines in the play, 'You're late,' rather than 'You're home.' Matthew (Rhys, who plays Kevin) was a little like 'whaaaat.'"

While the Canadian-born actor has become famous for his television role -- as well as his decision to come out publicly as a gay man -- the Blank can hardly be accused of stunt casting. He was a successful stage actor in New York, having appeared in such Off-Broadway successes as Where Do We Live? and The Busy World Is Hushed after graduating from the prestigious Juilliard School of Drama. "After three years in L.A., I began to dream of my glory days on the boards," he says of his decision to do a play. "But it's very difficult to make a living as a theater actor in New York, which is why I moved out here, and I always had an ambition to work in television. I am a great admirer of the format, and I think it's how we tell long stories."

The Jazz Age, which focuses on Fitzgerald's relationships with wife Zelda (played by Heather Prete) and friend and fellow author Ernest Hemingway (played by Jeremy Gabriel), appealed to Macfarlane on a number of levels. "The Great Gatsby was required reading in high school, but since taking on the role and listening to a lot of his novels on audiobooks -- which is easier for me because I'm dyslexic -- I've really begun to appreciate what a remarkable writer he was," he says.

As for doing research into Fitzgerald's life, he notes: "There's never enough time to do all the research one wants; there are all these huge dense biographies and he cataloged everything in his life. But what's most interesting is that I've discovered that he really needed to live the kind of live he did so he could reinterpret in on the page. His choice in marrying Zelda was no mistake."

The play also doesn't shy away from Fitzgerald's possibly homoerotic feelings towards Hemingway, most notably in a scene that has to do with comparing penis sizes. While that encounter may not have happened, Macfarlane says the subject was discussed by the two men in letters. "I actually think that Scott turned to Hemingway to teach him about being a man. He was always afraid that something was wrong with him and his masculinity," says Macfarlane. "There was really this desperate need for him to feel he was okay."

Macfarlane says another key to his portrayal of Fitzgerald is his footwear; in this case, a pair of black-and-white spats. "I always like to start with a great pair of shoes," he says. "It's your first contact with the ground and it can really change the way you move and act physically."

His footwear on Brothers & Sisters -- when there is any since Scotty Wardell is often barefoot -- is nothing to write home about. But clothes hardly matter when one is working with a cast that includes such top-notch actors as Sally Field, Ron Rifkin, Calista Flockhart, and Rachel Griffiths. "I think the first table read I ever did, my hand was vibrating the whole time," he says. "But we have a wonderful group collective. If a scene doesn't work, we're all willing to talk about it. And I think we all have this great story to tell."


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