It might be hard to believe, but Yvonne Strahovski has never seen a Broadway show.
The Australian actress, currently making her New York stage debut as Lorna Moon in Lincoln Center Theater's revival of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, reveals this fact a little bit sheepishly, but she's far from apologetic. She has dedicated the past few years of her life to making a name for herself in the world of film and television. And her efforts have paid off.
As one of the stars of the long-running, but chronically ratings-challenged NBC spy series Chuck, the blonde bombshell has garnered a seriously dedicated fan base. After concluding her five-season run on Chuck, Strahovski quickly bounced to Showtime's Dexter, where she is currently appearing as Hannah McKay, a potentially murderous love interest for Michael C. Hall's title character. And in case you thought she was getting any sleep, she will also appear in the upcoming films I, Frankenstein (opposite Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy) and The Guilt Trip (the new buddy comedy starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand).
In the midst of her Broadway debut's busy preview period, we sat down with Strahovski at a cafe on the Upper West Side to discuss Broadway, boxing, and precisely what it's like to end up covered in plastic wrap on Dexter Morgan's kill table.
Welcome to Broadway!
Thank you! I didn't know this was going to happen, and now it's happening.
How did Golden Boy come about?
My agent called and said "Do you want to go out for this play?" I spent a lot of time when I was growing up in theater and that all sort of ended six years ago when I moved to L.A. Earlier this year, I shot a movie in Melbourne, and while I was there, they had the Melbourne Comedy Festival. I went to see a lot of the stand-up comedians, and when I was in the audience, I remember thinking, "Wouldn't it be fun to be on stage again?" And that's really what inspired me to go in for this.
What theater did you do when you were growing up in Australia?
We did a lot of high school productions. My first was Twelfth Night. I played Viola. We did Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew, and a lot of musicals. The Wiz, Bye Bye Birdie, Oliver…
Who did you play in Bye Bye Birdie and The Wiz?
I'm not a singer. In Bye Bye Birdie, I think I was the sad girl who sits on the park bench during "Put on a Happy Face." I grew up being a dancer, so I was always doing some sort of dance number, like the Tornado in The Wiz.
You were the Tornado in The Wiz?!
Yeah, I was the Tornado in The Wiz. That was my pride and joy moment at that time.
Tell us a bit about your character in Golden Boy, Lorna Moon.
Lorna Moon is a tough, hardboiled woman, because she's had a terrible past. Her father is still alive but she doesn't know him; her mother killed herself. She's described as the "Tramp from Newark." She did what she had to do to survive, and I think that's what she's still doing. She's surviving with Tom Moody, who's a married man, but it's a safe choice and he loves her and that's all that matters to her. She doesn't really care about her own self because she doesn't know how to.
I understand that one of the cast bonding exercises was to attend a live fight. What was that experience like?
When I watched the women fight, 50% of me felt really sorry for them, and then the other 50% of me wanted to get up there and do it myself. It's brutal what happens to the guys' faces. We went up there after one of the fights because the Doctor invited us to watch him stitch together the boxers' faces. So I went up there and watched while his girlfriend was freaking out about it. She was filming it on her phone because the boxer wanted it, and she started trembling, so she handed the phone to me because she couldn't do it. It's brutal, but you watch it and the animal in you is awakened and you sort of want to get up there and let loose a little bit.
Do you ever see yourself boxing?
I feel like I've come close in a different way with the fight scenes through the series Chuck.
Were you happy with the way that show ended after five seasons? [Editor's Note: Spoiler Alert.]
I was thrown that my character lost her memory. I thought ‘God, how do I play a character that I've built over the last five years that everyone's grown to love and now suddenly I don't get to be that person anymore?' Because it's the memories that make the character, in a way. I do think at the very end, on the beach, where she asks him to finally start telling her [about her life], that she eventually remembers. [End spoiler alert.]
What are the differences between building a character over five seasons on television than over the course of a three-hour stage production?
[On a series], you get the episodes handed to you before you shoot them, so it's almost on the run. On stage, it's just the same material, so you end up digging deeper and deeper and deeper into the same thing. Clifford Odets is so complicated anyway. There's not a clear through line for my character.
There's a lot of subtext, and with every preview I think we're discovering new things. I'm not used to the notion of 30 previews, and then we open, and then we do the show for real.
[Editor's Note: Spoiler Alert.] I have to ask: on Dexter, you were naked and plastic-wrapped to a table as he prepared to kill you. Was it as creepy as it looks?
It's pretty creepy. If I had just been on the metal table it wouldn't have been as bad, but because there was a sex scene [with Michael C. Hall] that followed it afterwards, it was a little more [uncomfortable] than usual. [End spoiler alert.]
You and Michael have great chemistry.
He's so awesome to work with. We had such a blast. I haven't seen the last two episodes because my cable broke and I was on hold with Time Warner for 40 minutes. And they still didn't answer the phone so I gave up. You should print that.
No kidding! I've had similar problems with them recently!
Let's print bad stuff about Time Warner! It's so much fun talking to an automatic voice!
That having been said, what are some future roles you'd like to play?
I'm too old for Juliet [in Romeo & Juliet]. That was always a fantasy. I wouldn't mind delving into a Shakespeare again. I remember doing a wonderful play in my third year of drama school that would be pretty fun to do now after a lot more experience: Jim Cartwright's Road. Doing a Lancashire accent would be awesome. One of the books I remember reading when I was young and always thought would be a great role to play is Catherine in Wuthering Heights. I like the classics.
And tragic characters, it seems.
Something with an element of tragedy to it. That's why I like Lorna Moon. She's kind of tragic and a giant mess, basically.