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Here Lies Hamish Linklater

The Obie Award-winning actor discusses his role in Classic Stage Company's production of David Ives' The School For Lies.

Hamish Linklater
(© Tristan Fuge)
Hamish Linklater has graced the stage in such plays as Hamlet and Twelfth Night and is well known for his work on such TV series as American Dreams and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Currently, he's appearing through May 29 at Classic Stage Company in David Ives' hilarious The School For Lies, for which he recently won an Obie Award for his performance as the aptly-named Frank. TheaterMania recently spoke to Linklater about the show and his upcoming projects.

THEATERMANIA: Congratulations on your Obie. Did you have any idea you were getting the award?
HAMISH LINKLATER: My agent told me I had been given a ticket, and I thought because I had presented at the OBIES last year that maybe that was just the regular thing. You don't want to be the kind of person who is so into yourself that you read into every invitation to an awards show. But I was really really psyched that I didn't just have to sit there for four hours; I got to talk about how important the Obies are to me. I first heard about them when I was a little kid growing up at Shakespeare & Company, and I decided then this is the only award I ever really wanted.

TM: You deserve it. Frank is such a physically and vocally demanding role. Is that what you look for in a part?
HL: It certainly is sweaty business, but I like to do plays where I can lose weight! It's a lot of fun, but it's really scary before making my first entrance every night when I realize again how much talking and sweating I am going to be doing.

TM: Is it hard talking for two hours in nothing but rhyming couplets?
HL: The way David has written the play, this kind of iambic pentameter seems organic. In fact, you know when you've screwed up immediately when a rhyme comes out all clangy. Because of growing up at Shakespeare & Company with my mom (actress and vocal coach Kristin Linklater), I always thought this kind of language belongs in American mouths. In fact, I was really surprised when I found out they actually taught verse there!

TM: You have wonderful chemistry with Mamie Gummer, who plays your love interest, Celimene. Have you two worked together before?
HL: No. I've known her socially for a while; she's good friends with my friend Lily Rabe. As an acting partner, she is so incredibly present. One of the dangers with rhyming couplets is that you can fall asleep doing it. All I have to do is lock onto her blue eyes and it wakes me up.

Hamish Linklater and Mamie Gummer in The School For Lies
(© Joan Marcus)
TM: Were you taken aback by how much she resembles her mother, Meryl Streep?
HL: When she enters, there's this hush you can hear, and then you can hear the audience commenting. The first couple of times we did the show, because my back is to her when she enters, I heard it and I felt like I'd lost the audience, but then I realized what's happening. Plus, she looks so incredibly stunning in that white gown.

TM: Would you have liked this engagement to go on longer?
HL: Yes, this is a lily that can take a great deal of gilding. But I am doing a film right after this, which is shooting in New York, called Lola Versus with Greta Gerwig and Orlando Bloom. I play Greta's best friend, and after Orlando dumps her, I'm sort of her rebound for a little while.

TM: You also have a movie coming out this summer called The Future, which stars Miranda July, who is also the director and writer of the film. What was that experience like?
HL: Miranda's voice on the page is so clear, and she really knew how each scene should play. It's a bit intense when your co-star is also the director, and so she's right off-camera while you're saying "I love you" over and over, and she's going, "that's not quite right." When you see your scene partner crumble into this unhappy director face it's a bit unnerving. But we're really good friends now and it's an amazing movie.

TM: So, do you want to become a film director now?
HL: Yes. Well, just because I could hire Miranda as an actress, and as a bit of revenge just make her say "I love you" again and again.


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