Katie Finneran Interviews D’Arcy Carden About Making Her Broadway Debut in The Thanksgiving Play

The two co-stars go heart-to-heart about Larissa FastHorse’s contemporary comedy at the Helen Hayes Theater.

D’Arcy Carden and Katie Finneran
(© Margot Trouve)

Katie Finneran: Ladies and gentleman, D’Arcy Carden is making her Broadway debut.

D’Arcy Carden: And Katie Finneran —

Katie: Is not.

D’Arcy: Made her Broadway debut in the past.

Katie: Are you having a good time? Are you comfortable?

D’Arcy: Yeah, I am.

Katie: Do you like rehearsing so much? Because in TV, when you were doing The Good Place, I know you get no rehearsal, right?

D’Arcy: You get, like, 20 minutes if you’re lucky. Ten minutes. Five minutes.

Katie: And your stuff on The Good Place was a lot of hard dialogue. But funny dialogue. Like, little monologues. Is it weird to be rehearsing the same thing every day?

D’Arcy: It’s weird only in that it’s been a minute since I’ve done this. But I have done this. I’ve done, not as many plays as you, but it’s been a long time.

Katie: Those muscles…Like, I sing on a “need to sing” basis, but when I didn’t sing for a while during quarantine, I felt like, “Oh, this is a muscle.”

D’Arcy: We did a run-through of the whole show for the first time, front to back, and I was exhausted afterwards. I know I won’t always feel like that.

Katie: It’s teaching your brain that this story is 90 minutes long, and not the 24 seconds that I talk when I’m on camera. It’s a different muscle and you have to remember what comes next.

D’Arcy: To get to act straight through for 90 minutes is thrilling, and honestly the reason I wanted to do this. I just missed that. On camera, it’s such a little taste of acting, but when you feel like you’re in the pocket, it’s a cut.

Katie: And that’s definitely a muscle. I think for the first 15 years of acting on film, I would just panic all the time and hope that people didn’t see the hives forming and the sweat and the dry mouth. It’s so difficult to do that. But then onstage, you’re like, “Oh, people can look at me at any moment. Even if there are people talking on the other side and I have nothing, I’m still part of the story.”

D’Arcy: That’s true. It’s been so thrilling working with you, because you’re so fucking good at this. I’m learning from you so much. And I feel like I’m learning from the best, which is really cool.

Katie: Well, I’m very bossy in rehearsal, and thank god [director] Rachel [Chavkin] is OK with that.

D’Arcy: You say bossy, but it’s collaborative. It really does feel like this is a group of people that trusted each other really quickly. It is like all options on the table.

Katie: What are the best options and who can we uplift to get the biggest laugh? What supports the play the most? I always feel like number one, more than anything, the play is the star. The playwright is king.

D’Arcy: And we’re so lucky because Larissa is in the room with us every day.

Katie: Let’s talk about Larissa. Larissa FastHorse. My God. She’s so great. She’s written this scene for us that I think is one of the greatest-written scenes between two women. We love that scene. It’s a great scene where the status really changes between the two women several times. That’s great old-school playwriting. Sometimes, things are so naturalistic that everybody kind of stays the same and there’s quippy dialogue. I love those plays, too, but this is true status change.

D’Arcy: And this is a cool, modern play with modern speak, but there is some rhythm in it that feels really old school and fun.

Katie: Language. I get a lot of language.

D’Arcy: Yeah, you do. This play has been produced a zillion times in the last five or six years or whatever, but it almost feels like we’re doing it for the first time. We’re certainly doing it for the first time, but it’s almost new and reimagined.

Katie: It’s not a revival of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. I think it’s so exciting to see you so wide-eyed and open for everything. And I know how nervous you were at the beginning. It’s so exciting to see you folding in with us and bringing it every day. You are so hilarious. I’ll see her and say, “Everybody stop. She’s doing something hilarious. Everybody look at her.”

D’Arcy: I will say, in two weeks, I have learned so much from Madame Katie Finneran. I come home and talk on the phone to my husband and I’ll be like, “And she did this, and she did this.”

Katie: Meanwhile, Rachel has the overall vision and sees everything, and is so patient and she knows exactly how to temper everything. One thing that she’s taught us that really changed my whole vision of the character. We all read this play and privately, separately thought, “Oh, maybe my character is the one who gets it.” We all wanted to defend our characters. “My character is the smartest” or “My character really isn’t racist.” She’s the one who said that they really believe what they believe. That gave us permission for us to just be wrong, but be completely positive about the choices.

D’Arcy: We’re not playing villains. They think they’re doing good. They think they’re right so hard.

Katie: We’ve established that nobody in the play rolls their eyes at the other. It’s incredibly earnest everything everyone does. That’s what I think really makes it work, the earnestness of it. It’s almost like Waiting for Guffman. They all believe that they are doing a great show.

D’Arcy: It has been, I will say…Coming into a Broadway show for the first time, nervous…The quickness in which the nerves went away because of this group has been pretty astounding. From moment one, that first day.

Katie: I think we felt it at the table read.

D’Arcy: It felt safe. Have you known Rachel before this?

Katie: I have. My husband worked with her on a show called Continuity.

D’Arcy: A couple of months ago, I had lunch with her, and I was nervous and I felt not ready. As soon as I sat down with her, I’m like, “Yeah, I want to work with you. I’m safe.”

Katie: She’s so smart.

D’Arcy: And like some of my favorite smart people, she’s so collaborative. She’s not “my way or the highway.” She has it all figured out and she wants people to do their thing.

Katie: We know she’s the boss, and she knows she’s the boss, but there are no status issues in the group. She is at the helm of the ship and we trust her enough to make suggestions and for her to say yes or no and keep going. It’s great leadership.

D’Arcy: And a good time.

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The Thanksgiving Play

Closed: June 11, 2023