Interview: Abigail Hawk Makes Her Off-Broadway Debut in Jasper
On the cusp of her 13th season on CBS police drama Blue Bloods, Hawk cuts her teeth on Grant MacDermott's new play.
Abigail Hawk is serenely mysterious when asked to describe Jasper, Grant MacDermott's new play in which she makes her off-Broadway debut. "It's deliberately secretive," she says of the intricate piece, which she has been involved with since a 2019 reading.
What we do know is that Jasper follows a couple who must come to terms with their son's illness while working on their marriage; however, when a chance encounter leads to a seemingly innocent lie, their lives begin to fall apart. Also starring Dominic Fumusa (Nurse Jackie) and Jessica Pimentel (Orange is the New Black), Jasper marks an exciting return to the stage for Hawk, who last starred in Dorothy Lyman's In the Bleak Midwinter.
The introspective actress has played Abigail Baker, Tom Selleck's right-hand woman on Blue Bloods, for twelve seasons. She has also taken the film circuit by storm with Are We There Yet? and Almost Paris, among others. Hawk spoke with TheaterMania about the intricacies of working on Jasper's enigmatic content, the upcoming thirteenth season of Blue Bloods, and finding time to work on her first novel.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity..
What can you say about Jasper?
You find out very quickly that if we give away any of the plot it would ruin quite a bit of what audiences are meant to discover. It's a special play that's remarkably human, so it's messy. You don't know who you should be rooting for because you can always see both sides. It's heartbreaking, but there are a few moments of slapstick physical comedy. The only way to accurately describe it is as a Greek tragedy. There are big emotions at play, but in the simplest circumstances. It deals with tough subject matter: death, illness, disability, kids who are sick. It's really about the power of emotions, what we're capable of, and how the decisions we make can truly impact our future. You lay the pipe and sometimes you don't realize that the things you're doing are paving your path in the process.
You have been working with Grant McDermott on Jasper since 2019. What is it like to collaborate with him in seeing the story come to life?
He is the resident playwright at Yonder Window Theatre Company, and he is an actor also; that is reflected in his work. He really understands how people speak. All of his characters have a very specific cadence, which makes him really fascinating as a playwright. It is hyper-specific. He definitely has his finger on the pulse of where theater is going. He's a boundary pusher. [Director] Katie McHugh is a visionary, so they are a dynamic team together. He puts these crazy ideas on paper and she's like, "Okay, I can do that." The script is so intimate that it reads like a film. It's presented in a way that's larger than life. Most people will be truly moved and come away very changed.
This is your off-Broadway debut. What made this the right time?
I have two young boys, 10 and five, who are encompassing little humans. Blue Bloods has been great because it films in New York and luckily I am on Tom Selleck's early schedule because my scenes are with him. I'm able to be home and be a mom. It was also the reason I was able to say yes to Jasper. I want to stretch creatively. My background is in theater, but I don't get to flex these muscles often. To be an actor is a miracle in itself, but how do you say no when this is dangled in front of you? I'm a mouse who loves cheese. Theater will always be my first love. I have missed it.
How do Dominic, Jessica, and your experiences with screen work inform your work on Jasper?
One thing you hone when you're consistently working in film and television is how the camera misses nothing. You can shift in thought and do absolutely nothing with your face and the camera will catch it. With Jasper, there are subtleties and intricacies that we have been able to find together. Eye contact is a beautiful, wonderful tool that all of us are very strong at using and knowing when to use it.
Abigail Baker is a beloved character on Blue Bloods because she speaks her mind and she is valued for her many roles at the Commissioner's office. How has she changed through the years?
We have really become the women we are together. I started in my late 20s on the show, so my entire 30s was on it. I had just gotten married when I booked the role, and now I have been married almost 14 years. I became a mom, and so did she because I was pregnant on the show. We have gone through life together. She has been assaulted, her husband has been assaulted. As a mother, a cop, and a wife, those are things you carry with you. She's had plenty of near-death experiences. There's a heaviness that she wears but it hasn't made her bitter. Her job matters to her and she knows that it's a calling. She knows that she has worth and she isn't afraid to be confident. She has a very dry sense of humor that I've loved watching develop. As Tom [Selleck] says, she is the "mistress of subtext."
What can we look forward to on the new season of Blue Bloods?
Last season we saw Erin decide to throw her hat in the ring for D.A. I think it will present problems for the D.A.'s office and Frank because the police and D.A. constantly butt heads. The show seems to have its finger on the pulse of what's going on in New York City. There is a significant early retirement that is happening with police, so there is a mass exodus. The changing times will also be addressed, as well as the shifting public attitude toward law enforcement. Blue Bloods never shies away from difficult conversations. Thirteen is my lucky number, so it's going to be an exciting season.
And somehow, with everything else you have going on, you're writing a novel!
No, I'm slogging through the mud while attempting to write a novel. I tend to jump in heart first, so I decided it was a great idea to write a period piece set in Victorian London! It is a passion project, so it may very well take me ten years to get it out. It's based on the life of Mary Percy, and it's almost a diary into her mind. It's an important story. I am taking plenty of liberties. The lead character has epilepsy and it's about her demons. The historical pieces have to be accurate and I am unflinchingly dedicated to getting that right. The good things in life are always hard and that makes them worth doing.