When Angels in America finishes its Broadway run this Sunday, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who plays Belize, acidic nurse to Nathan Lane’s toxic Roy Cohn, beloved friend to Andrew Garfield’s unraveling Prior Walter, will have performed the two-part, nearly seven-hours-total play 247 times, give or take and counting both Broadway and London. A British actor, probably best known in his home country for roles in TV series The Misfits and Utopia, Stewart-Jarrett arrived in New York in February with the critically lauded production, having originated the role for Marianne Elliott’s staging at London’s National Theatre in April 2017.
Deadline recently asked Stewart-Jarrett to reflect on his year and three months absorbed in Tony Kushner’s masterpiece. What will he miss? What will he not? And what, exactly, goes on in Heaven?
Angels in America, at the Neil Simon Theatre, ends its limited run July 15. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Deadline: I’m wondering whether your thoughts and feelings about Belize and his best speeches have changed over the course of doing Angels in America? Have you shifted on your favorites, or rediscovered other parts of the play?
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett: You’re constantly rediscovering, and sometimes it isn’t even with my lines. There’s a moment that Joe (Lee Pace) has that just kind of rang out the other evening. It’s so strange when you hear something every day, and you may not be listening but you are listening. A lot of the poignant things and the big ideas that Belize expresses, I’m now looking for the lighter things – because I’m very, very tired. I’m still anchored in, but there are a lot of the lines where I’m like, Oh that’s actually funny. Or I’m thinking, Have I done that in the right way? Oh great, it’s been a year and a half and now, now I think of this?
Deadline: After all this time with the play, do you finally understand it completely? Explain Angels in America to the world in 25 words or less.
Stewart-Jarrett: I can not. Definitely above my pay grade. I mean, I do understand it, but like any of the great pieces you can understand it differently whenever you look at it again. So there are certain points where I’m like, I totally get this, and then other points I’m like, Well that now means something else. I defy anyone to actually say, I totally, completely get every single moment of these seven and a half hours. Or I totally see it in a definitive way.
Deadline: Joe Mantello [the Boys in the Band director originated the Angels role of Louis in the 1993 Broadway staging], recently said that after he saw the new production he finally understood the Heaven scenes, which he played for two and a half years in the original Broadway production.
Stewart-Jarrett: Those scenes are very tricky. Very tricky to act in because you kind of step completely outside the world of the play. Before [the heaven scene] everything that’s happening is sort of magically realistic, apart from the dream sequence. But then you completely come out into a different world. But I’m glad that he understood it. Maybe we can have a drink after we close and he can explain it to me.
Deadline: What are you going to miss after July 15?
Stewart-Jarrett: I was talking to someone in the cast recently and we both agreed that we felt [the production] was leaving our bodies in a weird way. It was just winding down. Winding up to wind down. There’s going to be this massive void I think, and in a weird way none of us quite know what we’re going to miss. I’ll miss Belize, the character, the cadence, the warmth. I’ll miss a lot of things.
I catch myself every now and then thinking, Oh this is a funny moment, this moment backstage or this routine I have, some kind of weird moment where I kind of like cling to it. It just feels that there will be a void…This is not one of those [projects] where you’re like, Oh yeah that’s great, bye-bye, move on to something equally fulfilling. Not to shit on anything that I might have pending in the future, but Angels just is not that kind of work that you get over. It’s a big relationship. And much like a big relationship, I’ll miss things in the middle of the night when I least expect it.
Deadline: What won’t you miss?
Stewart-Jarrett: I won’t miss the hours. I’m really looking forward to having a Wednesday or Thursday evening. I’m looking forward to movies. I’m looking forward to resuming my life. As great as Angels is, it’s still really long, you know? That trek to the matinee knowing that you’ll still be going till half past 11. I will have just gotten out of costume in 12 hours’ time. That I won’t miss.
Deadline: And what will you do after July 15?
Stewart-Jarrett: What do you think I’m going to do?
Deadline: I’d sleep.
Stewart-Jarrett: I’m going to sleep. I’m going away. I’m leaving. I’m just going on vacation and it’s going to be great. One of my friends is always talking about refilling the well. You just give and give and give as any artist, or you attempt to give, and you need to have something to give. I think just sitting on a beach and reading, or not. Just kind of staring into space because you’re catatonically tired. That’s it. That’s my plan. Some place in Mexico.
Deadline: Where will we see you next?
Stewart-Jarrett: I have no idea, and that’s actually really exciting. I’ve got a few things I’ve got to read and so on. There are a couple of movies coming out [Vita and Virginia, Benjamin) that I’ve got small parts in, so you’ll probably catch me on screen where I look a little younger with a little more weight.
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