Alison Wright will be making her Broadway debut later this month, to an audience stacked with her nearest and dearest — her manager and agent.
“My manager takes one, my agent takes one,” she says of her two parceled tickets. “No [family], it’s very weird. Film or TV, you’ll get, like, 10 tickets and your people will get them separately. For Broadway, just two.”
The 40-year-old English actress is juggling the show schedule for “Sweat,” the highly anticipated Broadway adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning Lynn Nottage’s play (previews of which began March 4 before the opening on the 26th), and “Feud,” Ryan Murphy’s FX series about the drama between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, premiering Sunday.
WWD caught up with the actress before she headed into a 12-hour rehearsal day over at Studio 54.
WWD: What’s the reason behind all the buzz for “Sweat?”
Alison Wright: It’s an important play. It’s actually very relevant to our times and the writers — Lynn Nottage is a Pulitzer Prize winner. After all, we are now in the world, after this election, it’s unbelievably timely and really what theater’s supposed to be. It’s actually important — it’s not just a show. So it’s really nice to be a part of that because that’s not always the situation — sometimes it’s just entertainment. But this is really Lynn reflecting back society, reflecting back our times.
WWD: Who do you play?
A.W.: My character’s a bit of a hot mess; her and her two best friends are plant factory workers in Reading, Pa. They’ve worked there, never had another job, worked there since they were 18, and they’re in their 40s now. My character’s never left the state, the county; a real blue-collar, working-class, hard-loving American woman who’s tough and resilient.
WWD: You must be good at American accents then. Where are you from?
A.W.: The north of England. I first came in ’97, so apparently that’s 20 years ago. I toured with musicals and stuff, and then I fell in love and moved to Canada for a little while. But otherwise, I’ve been in New York. It’s hard to go back to England after New York. What matches it?
WWD: Do you think there’s a shift in Broadway productions wanting more politically relevant content?
A.W.: “I mean, I don’t know. That’s usually when great art comes: out of great difficulties, right? So maybe. That’s when people start commenting on what’s going on in the world, when things get bad enough that they have to.
WWD: Can the same be said of “Feud?”
A.W.: It’s a nice escape, definitely. But Ryan Murphy definitely had the intention of making something that was more than just campy, kitschy, bitchy, fun. Which, you know, is excellent and lovely, and there is all that in the show for sure, but this is a much deeper look at what it was like for those women to exist and the things that they were put through. And how, as women get past 40 or 50, all of a sudden, what was your commodity and what you’ve sold to the whole world isn’t viable anymore. And then what do you do? Because you’re still a movie star, but what do you do when nobody wants you and you don’t have any money anymore?
WWD: Is the show as glamorous as hyped?
A.W.: In the first episode alone, Joan Crawford — never mind Bette Davis and everybody else — has 26 costume changes. Nobody’s in sweats and a T-shirt. It’s outrageous. And the hair, and makeup, and costumes; we’re just, like, a gay man’s dream, you know? Heaven.
WWD: Why do you think that drama and that story is so fun for people?
A.W.: Well, I think it’s kind of shocking to watch people be terrible to each other. We all know that both of those women were incredibly strong women who could strike somebody down with a one-liner — Bette Davis especially. She’s proven that many times. And I think it’s going to be exciting to watch the juiciness of their fighting, plus the glamour, plus this world that we don’t have anymore.