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Meet the Tony Nominees: Nathan Lane of ‘Angels in America’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Nathan Lane shares what it’s like to play such a despised man

Nathan Lane stars with Andrew Garfield in the current revival of Angels in America. Tony Kushner’s epic and riveting play won The Pulitzer Prize for drama and seven Tony Awards when it first premiered in 1991. This revival was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Play, which makes the production the most Tony-nominated play in Broadway's history. Often hilarious and always thoughtful, the powerful play takes place in the mid-1980s and takes a fresh look at Reaganism, immigration, religion, climate change and AIDS.  Lane played Roy Cohn in the National Theater production of the play in London. He last appeared on Broadway in the hit revival of The Front Page

Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn in 'Angels in America' (Photo: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg)

Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn in 'Angels in America' (Photo: Brinkhoff & Mögenburg)

What went through your mind when you were asked to play Roy Cohn in Angels in America
Nathan Lane:
It was a part I hadn’t really thought about for some reason. I don’t know why. It’s a great part. And I just remember going back and reading the play and thinking “Wow, this is really extraordinary writing. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. When is this going to come along again with the caliber of artists working together on this incredible play?” It was a big decision to go to London for seven months. That is a long time. So, there was that. But I was very excited to take on the challenge.

What is it like doing this play? 
Nathan Lane:
 This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I have some of the best scene partners I have ever had. It begins and ends with Tony Kushner, who wrote one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. The show has resoundingly withstood the test of time and seems more relevant than ever. 

Of course Roy Cohn isn’t likable. But how do you make him three-dimensional? 
Nathan Lane:
I try to make him a human being. Obviously, he was able to charm people, seduce people. He had a sense of humor. Tony has certainly given him one in the play. When you’re trying to create something like this, you can’t play that he’s a monster. You have to figure out why he did what he did. And he’s a complicated human being, and that’s always interesting.

Is there something that you wish you could ask or tell Roy Cohn? 
Nathan Lane:
(Laughs.) Oh, yeah, there is a lot I’d like to ask him. That would be an interesting dinner. Yeah, I wouldn’t know where to begin. But he has a lot to answer for, let’s put it that way.

You play so many eclectic parts. Do you have a dream role? 
Nathan Lane:
Well, I have. Yes, a few. But I can’t mention them or I feel I’ll put the kibosh on it.

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