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Meet the Tony Winners: Q&A: Bryan Cranston of ‘Network’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

“The most fun & connective experience an actor can have is on stage.”

Bryan Cranston recently wrapped a Tony-winning Broadway run as anchor-man Howard Beale in Network. The electrifying play is based on the Academy Award-Winning 1976 film by Paddy Chayefsky. Network was adapted by Lee Hall, and directed by Ivo Van Hove. Beale is a live wire on screen. And when the ratings hit the roof, the network turns Beale into a prophet – but only for as long as he is useful to the network. In addition to winning a Tony Award for playing Beale, Cranston won the 2018 Olivier Award for his riveting performance. Cranston won his first Tony award when he made his Broadway debut as President Lyndon B. Johnson in All the Way. His work in television includes Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm, All the Way, Malcolm in the Middle and Seinfeld. On film, he has starred in Trumbo, ArgoIsle of DogsLast Flag Flying, Little Miss Sunshine, Saving Private Ryan and The Upside.

Bryan Cranston won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for ‘Network’ (Photo: Sean Zanni/Getty Images)

Bryan Cranston won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for ‘Network’ (Photo: Sean Zanni/Getty Images)

Will you continue to do theater?
Bryan Cranston:
I love it. I love it. Really, the most fun and connective experience that an actor can have is on stage. It drains the hell out of me. It really does. I seem to be attracted to really damaged characters. I keep thinking of doing a comedy where I'm sipping tea or something. I think, “Well, wouldn’t that be nice. Wouldn’t that be lovely to just sit around?” Unless something really catches me and I sense a journey for someone – even if it's unobtainable – I am attracted to that damage. Every four years I have to recuperate, and then come back.

You mentioned the National Theatre in your speech. Would you like to do more theater in London?
BC: I’d love to come back to the National or to the West End. It all depends on the story. It's not even the character. The story of Network and the support text that was originally Paddy's, and then Lee Hall’s – if that wasn't really great, it doesn't matter what the character is. It really has to move me that way. And then, if the character jumps off the page. And I’m in.

Are you looking to have more diversity and risk in your projects?
BC: I embrace and rejoice in what is happening. This is a siren call to the rest of the country. It's like, “Oh my God, what is going on now?” We in the greater community, we just throw our arms around all of this. But it does take more producers and investors to be able to say, “I'm going to put my money behind this person and this risky show.” And many times you'll see Broadway productions be risk averse. So it's a very difficult thing. I think mostly...with plays that originate in noncommercial space, that is where you are going to see more of the really creative vault.

In your Tony speech you said, “The media is not the enemy of the people – demagoguery is the enemy of the people.” Can you talk more about that?
BC: It's absurd to think that the media is the enemy of the people. And if that message keeps getting promulgated over and over and over again, it starts to seep in. And the perception of the truth is often more important than the truth. Because if people believe it, it doesn't matter, really, if it's true or not. They believe it. So, the opposite message has to continue to be put out there. And whether it's diversity, whether it's the fight against media, whether it's women's reproductive rights, whether it's voting rights, it's important to keep sounding the alarm. A lot of people will say, “I don't read anything on social media coming in, because I don't need to.” And I don't mean that in a crass way. I mean, I don't need to be the recipient of a bombardment of negativity and vilification. Because I speak out about a lot, a lot of things. I want to speak my truth. If you don't agree with it, that's okay. But, I don’t think we want to make enemies of people who have a different opinion.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in July 2019.

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