"Call Me Adam" chats with Boardwalk Empire's Pearce Bunting about starring in Theatre Exile's production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf through May 17 at Plays and Players Theater in Philadelphia, PA (1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, PA 19147). Click here for tickets!
1. From April 16-May 17, you will be starring in Theatre Exile's production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. What made you want be part of this production? It all makes total sense to me. Besides being one of the greatest American plays ever written, the role of "George" is one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever read. I say "read" because I’ve never seen a production on stage. I’ve seen the movie, which is brilliant, but the play is a much, much bigger. Joe Canuso, our director, started talking about it a few years ago and I sensed it was coming - an inevitability as "George" would say - and I don’t think I was ready for it until now. Needless to say, Joe and I have been working on passion projects for years together, and this one is the mother lode of all passion projects. Virginia Woolf is taking all of us into areas of character and thought that none of us have explored before - at times it seemed impossible to me - and that’s exactly the kind of work I want to be doing.
2. What do you identify most with about "George" and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Among other things, the regret of not following some of my dreams all the way through; of getting stuck and making excuses and trying to bury the self-loathing of it under layers of craftiness and boozed up, drugged up, justification. Then looking back, resigned and defeated, at these things that I still carry with me. I’ve been sober for 23 years but I still regret some things.
Also, the very thin line between reality and illusion. The games we play with ourselves and our partners; distracting entertainments that slowly, over time, build walls around us. And wondering if there’s a way to blow the whole thing to bits and start again.
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing this production? I hope they feel as if they’re really going through this night with "George" and "Martha" and "Nick" and "Honey" - that they’re there in the living room with us…and then, looking back, after they’ve been through a few months of therapy, that they find there is hope at the end of the play.
4. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is one of the most well-known plays of all time. What will you be bringing to this production that hasn't been brought before? Having not seen it performed before, I hope we bring fearlessness.
5. You are playing, "George," opposite Catharine Slusar's "Martha." You both have previously starred in Theatre Exile's Barrymore Nominated production of Annapurna. What excites you about reuniting with Catharine? What do you like best about working with her? Catharine and I have very different ways of working. I tend to pull out all my bombs from the very beginning and destroy everything in sight, whereas she slowly inhabits a role, little by little. We do meet in the middle eventually. We have. We get to the point where we start to explore inner space together. What I love most about her is her truth, her stubbornness, her fear and her overcoming of her fear, and in this process, her belching.
6. What made you want come back to star in another production at Theatre Exile? What do you enjoy most about working with this theatre company? We have an agreement - Theatre Exile keeps asking me and I’ll keep coming back. It’s as simple as that. They don’t do easy plays. They’re not afraid. And everyone who works there has a huge heart and a wicked sense of humor. We do it for the profound joy of it - I mean, nobody’s getting rich at Theatre Exile.
7. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? In the beginning, I just wanted attention. Then I did it because it felt like where I belonged. Then I seriously started to do it because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Then I saw Angela Lansbury and George Hearn do Sweeney Todd and I knew that I HAD to do it. At last my arm was complete!
8. What's the best advice you've ever received? The threat of an explosion is more interesting than the explosion. (I’m still working on that one)
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That I’m capable of great things if I can get out of my own way. That I’m smarter than I think I am. That I’m dumber than I think I am. That I have a lot left to learn.
10. You had a recurring role on HBO's Boardwalk Empire as "Bill McCoy." What was the best part about being part of this hit show? The lunch menu - are you kidding me?
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to see myself the way people who love me see me.
12. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? "Monkey Nipples" - scotch, bitters, a small lemon rind and a drop of honey.
13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Giulietta Masina, teaching me Italian, making me dinner, flirting with me.
From television to film to theatre, Pearce Bunting has acted in every medium. His television credits include recurring roles on HBO's Boardwalk Empire, CBS' As The World Turns with guest starring roles on Law & Order: SVU, Homicide: Life on the Streets, and Young Americans. Pearce has lit up the big screen in The Descendent, Something's Happening to Robin Stark, and Smoke and Mirrors.
On Broadway graced the Great White Way in Mamma Mia as "Bill Austin." He also played this role on the National Tour. His regional credits include A Behanding in SPokane, As You Like It, Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Grapes of Wrath, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Tempest. Pearce has performed in The International Theatre Festival at San Antonio and Plzen, Czech Republic as well as Vienna's English Theatre, and Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
He's a graduate of Yale School of Drama and the recipient of The Oliver B. Thorndike Award in Acting.