It has been five years since I first interviewed Stuart Williams. We first met when he was starring in Billy Carver and the Children in Mind at Manhattan Theatre Source. With talent, good looks, and that enticing British accent, I had no choice but to approach Stuart after the show to see if he would be willing to do an interview with me. Stuart was so kind, that he agreed, on the spot, to do an interview. I have been following Stuart's career ever since that fateful day, which is why I am beyond excited that Stuart is back on stage this summer (reuniting with fellow Billy Carver alum Jenny Green) in the world premiere of The Report which is part of the 2015 NYC International Fringe Festival from August 15-28 at Lynn Redgrave Theater (45 Bleecker Street). Click here for tickets!
The Report examines the true, unknown story of the British government’s cover-up of the deadliest civilian tragedy of World War II. On March 3, 1943, 173 people died in London’s Bethnal Green tube station, which served as a bomb shelter during air raids. But not a single bomb was dropped that fateful night. The cause of this disaster was kept secret for almost 30 years, until a young BBC journalist making a documentary began to uncover what actually took place. As the truth is revealed, we discover how trauma, fear and the paranoia of war impact our very humanity, and how the specter of a single public calamity resonates throughout multiple generations. If you are inspired by this play, please consider making a donation to the funding of a beautiful monument paying tribute to the victims at the site of the disaster: http://www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org/donateonline.html
1. This August you are starring in The Report, as part of the NYC Fringe Festival from August 15-28. The Report is based upon the largest WWII civilian disaster in the UK and the subsequent cover-up by Churchill's war department. What made you want to be part of this production? Last summer I was approached by the founding members of Cutting Hedge Productions to take part in a staged reading of The Report. I was exceedingly grateful and absolutely riveted upon reading the script. I called my Nan who was living in the East End of London at the time and would have been about 12 years old. Although she lived only five miles away from Bethnal Green, where this tragic incident occurred, she had no knowledge whatsoever of it's occurrence. I knew then that this was a story that needed to be told.
2. What do you identify most with about your character? He is driven and spirited but at the same time humble. He is well aware of his strengths AND his shortcomings. And his sideburns. I really identify with his sideburns.
3. The Report is being directed by Alan Muraoka. What has been the best part about working with him so far? This is a true ensemble piece and it volleys between past and present at a tremendous pace. There's a lot to keep an eye on. With a beautiful balance of nurture and determination, Alan has managed to paint a very detailed and specific picture of those two worlds. He also happens to be a kind, genuine and generous artist.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Report? As an audience member, nothing makes me happier than leaving the theatre with unanswered questions buzzing in my head. If it's truly effective, they're still there in the morning. Moral scruples make for fantastic stories. "What would I have done?" "Where is the line between right and wrong?" Black and white are boring. Grey is where it's at.
5. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see The Report, what would that reason be? To be reminded of the human condition. There will always be tragedies, but so, too, will there always be hope. Only through accepting our grief may we move beyond it.
6. It's been three years since you were on stage. What made you take a break from acting and what was it about this show that lured you back? I wasn't taking a break from acting necessarily, but I got caught up in the business of acting. I was making a push to get more on-camera experience, so there were student films, short films, commercials, and my first television job, but the goal all along was to get back to the theatre. I was just trying a new strategy. I had a friend give me a great analogy describing the journey of acting in a play as a piece of music; with an arc, rising intensity, climax, denouement, etc., whereas acting in a film is akin to singing the same 4 bars over and over, very loudly. Go! I knew that it was going to take a stellar piece to knock me off that trajectory and remind me I'm really better suited at being an actor than a hustler.
7. How does it feel to be back on the boards? Will we have to wait another three years to see you after this run or will you keep entertaining audiences with your talent? Fantastic! Nothing creates a spark in me quite like the very cerebral process of stepping into a text and the very visceral process of stepping into a character. I can't explain the high I get when things start to fall into place one discovery at a time. I certainly hope it's not another three years, Adam, and that's very kind of you to say so.
8. What did you learn about yourself during this hiatus? In stepping away from the stage, I was reminded why I chose to do this with my life.
9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would instantly be able to speak every language I came in contact with.
10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? This one's easy. When I'm not on stage or in front of a camera, I can be found behind a bar. Unheard of, I know! My creation "The Highland Hussy" can be found on the cocktail list at Annabel in Hell's Kitchen. It consists of Bank Note Blended Scotch Whisky, Cherry Heering Liqueur, house infused Ginger-Orange simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, a few dashes of orange bitters and a splash of seltzer. Served in a Collins glass with healthy lemon twist and a sexy brandied cherry. It's somewhere between a Debonair and a Blood and Sand. And it's pretty tasty if I do say so myself.
My grandparents were children of the blitz; heroes quite by happenstance. My nan lived just five miles up the road from Bethnal Green and, like many others, had no knowledge of this incident. The fear, of course, is that we will learn nothing from history, but the greater fear is that we might be denied these lessons because history has been silenced. I am humbled to play a part in telling this story and beyond grateful to Marty, Alan and my own nanny Joy. Deeply proud I am of my East End heritage. NY credits: U.S. premier of Dr. Andrew Harrison’s The Future (Isaac) at P.S.122, rogerandtom (Rich/Will) at 59E59 Theaters with Personal Space Theatrics, U.S. premier of The Safari Party (Daniel) by Tim Firth (also P.S.T.), Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (Lord Goring), Louis Nowra’s Cosi (Henry) with Australian Made Entertainment, Gary Owen’s Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco (Matthew D. Melody), and David Eldridge’s Under the Blue Sky (Nick) with Mind the Gap Theatre Co. Television: Turn: Washington’s Spies, AMC www.stuartwilliams.info.