This morning The Hollywood Reporter released the latest installment of its award-winning Roundtables series, featuring Dramatic TV Actors Hugh Grant, Stephan James, Diego Luna, Richard Madden, Billy Porter, and Sam Rockwell.
In it, the actors open up about why they’d rather play the villain (“When you’re dark, it strikes a chord”), the upside of failure (“I was never more confident than when I had no success because I had nothing to lose”) and being put in a box: “Our job is to entertain. It’s not to practice some weird, quasi-religious experience.”
EXCERPTS: James and Porter, discussing what drew the former to do Amazon’s Homecoming:
James Oftentimes when you get the breakdowns for these characters, it’s a tough pill to swallow when you see an African American is just explained in one sort of a way … Historically, African Americans have been written very one-dimensional, perhaps they live one certain type of life, maybe they’re not educated, maybe they’re some sort of criminal. PORTER Just say it: drugs and thugs … That was one of the things that was so powerful to me watching it, having come up in another era where if you didn’t play thugs or drug dealers, you didn’t work at a certain age.
Grant, on what he would do differently earlier in his career knowing what he knows now: GRANT Just about everything. Every decision I ever made was probably wrong. When I was where you are now (to James) and you are now (to Madden) after Four Weddings, and the world was my oyster, I should’ve made interesting decisions and done different stuff. Instead, I repeated myself almost identically about 17 times in a row.
Madden, Porter, and Rockwell on the roles they’re tired of being approached for:
MADDEN I played Romeo for about 10 years in different ways. Literally, I played it when I was 21 and when I was 30. I’ve checked that box. I’m done playing good guys that bad things happen to.
PORTER I was labeled very early the flamboyant clown, and I fought that for decades. Nobody minds stopping a show, let’s get that straight — it’s fun and fabulous — but I’m finally in this moment in my life where I’m able to play that character as a fully developed human being and not just the two-dimensional version that is set up to entertain. And to have lived long enough to see that happen on my terms is fabulous.
ROCKWELL Yeah, I could take a break from racists. A long break. (Laughter.) And I played a lot of rednecks — “country” is probably a better way to put it. It’s funny, I’m a city kid, and they’re always trying to throw me on a horse or get a lasso or something. That’s not my thing.
Grant on his self-described “inferiority complex” from being known for doing only romantic comedies:
GRANT … I’ve gotten too old and ugly and fat to do them anymore, so now I’ve done other things and I’ve got marginally less self-hatred. (Laughter.)
Madden, on the difficulties of sex scenes:
MADDEN A sex scene with Mum watching is never great fun. I usually [try to prepare her], but sometimes you forget. And then it’s tea spat out or “Cover your eyes!” And you’re like, “Well I’ve seen it, I was in it.” (Laughter.)
Porter, on what his career was like as a gay black actor before he landed Pose:
PORTER Being black and gay and out came with a lot of unemployment. It’s a double layer, the layer of being a person of color in this industry then the layer of being a queen. Nobody can see you as anything else. If “flamboyant” wasn’t in the description of the character, no one would see me, ever, for anything, which wouldn’t be so enraging if it went the other direction, but it doesn’t. Because straight men playing gay, everybody wants to give them an award: “Thank you for gracing us with your straight presence.” That gets tiresome. So here I sit, I can’t get the gay parts, I can’t get the straight parts. The theater was a bit kinder, but I’d go in and put myself on tape and, “Y’all said be flamboyant,” then not a callback, not a nothin’. “He’s too flamboyant.” I was going to kill somebody. And I had other stuff going on. I was directing Topdog/ Underdog at the Huntington Theatre. So I’m writing, I’m directing, and I was finally like, “I don’t have to do this anymore.” The next day, ring! “Ryan Murphy wants to see you for a show called Pose.