American actor Jeff Fahey is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood and his career spans over 30 years. Until mid-June he plays the lead in the critically acclaimed drama ‘Twelve Angry Men’ in London’s West End, about a jury of twelve men, who have to decide the fate of a young boy accused of murdering his father. After the play I got the chance to talk to him about his career, the play itself and how his passion for acting started all those years ago.
“I just walked into a theatre and one thing led to another, really,” Jeff explains. “It’s the storytelling that appeals to me and I’ve been very fortunate and grateful that I’ve always been able to work in different arenas like stage, movies and television. I don’t prefer one over the other, I enjoy all of them. They’re all very different, but there’s wonderful things that can happen in each arena. From editing to music and sound…and the beauty of being able to be inside a story for a complete non-stop two hours and just play it all the way through. There’s great pleasure that I get from all of them. To me performing is all about the adventure and the journey of human emotions through storytelling.”
Twelve Angry Men
A journey of human emotions is certainly a good way to describe the events that happen in the play Twelve Angry Men. “It is a wonderful piece, and I’m blessed to have these fantastic actors around me every night,” he says. “Also the people here have been really perceptive with the play and meeting the actors afterwards. On top of that, the atmosphere in the audience is different every night, so it’s not like every night is the same. We also have six new cast members since March and like musicians and music; you might have the same song and the same piece of music, but if you have different members of the symphony, each performance is different and that’s always very exciting.”
Preparing for emotional scenes
The actors who play the members of the jury get along really well off-stage, but as the name of the play suggests, there are quite a few emotional outbursts and hostile situations on stage. During the show Jeff’s character is going through a serious breakdown. “I don’t usually talk about the process,” Jeff admits. “But to get to that place I don’t use negative thoughts and memories like some actors do. I like to use positive thoughts instead. Besides, I’ve done over 230 performances of this show, if I had used negative thoughts I might’ve been a basket case by now!” he laughs.
Luckily the 61-year-old actor is very down to earth and keeps his wits about him, giving it all he’s got on stage and turning the drama off immediately afterwards. With all this intensity in the play, you’d think there would be quite a bit of improvised rants and performances. But in this West End drama there isn’t much room for improvisation. “Because everyone is so dependent on everyone else’s cues and there’s a whole symphonic rhythm and movement into this, improvisation would throw things off,” he clarifies. However, sometimes a bit of improvisation is necessary in the odd case someone forgets a line. “But that’s no big deal. Another actor – whose character can relate to that line – will say it instead,” he assures me.
A/N: Having seen the show twice, I thought the performances were absolutely phenomenal! If you want to see this amazing play, also starring Hollywood legend Robert Vaughn, Tom Conti and David Calvitto, I suggest you rush to the Garrick Theatre before the final curtain call on the 14th of June 2014!