Gordon Clapp plays Dave Moss in the Broadway play Glengarry Glen Ross.
Best known as the endearingly insufferable Detective Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue, Clapp also has a lengthy film career that includes roles in a number of John Sayles' movies including Eight Men Out, Matewan and Sunshine State.
Q: Have you ever been a salesman?
Clapp: In the early 1980's, I sold subscriptions to the New York Times. I always wondered why I wasn't better at it. I'd listen to the best salespeople and wonder what the difference was. And it was a huge difference. They had a persuasive tone, a way of making the person feel like they couldn't live without the opportunity. I didn't. I felt sorry for some voices, spending a half an hour on the phone with a customer who was never going to buy a subscription, but just needed someone to talk to.
Q: Do your remember what the feeling was about Glengarry in the theater community when it hit in 1984?
Clapp: Sure. I was a big Mamet fan and someone had told me they had been to a Glengarry preview and see it as soon as you can. That very evening, I walked by the theater. It was opening night. Tickets were still available and it was the most electrifying experience I ever had in the theater.
Q: What stands out to you in the play?
Clapp: Each scene does exactly what it's supposed to do. Every scene in the first act sets up the world so it can take off in the second act. For instance, there's that great monologue where Ricky Roma sells the guy real estate. Then when he shows up in act two to say that his wife wants to call off the deal, Roma pretends that Levene is a big shot, snowing the guy with the boldest kind of in-your-face lie, a terrible way to do business. It's great stuff.
Q: What does Dave Moss bring to Glengarry?
Clapp: He's very bitter. He knows he's not going to get rich adhering to the rules. He wants to be the star and knows he's not going to be, Roma is. He's been hurt by the system and decides to take matters into his own hands. He sets up the robbery with a competitor to make some cash and go work for this other guy, not realizing that he'll never be trusted. It can't have a happy ending for him.
Q: Are there similarities between what you do and the workaday salesperson?
Clapp: An actor once told me, "you can write off all your clothes, anything you wear, whatever, because what we are is non-commissioned salesmen, selling ourselves." We're out there trying to get people's attention. Buy Me.
Q: Do you think this play is different than when it opened?
Clapp: It's in the spirit of reality television with the backstabbing, the so-called alliances, but its fictional. You can sit back and look at it and be horrified by these people, but on Survivor somehow we're suppose to respect or admire this. It's horrifying to me that's what we're embracing now, The Apprentice. It will be interesting to see the response to Glengarry, a real tragic story.