Inc. writer Patrick Sauer talks with actor Tom Wopat about his role as James Lingk in Glengarry Glen Ross set to open on Broadway on May 1, 2005.
Who knew Luke Duke was a song-and-dance man? The former Dukes of Hazzard, Cybill and Home Improvement veteran has spent the last few years dazzling audiences on the Great White Way. He received a Tony nomination for Annie Get Your Gun and also trod the boards in Chicago, Guys and Dolls and 42nd Street. He took a dramatic turn in the 9/11 play The Guys and recently released Tom Wopat Sings Harold Arlen: Dissertation of the State of Bliss.
Q: Glengarry isn't exactly musical theater, is this a major departure for you?
Wopat: It's different than anything I've ever done. I'm a little intimidated but not unnecessarily so. Normally I like shouldering the load, but in Glengarry there are no small parts, only small actors. As an actor, you have to respect this play and the dynamic in its bareknuckle boys' club. It's a big step in my personal evolution.
Q: Tell me about your character James Lingk.
Wopat: I play the guy who gets duped, a foil for the sales guys who comes back into the office and ends up apologizing because his wife won't let him buy real estate. I figure I was cast for a reason. I've always played up-front, masculine, leading men and that's what Lingk wants to be, but he's built a mental prison for himself because his wife is the hammer. She pulls the trigger. He wants to be a mensch but the reality is he can't f---ing do it because he'll have to deal with the reality at home. I'm the only one who doesn't get to cuss though.
Q: You are also the stand-in for the audience, no?
Wopat: Absolutely. As riveting as the writing in Glengarry is, it's accessible to ordinary folks because it speaks to basic human traits. First time I read it, I thought Lingk might shoot himself. But you can make the case that he's the only one in the play with integrity. Dealing with day-to-day pressures in the setting of the real estate office is a microcosm of what life is about. And Lingk finds out his place in the pecking order. He's an outsider, an interruption and a weakling.
Q: Are there similarities between musicals and Glengarry?
Wopat: Mamet's monologues are constructed like songs. The rhythms are integral, you have to parse out each word, each "a", "an," "and" and "the," just like notes in song. The timing is essential.
Q: Ironic that twenty years ago, you and Alan Alda owned CBS.
Wopat: At least I'm not down there in Louisiana filming the Dukes of Hazzard movie. I'm on Broadway in Glengarry Glen Ross, and working with Alan Alda...I'm cool with that.