Robert Sean Leonard, Currently Starring in The Old Globe’s ‘Pygmalion’, on the Power of Theater
Robert Sean Leonard doesn’t have any illusions that being an actor is akin to finding a cure for cancer or being a brain surgeon. The actor is quick to admit that he’s grown up from once thinking that acting was a noble profession.
“When I was 23, I felt what I did had great importance, and that was part of the joy of it, walking on stages performing Shaw or O’Neill or whatever,” he said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. “I’ve changed. Maybe it’s being 43. Maybe it’s having family and kids. I love what I do, but I wouldn’t even put it on par with school teaching or even fixing power lines at this point. Maybe I’d put it on par with the guy fixing sandwiches in the deli.
“I feel what I do can give people pleasure, at best, or maybe help them have an insight into their own lives. After seeing a very good production of Our Town [in which Leonard played opposite Alan Alda in London when he was 22], maybe people will look in on their kids sleeping and just look at them for five minutes.”
After playing Dr. Gregory’s House’s sidekick, Dr. James Wilson, on FOX’s House for eight seasons, Leonard was ready to get back to his love of theater. He’s currently starring in Pygmalion at the Old Globe in San Diego. “When I’m on stage, I want to excel. I do feel driven that way, and I’m actually quite ambitious in that regard,” Leonard, who is also well-known for his role in The Dead Poets Society, said. “To have that strong sense that what you do is not vitally important to the universe, but also to be passionate about it and believe that wanting to play Henry Higgins as best you can does have importance—they both exist for me at some level.”
Leonard will also appear in the TNT series, Falling Skies, later this year, but has absolutely no desire to become a celebrity. “I don’t have it in me,” he said. “There are some people who want to be adored by millions of anonymous people, and I think that’s an unfortunate desire, because from all I’ve ever read and seen in my life, I don’t think it actually ever fills the hole you think it will.”