Though James Franco is obviously the main draw for Of Mice and Men on Broadway, his co-star, Chris O’Dowd, is also making his Broadway debut. As an actor, O’Dowd has appeared in films as varied as Bridesmaids and Thor: The Dark World. Though he is an inexperienced stage actor, he explains to The Telegraph that he approaches his role as Lennie in a way that overlooks Lennie’s obvious disabilities. However, he also touched upon his frustrations with his increasing fame.
O’Dowd points out that he doesn’t try to focus on portraying Lennie’s mental disability, especially since the original novella by John Steinbeck that the play is based on never attempted to clarify what exactly that disability was. He says, “I try not to worry about stuff like the idea that it’s hard to play a person with a disability. I’m just trying to be as honest as possible. I do have the exact thing in mind of what is wrong with the guy: I think he’s got a mild case of Down’s syndrome. I’ve looked into it and it’s hard to find any real consensus on it – Steinbeck never clarified it. But a lot of the things that he talks about in the novella are so specific that it feels likes it’s somebody he met.” (Indeed, Steinbeck admitted that Lennie was based on a real person).
Unlike many of his fellow actors, O’Dowd never aspired to become an actor until he was in college. He recalls, “All I’d done was a bit of a part in Grease at school. So I really had no idea. I did politics ’cause I thought it would be cool to be a political speech writer. I like orators. I liked listening to Churchill, or Kennedy. And there’s loads of Irish ones – Larkin and all those guys, or the rebel guys. The idea of a being a rabble-rouser is something I’ve always been attracted to. And then in my first week in college I went to support a friend at an audition for a play and that was it – I just fell in love with it.”
That level-headed attitude is similar to how he sees his fame today. For one thing, O’Dowd is flabbergasted by the large crowds that congregate outside the theater. He says, “You know what? I get freaked out when you go out there and there’s all the screaming. I do just want to shake everybody and say, ‘Just fucking calm down! We’re actors – go and get excited about people who do something proper. Everybody just fucking relax!’”
He also has issues with the way people conduct themselves with famous people on social media. He adds, “And on Twitter and stuff like that – one thing that does really make me think, ‘Oh, fuck off, then’: there’s a certain thing that once you’re on TV or famous in any way, you’re no longer allowed to complain about anything, ever. Like if you say: ‘Somebody just rear-ended my car – what a dick.’ On Twitter everyone will go, ‘Oh, shut up, you can afford another car!’ That’s what the response would be.”
In fact, O’Dowd insists that fame hasn’t changed him at all — instead it has changed the way people treat and perceive him. He explains, “Everybody asks: ‘Do you think fame has changed you?’ Well, for me it hasn’t – but you know what? Everybody around me has. The way they look at me. I can be as normal and exactly the same [as I was], but everybody has altered their opinion of me based on what I do now. And that’s unusual. You’re no longer allowed to be part of the human race because you’re on TV.”