Michelle Williams on Her Tony-Nominated ‘Blackbird’ Role: “A 6 ½-page monologue! I didn’t know how or if I could do it”
“It’s the defining quality I look for when I’m choosing work: If I don’t know how to do it, that’s the hook — that’s what gets me excited.” – Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams is nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for her challenging role in Blackbird opposite Jeff Daniels, who is also nominated for a Tony. Williams portrays a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who confronts her abuser years later. In an interview with the New York Post, Williams spoke about how she keeps up with the Broadway schedule and how she and Daniels have pushed each other through numerous health issues during the production.
Williams was unfamiliar with the 2005 play when she was approached about starring in the role. She says, “Scott [Rudin, the producer] sent it to me, and when I finished reading it, I thought, ‘Oh no, I have to do this.’ A 6 ½-page monologue! I didn’t know how or if I could do it. It’s the defining quality I look for when I’m choosing work: If I don’t know how to do it, that’s the hook — that’s what gets me excited.”
Performing the play has been emotionally draining — and Williams says it takes some help to get her through the performance weekly. She explains, “I love this play, so a sense of purpose helps. It’s so taxing and hard to do, but I’ve tried to replace that with a sense of joy, that I’m doing the thing I spent the last 20 years learning. I’m listening to a lot of Sia, because it makes me want to kick down a door and rob a bank and run wildly naked down a street. It makes me feel emboldened.”
Blackbird has also been physically taxing for both Williams and Daniels, and Williams reveals that getting through the schedule has taken a tool on both of their health — but they have formed a bond. She reveals, “Jeff and I will joke, sort of elbow each other, talk about something silly, check in with each other. We’d never worked together before, didn’t know each other. The thing itself is so bonding. We’ve gone on in all states — we are wedded to each other in sickness and in health. He had a staph infection and did five shows with an arm that couldn’t move. I had the flu, bronchitis, vertigo and slipped a disc in my back 20 minutes before the end of the play. We will not miss a show, because we depend so heavily on each other. At this point, I’d literally have to not have a pulse not to be onstage!”