Tracy Letts: “I like to do things that scare me”

Actor Tracy Letts

“I’m a character actor through and through; a lot of my work on camera has been bureaucrats, guys in suits, and jerks.” – Tracy Letts

Many people think of Tracy Letts as a writer first and actor second even though he’s won prestigious awards for both — he won a Pulitzer Prize for his play August: Osage County and a Tony Award for acting in the 2012 Broadway revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Indeed, Letts has been successful in both roles, although he does feel somewhat typecast when he appears in work written by others. In an interview with Vulture, Letts speaks about his latest film, The Lovers, in which he gets to play a type of role he’s never really offered opposite Debra Winger as the husband in an estranged couple.

Though The Lovers is not Letts’ first film by any means, he admits he still feels like a rookie when it comes to acting on camera. He explains, “It’s a little new for me. I’m relatively new to on-camera work as an actor. Most of my experience is on stage. That stuff is a little new for me. But if the material and the relationship with my fellow actor is there, as it was in this case, and you have a good director talking you through what those moments are, then that’s very helpful. It helps to get me there.”

In the case of The Lovers, the opportunity to play the type of role that he isn’t usually offered was another aspect that drew him to the script. He says, “I was 50 at the time, I’m 51 now, and I don’t get asked to do a lot of that kind of stuff. As a stage actor, I’ve played leading roles, but I’m a character actor through and through; a lot of my work on camera has been bureaucrats, guys in suits, and jerks. So the idea that somebody would come to me with a story about middle-aged love, sex, and romance is not the kind of thing I’m asked to do very often. It’s kind of scary in that regard, and I like to do things that scare me.”

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