Denis O’Hare: “I’m an actor and New Yorker, trust me I’ve definitely dealt with my fair share of anxiety”


Elling just opened on Broadway and one of our own readers, Stephanie, left a comment saying that the show was “WONDERFUL !! Brendan, Denis, Jennifer and the rest of the cast were a PLEASURE to watch.”

The show has gotten some great reviews and in particular, Denis O’Hare has been singled out for his role as Elling. He talked with about the show, working with Brendan Fraser and True Blood.

What’s the key to balancing the comedic and dramatic aspects of a character like this?
The great thing about the play is it doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects. There are certainly moments where we see Elling’s illness and the pain it causes him, but the play is big enough to encompass both comedy and heavy moments. It’s a tribute to the play’s structure that it can do that without losing the audience.

Did you do any research on people with these attachment issues?
The play is very smart in not diagnosing these guys. I looked at a variety of things including my experience with schizophrenia and severe depression in my family. I also met with some Asperger’s and autistic kids on Staten Island. I went to a mental hospital in Norway and did some reading on those disorders to figure out the similarities between their diagnostic profiles and what Elling says and does. I found it helpful, but I also departed from it. This isn’t an “issue” play; we’re not trying to do a play about mental illness.

Brendan Fraser plays Elling’s best friend. Have you guys formed a friendship of your own?
I’ve had a great time with him. From the very beginning, we had a dinner together and got along like gangbusters. I have no hesitation to go on stage with him because I feel like he’s got my back, and I’ve got his.

Elling has many quirks like occasionally sleeping in a closet. Will we see your own eccentric characteristics onstage?
I don’t think so. Elling is focused more on the fantasy interior life where as I tend to be a pretty outward and gregarious, but I do I think we can all relate to the sense of fear and defeat he goes through in terms of anxiety. I’m an actor and New Yorker, trust me I’ve definitely dealt with my fair share of anxiety.

Your role on True Blood this season was pretty wild.
It’s one of the best sets to work on because the people are incredibly cool and the material is so rich. From the outside, the show can appear to be camp, but it’s a pretty tough acting job. You really have to bring all your skills. It was incredibly emotionally draining. Quite a few of the show’s fans are showing up at the theater, which is great.

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