Sen. Joseph Cantwell, played by Eric McCormack (left), is an ambitious striver who throws mud at his rival, Secretary William Russell, played by John Larroquette, who debates whether to use some dirt of his own in The Best Man.
Sen. Joseph Cantwell, played by Eric McCormack (left), is an ambitious striver who throws mud at his rival, Secretary William Russell, played by John Larroquette, who debates whether to use some dirt of his own in The Best Man. Joan Marcus
Perhaps most recognizable for his role as despicable but lovable lawyer Dan Fielding on Night Court, John Larroquette has recently taken to the stage. He earned a Tony Award for his role in the 2011 production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Now, Larroquette has returned to Broadway, starring as William Russell in a revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man. When he was offered the role, he tells NPR's Neal Conan, he worried that an earnest take on his character, once played by Henry Fonda, would be "treacherous." So he decided a tongue-in-cheek strategy would work best, to make "the audience as comfortable as possible by making them laugh as often as possible." His idea worked, and he has been nominated in the category of distinguished performance for the Drama League Awards — an awards ceremony he'll be co-hosting.
Larroquette talks with NPR's Neal Conan about his latest leading role, and his long acting career.
On getting his start as an actor
"Having no experience, I moved to L.A., collected unemployment and on the bus one day saw a sign on a building that literally said, 'Acting lessons $10 a week.'
"And I walked into that room and sat there for two months, and a fellow in that room who became a friend of mine said he had read there was auditioning for a play. I went to audition for this play, The Crucible, [and] got a role. The people in that play said, 'We're going to do a comedy. Would you like to do it?' It was called Enter Laughing. I did that, got a decent review, got an agent, met my wife and started working."
On an early gig, doing the voice-over for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
"I met the director in Colorado in 1969. And when I went to L.A., he contacted me, because we had spent some time together in Colorado, and said, 'I directed this movie, and I need a favor. I don't have any money.' And so I went into the studio and I did this narration as a favor for him, and that was it. I've never seen the movie, and I never spoke to the director again, Tobe Hooper, but I did this as a favor because he was, you know, a head from Colorado, like I was, and he was directing a movie, and I had moved to L.A., you know. So that's how it happened.
"And ... to show how some things that you do come around again and help you 30 years later, or however long it was when I did the redux ... I was hired again by the new director, and I actually got paid to do the narration this time.
"So you never know. ... A favor can come back and actually be good for you."
On playing flawed characters as he ages
"Characters with great defects ... are more interesting to play, to me anyway. There's more handles to grab for comedy. ...
"But when you look at [Night Court character] Dan Fielding — and that was, what, 25 years ago now? — or however long, maybe longer — to play those kind of characters at my age now turns you into the perverted range, which probably isn't the best for a 64-year-old man to play. It becomes sort of sickly and, I think, not funny. Certainly, characters with bends like that of mental and unsociable and misanthropic tendencies are fun to play and can still be played, but it takes a different color when you're 40 as opposed to when you're 60 playing those."