RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The latest Broadway incarnation of "To Kill A Mockingbird" is touring the country's theaters right now, and the cast includes a familiar face from the 1962 movie. The little girl who played Scout Finch was 10 years old when the film came out. Now she is on stage for the very first time. Here's NPR's Neda Ulaby.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Mary Badham's bobbed hair is now long and tinged with gray, but she's still sizzling with energy.
MARY BADHAM: Look at this. Isn't this stunning?
ULABY: She is in an actual theater, touring in Aaron Sorkin's stage adaptation of "To Kill A Mockingbird." Her role is small - a racist, old neighbor named Mrs. Dubose. In the original book and movie version, she sits on her porch screaming when Scout tries to be polite.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD")
BADHAM: (As Scout Finch) Hey, Miss Dubose.
RUTH WHITE: (As Mrs. Dubose) Don't you say hey to me, you ugly girl. You say, good afternoon, Miss Dubose.
BADHAM: She's wicked - oh, God, Mrs. Dubose.
ULABY: Mary Badham is 69. "To Kill A Mockingbird" has followed her throughout her life. But after the movie, her acting career fizzled. She was not prepared to be a child star when talent agents came looking for kids in her hometown - Birmingham, Ala.
BADHAM: They wanted children with real Southern accents. You can't teach that to a child in Los Angeles. They're just not going to get it.
ULABY: Badham got the role of a lifetime because she basically was Scout.
BADHAM: I was mouthy (laughter). I was an outdoors kid. I'd rather be in my jeans and T-shirt than I would be getting all doodied up.
ULABY: Badham grew up and became a nursing assistant, sold makeup and learned to restore art. She was living on a farm in rural Virginia when she learned Aaron Sorkin wanted her to play mean, old Mrs. Dubose.
BADHAM: Jeremy and Jean Louise Finch, you are the sassiest, stupidest mutts who ever passed my way.
I go for the laughs.
ULABY: Mary Badham says she does not feel possessive of the role that made her famous. Over the years, she's attended countless school and local productions of "To Kill A Mockingbird."
BADHAM: I've seen so many little Scouts (laughter). And it's wonderful to see these characters come alive in another body. It's beautiful.
ULABY: Scout Finch, says Mary Badham, has something to tell us about America today.
BADHAM: Scout tells us not to give up. We have to keep after it.
ULABY: It meaning our democracy.
BADHAM: This is not a God-given right. We have to work at it if we want this country to survive.
ULABY: Since she was little, Mary Badham says her job has been to keep the message of "To Kill A Mockingbird" vigorously alive.
Neda Ulaby, NPR News.
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