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Interview with Ben Whishaw & Sophie Okonedo
New York Theatre Guide – May 23, 2016 | Written by Thomas Hayden Millward

Ben Whishaw and Sophie Okonedo are two of Britain’s finest actors and they are currently appearing together on the Broadway stage as John and Elizabeth Proctor in Ivo van Hove’s revival of Arthur Miller’s classic 1953 drama The Crucible at the Walter Kerr Theatre until 17 July 2016.

Ben is making his Broadway debut and has previously appeared many times on the London stage, perhaps most notably for his Olivier-nominated performance as Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2004. He has also starred alongside Dame Judi Dench in ‘Peter and Alice’ and in various National Theatre productions. He appeared off-Broadway in ‘The Pride’ at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2010. His screen credits include the role of Q in the 007 films “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” as well as “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “Cloud Atlas,” “Paddington,” “Suffragette,” and “The Danish Girl,” among many others.

Sophie previously won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ Her London theatre credits include ‘Money’ and ‘Haunted Child.’ She was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “Hotel Rwanda,” and nominated for BAFTAs for “Mrs Mandela,” and “Criminal Justice.” Other notable screen credits include “After Earth,” “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” “Æon Flux,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” and “Dirty Pretty Things,” among many others.

We caught up with Ben and Sophie to see how they are getting along with those infamous witch trials…

Thomas Hayden Millward: Director Ivo van Hove has been having a tremendous season in New York. What has it been like for you to work with him on your Broadway debut, Ben?

Ben Whishaw: It’s actually been one of my happiest experiences. He is a really inspiring man and he really made me see the play in a different way. It’s a really long run. It’s 20 weeks, so you really need a strong director to set you up for that and I feel that I was in such good hands.

THM: You have some fantastic West End credits under your belt. Has this experience being on Broadway differed at all from being on stage in London?

BW: The main difference is all the press and media stuff that we do here. We don’t really have that as much in London.

THM: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

BW: (Laughs) A bit of both really. I mean, it’s quite exhausting because the play is exhausting and I’m just not really that used to it. I’m used to sleeping a lot during the day and then just getting up and going to the theatre. So, I’m just adjusting to it.

THM: And this isn’t your first time on Broadway, Sophie. You already have a Tony Award on your mantelpiece from your fantastic performance in ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ How has it been coming back to Broadway this time around?

Sophie Okonedo: Well the good thing was that I knew what was to come and I knew the amount of energy needed to get through eight shows a week. I knew all the kind of stuff that we would have to do, besides being on stage. Last time I was really like a deer in the headlights. I’m less like that this time. I’m more seasoned.

THM: So, ‘The Crucible’ has obviously been done many times before. What do you think makes this particular revival appeal to a new audience?

BW: Well, for one, the casting is unusual. The way that we have staged it is unusual. I think that all of that is a valuable way to look at the play with fresh eyes. In the theatre world, everybody knows the play or they think they know it, so it was a chance to take away some of the things that perhaps obscure what the play is really about and hopefully capture some of the energy and power that it must have had in 1953 when Arthur Miller wrote it.

THM: You mentioned unusual casting, did you two know each other before this project and how has it been working together?

SO: We did, yes. We’ve done various workshops together and seen each other around and the pairing has been absolutely magical.

BW: I feel like we’re married! I feel like I’m gonna really miss her.

THM: And what’s next for you, Ben, after your Broadway debut comes to a close?

BW: I don’t know! I’ve got nothing. I’m waiting for a job. I’m waiting for someone to employ me.

THM: Will it not be nice to have some free time after this run?

BW: No! I’m more like: “What am I going to do?!” Horrible! (Laughs)

THM: I have a feeling you won’t be twiddling thumbs for too long. It was lovely to meet you both.

BW: It was lovely to meet you too.