NICHOLAS HAYLETT - The Villain of the Play
Nicholas Haylett plays the “bad guy” in GRANT & TWAIN. His character, Adam Badeau, was Grant’s military secretary during the Civil War. Now, he plays a jealous researcher and fact checker as the dying former President rushes to complete his memoirs.
“Sir, I am not a secretary! ….I am an esteemed writer. You are a soldier. You have never written a book. And yet you want me to serve you as a clerk!?” – Adam Badeau
Where are you from and where do you live now? I grew up in the U.K. Now I split my time between New York City and Kinderhook.
Did you start out wanting to be in the theatre? I studied law at Kings College and qualified to be a barrister; that’s the one with the wig. But I had my mid-life crisis slightly early and moved to New York City to go to acting school. I had hoped I wouldn’t ever have to go back to law, but I found I was going through my money too quickly, so I took the bar exam here. I ended up acting part time while continuing law work.
Roughly how many plays will you perform in this year and in how many different locations? Believe it or not, this will be the only one. I’ve mainly been doing voice-overs, commercials and on-line presentations for firms such as Ford and IBM. I have to say, I have some trepidation about learning all these lines.
Cite a couple rolls you’ve truly enjoyed and tell me what made them so appealing. I was an understudy in a play about Brian Epstein and had to fill in for the actor playing his (Epstein’s) brother. The significance is that I got beaten up by Justin Theroux. It required some concentration, but I was glad to meet Theroux. He is a wonderful actor. The second play was Lord Alfred’s Lover at a small theatre on 2nd Avenue. I was a barrister – not a reach for me, and a cockney criminal. It starred Quentin Crisp and could have run forever, but the producers couldn’t get their act together. Then there was the time I appeared in a performance art piece at PS1. I was painted bright orange….
Have you done, or will you do any research for your character? I’ve been reading the [Ron] Chernow book (Grant) – the bits that pertain to Badeau. And Wikipedia. Badeau was a consul in Great Britain, so I think I can get by with a slight British accent.
What films or books have influenced your impression of the Civil War? I did do American History at school but I haven’t read too many books about that war. I liked the film Lincoln. And Friendly Persuasion was a good film where people are being forced to fight. Overall, I’ve learned bits and pieces. I know about the migration of African-Americans moving up to Detroit. It seems like the Civil War has had a lasting effect here. The country is still divided.
It’s early in the process, but can you give us a little insight into your character? In the play, Adam Badeau is referred to as ‘contentious’. He’s not very likeable – partly because he thinks he’s better than everyone else – an Eastern snob. Badeau was a respected author who wrote biographies and thrillers. He’s enormously jealous of Grant – who has much less writing experience. To Badeau, Grant’s glory came too easily.
Have you worked with playwright Elizabeth Diggs or director Regge Life before? No. I’ve known Liz socially. A couple years ago, I saw her at Film Columbia and asked her how the play was coming along. The next day she called me and asked if I would like to participate in a reading at Spencertown Academy. Then, last Christmas, I re-read with actors at Shakespeare and Company. The next day, she offered me the role for this production. I was quite surprised. This will be the first time I’ve worked with the director.
What might the audience take away from this production? Who knew that two huge icons of the time were together? Who knew Twain had so much influence and involvement in Grant’s efforts to write his memoirs? It’s an idea that will be completely new to the audience.
GRANT & TWAIN will be performed at PS21, Chatham, NY. Performances: Sept. 27, 28, 29 at 8pm. Matinees: Sept. 29, 30 at 2pm. For tickets go to http://ps21chatham.org/event/grant-twain/.