The talented Actor Rebecca Night chats to us from NYC about her role in the Theatre Production-Night, Mother, a two-hander by Marsha Norman, we speak about her family, dressing up, dancing and above all else-kindness…
Hi Rebecca, where are you right now?
I’ve actually just landed in NYC. The day after our show closed, I flew out to join my husband, solo, with our three kids in tow. That was intense! We hadn’t seen him in 7 weeks – both of us are working – which is the longest we’ve ever been apart so it was a pretty joyful reunion.
You just finished your Theatre show ‘Night, Mother’ opposite Stockard Channingat the Hampstead Theatre, can you tell us more about that?
Its a beautiful but heartbreaking two-hander by Marsha Norman which won the Pulitzer Prize in the 80s. I play Jessie, the depressed and struggling daughter of Thelma – who was played so incredibly by Stockard. The play is set in real time, 80 minutes on stage, with a clock counting down the action and it begins with my character Jessie telling her mother she doesn’t want to live anymore. It explores the mother-daughter relationship, a troubled, ordinary life, loneliness, love and isolation with a raw honesty and, often, humour whilst looking head on at Jessie’s struggles with her mental health.
“I try to always be kind, to keep learning and to try to live with empathy”
What first interested you about taking on the role?
There are so many layers and depths to Jessie and, it was written at a time when people were not so open about mental health but, especially after the pandemic we are understanding more and more the importance of it and of communication. And kindness. There is a calling for the opposite of vanity, to delve, openly and delicately into Jessie’s world. To try to tell her story as honestly as possible. Its a quite brilliant piece of writing and the relationship between Jessie and Thelma is key and to play opposite Stockard – the two of us up there just really talking to each other – was an incredible experience. And to be back in a theatre right now – it was compelling.
You have been in a lot of Theatre Productions, do you have a favourite?
This one has taught me so much. We kept learning every night and Roxana, our director said she’s never seen a show grow so much week by week. We both wanted to keep learning and exploring and honing our relationship. To tell the story, souls bared, as best we could. It took us on a huge rollercoaster of emotions each night and we’d hear the audience reaction. Its been quite something to hold this story in our hands. On the flip-side, I did have a very fun night playing Cecily Cardew to Angela Lansbury’s Lady Bracknell, on Broadway (a Gala Night for Roundabout Theater) and that was electric because we were all rather flying by the seat of our pants, having an immense amount of fun. I’d played that part ten years previous, when I met my husband, so pulling it out of my pocket and trying Cecily on again but with ten years more experience was wild. The cast was insanely talented, too, but really, hand’s down it was working with Stockard on ‘Night, Mother’.
Do you get the same buzz on screen as on stage?
Its different – the theatre has an electric, palpable energy to it – the direct communication with an audience. But screen has its own power and intensity – I love both and find them very different. You have more control over the final outcome of a theatre piece, in a way, but in both artworks you are just trying to tell the truth and get to the heart of the story and open a communication with the audience. Usually, the set on film is so realistic its even easier to disappear in to the character but, actually, on ‘Night, Mother’ Ti Green had created an very naturalistic, fully-functioning kitchen which meant every night Stockard & I were instantly transported, back in time, in to the worlds of Jessie & Thelma.
What’s your favourite screen role to date and why?
At the time, I loved Fanny Hill – I’m such a fan of Andrew Davies – and that was a character so different to myself who goes on quite a journey from where she is at the start to where she winds up. She changes accent and hops across boundaries society had her hemmed in by – quite like Eliza in Pygmalion – though, it’s a questionable course and would throw up all sorts of different feelings, now. Any character that transforms – as an actor and story-teller – it feels exciting to explore and flex those muscle of discovery. ‘Wuthering Heights’ was a magical experience, partly because it felt connected to my roots and, for different reasons, I loved playing Sarah Jones in Mike Figgis’ Suspension of Disbelief. He’s an incredible film-maker and I love the creative process of working with him.
“The theatre has an electric, palpable energy to it – the direct communication with an audience”
What sort of characters would you like to play in the future?
I always feel lucky that I get to play characters so different from myself – I get to create and explore very different people and worlds and I learn a huge amount from them each time. Often, the best parts are ones you hadn’t even imagined and, largely, its about the quality of the writing and the team you are creating with.
Can you name 3 actors and 3 Directors you would love to work with?
I’ve always wanted to work with – massive cliche – Meryl Streep. She straddles and encompasses so many different characters and worlds. I adore Jeff Daniels and he covers so many bases and always brilliantly. His Atticus Finch was beautifully drawn. I, also, think Mahershala Ali’s work is exquisite. Directors: Wes Anderson – he seems like such a fun actor’s director and I love to work with Marielle Heller and Sarah Gavron – I love ‘Suffragette’.
Who are your biggest inspirations in your life?
I love my husband and my children and they inspire me each day. My husband has the best advice – in life and for work and I trust his opinion – when someones done a show 590 times (he did My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center and was phenomenal in it) they’re learnt a thing or two – and my kids are kind, sage and fun and brilliant at keeping you in the moment. I’m a huge fan of David Attenborough, Michelle Obama… anyone pushing boundaries, whilst remaining kind, wise… that’s a big inspiration for me. I also admire Reese Witherspoon and what she’s done for women in our industry. That she also had three kids – that was a big deal for me. That I could do that and keep doing what I love, work-wise, too.
At Cool America we believe in positive changes no matter how small or big -what do you do every day to make the world a better place?
I try to always be kind, to keep learning and to try to live with empathy. To remember, you never know what someone else is going through. I like to keep engaged with charities and with key issues that will, hopefully, make the world a better place for our children: nature, equality, social care… To tell the people I love, I love them, everyday. Its a work in progress.
“as soon as you stop worrying about what you think you ‘should’ be doing and just ‘do you’ and let go, that’s where you can just ‘be’ and trust”
Which role have you found the most challenging?
Certainly, Jessie. Because, its such a delicate and difficult subject matter, it felt like a huge responsibility. But the writing is so good, if stay open to it, and engage with it, it does take you there. It was a process.
And the easiest and most natural role you’ve slipped into?
Weirdly, even though she is very different to me, again Jessie. The writing is just so honest there is something in there so recognisable to everybody. I think we can all identify with moments in our lives from something Jessie, and her mother Thelma, says.
Aside from acting, what makes Rebecca tick?
Dancing, singing, just getting moving and shaking it loose. And being in nature, especially by the sea. I love a walk and some thinking time, a moment of imagination. Especially, being in nature with my kids and seeing the world through their eyes.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
There’s a lot of singing and piano time in our house and I spent lockdown researching and writing a film which, because it was on my own terms, I loved. I do love a barre class if I’m in the city and have the time, for a treat to myself.
What’s your favourite film?
So many. I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Shakespeare in Love. It depends on my mood. There are movies that floor you, open you up, touch on what it is to be human, and movies you can watch again and again. In that sense, I love ‘Elf’ and ‘Stepbrothers’. So silly but just a lot of fun.
What’s your favourite thing to wear?
I’m a little obsessed with Doen – something floaty and earthy and made with good intent – or something really structured and chic to take you someplace else. I love dressing up and the creativity of fashion – it feels a little little playing a character, sometimes.
What do you find cool about America?
I’m a real fan of NYC and America. I’ve found people to be super supportive and welcoming and I love the ‘can do’ attitude. The feeling that anything is possible.
And finally tell us what’s cool about you?
I think, when I discovered National Youth Theatre, I discovered these wonderful friends, a feeling of being known and, again, a feeling of possibility. That, as soon as you stop worrying about what you think you ‘should’ be doing and just ‘do you’ and let go, that’s where you can just ‘be’ and trust. And hold on to that feeling as you grow and learn. Owning yourself, even more since I’ve become a mother, and entering my 30s, too, that’s a good place to be. Cool is what ‘cool’ means to you.