Right this minute, Trudie Styler is busy making her off-Broadway debut downtown at The Culture project, where she’s starring in The Seagull. (Quick, go see this weekend before it closes!) But the other night the star took a few minutes after the show to chat with little old me. Inviting us to sit with her up on stage, Styler was ridiculously kind — even taking a few moments mid-interview to warmly greet a costar’s parents before they left the theater — and game to talk about what brought her to the stage stateside, and what she’s up to next.
The Mick: You’ve done everything — acting, philanthropy, raised a family, published a book, run a production company — what brought you back? And what brought you to this play?
Trudie: Well, I never entirely stopped acting– I’ve done quite a bit of film work through the years — but I’ve become known more as a producer than as an actor. I certainly haven’t done a role of this size on the stage for probably about twenty-eight years, which is a long time. And that was a deliberate choice. Because the theater is extremely consuming, and Sting and I have six children between us. My seventeen-year-old is just now in his twelfth grade and going to college next year, and I think there’s something significant about that. That I’ve got more time to think — okay, my nest is empty, and what do I want?
When Max [Stafford-Clark] invited me to do this role, of course I was terribly flattered. I played a cameo role in a classic piece that he directed in England eighteen months ago called A Dish of Tea with Doctor Johnson, which is about Samuel Johnson, our lexicographer. That was a really marvelous little flashy cameo role playing Hester Thrale who was a very clever, beautiful woman of the day and Johnson was completely in love with her. It was a twenty minute appearance at the end of the play, and it was very fun and lively. And we had a massive success with that and went into the West End and after that Max said ‘Okay, now I think you’re ready for The Seagull.’ I said ‘Really? Tell me more!’ And he sent me this Irish adaptation, which I fell in love with.
It’s taken us a bit of time to get it up and to come here — I had to be here in New York because my son’s in the most important year of his schooling — but Allan Buchman said that he could produce it at this newly christened Lynn Redgrave Theater and we’ve been having a ball.
M: So you’ve acted on both sides of the pond, is it very different working in New York?
T: Audiences are audiences the world round. I think in New York the audiences are quite warm. You know, they come with an expectation to enjoy themselves. British audiences come with an expectation to say… ‘Okay, entertain me.’ [laughs] They’re a little more, maybe, rigorous. And maybe I’m speaking of the off-Broadway audiences, perhaps Broadway audiences are a little bit tougher. I don’t know, I haven’t played on Broadway. Yet.
M: What role would you like to play next?
T: Sean Mathias and I are looking at a play that we might do next year. It’s written by the late Pam Gems, who I met in the eighties and whose son Jonathan I worked with at the Royal Shakespeare Theater. Do you know Pam Gems? She wrote Piaf.
Anyway, this piece is called Savage Love and it’s about an aging Arthur and Guinevere. Guinevere is on trial for her life for her adulterous, long-term affair with Lancelot and meanwhile, Arthur is living at court with all his bastard children, and she ain’t gonna take it lying down. So it’s a bit of a face-off and a portrait of their marriage, really. And it’s a very brilliantly written piece about women’s rights and relationships.
M: Speaking of marriages. Your husband Sting was working just down the block at The Public while The Seagull was in previews. What was it like to be working on different projects so close to each other?
T: We had a ball. It was fantastic. He did ten nights benefiting the Public and they made a million dollars, so everyone was very happy. Then the Public donated a lot of costumes to us because they wanted to be nice and say thank you, so it was a win-win. And we had lots of fun going to each other’s shows. It was really great.