An Award Fit for a Prince: Tony Award Nominee John Douglas Thompson

By Elspeth Sweatman

Actor John Douglas Thompson in Long Wharf Theatre's 2012 production
of Satchmo at the Waldorf. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Our Prince of Denmark is nominated for a Tony Award! Before he returns to The Geary Theater to open A.C.T.’s 2017–18 season with Hamlet on September 20, John Douglas Thompson is up for a Tony for his performance as Becker in August Wilson’s Jitney on Broadway.

For Thompson, the preparation for a part is the same, whether it is written in Wilson’s lyrical dialect or Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. “I look for characters that have an Achilles heel that the character is conscious or unconscious of,” says Thompson. “Then I look for a catharsis that gives the character some evolution. Once I’ve found that, I start upon a course of rigorous research. If it’s a Shakespeare play, I read all the different editions and adaptations of that play, and I also study other productions to see what other people have done.”

Thompson’s preparation doesn’t just stop at studying the play. “During the process, I find some music that is what I would consider the character’s theme song. That’s a mysterious process, because I don’t actively seek it. It’s just something that speaks to me. I also set up situations in which I have the character that I’m working on talk to other characters that I’ve worked on: Tamburlaine, Othello, Brutus Jones from Emperor Jones. I try to imagine those conversations, even if the characters are from different centuries. It helps me find that particular character’s place in the universe of the play.”

Congrats John Douglas Thompson on your Tony Award nomination! We will be cheering for you on June 11!

Single tickets for Hamlet will go on sale in August. Click here to learn more about our 2017–18 season.

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