Interview – David Whalen
David Whalen is probably my favorite Pittsburgh actor. He played Mr. Darcy for god’s sake! And well!!! I believe swoon-worthy is the word. He’s certainly talented and definitely impressive. When I first contacted him for an interview, I thought for sure I’d get turned down. He’s rehearsing two plays! He has a life! He’ll be incredibly busy! And my site, in all its baby infancy, would not impress him enough. Yeah…I was going to hear the word no.
But to my surprise, he wrote back and said YES! Even though he is rehearsing two plays and has a life and is incredibly busy! Well, suffice to say, I was flattered. And I was also in a panic! Since the entire interview couldn’t be all about Pride and Prejudice, I had my research to do. There wasn’t a ton on the internet about him, and I have a feeling he likes it that way and perhaps wants to keep it that way. Because for David Whalen, it really is about the work and letting that speak for itself. It really is about the dedication and craft.
David is a real class act and I so enjoyed interviewing him. His answers were honest and surprising. And Mr. Darcy or not, he’s a real gentleman. Thank you David!!! 🙂 I’ll see you at Three Sisters!
1. Several years ago, you were named Pittsburgh’s Performer of the Year. Congratulations! That must have been a thrill. But I do always wonder what that kind of recognition does to a person’s work. Do the accolades and awards motivate you more, or can you kind of relax and think, “hey, I’m pretty good at this!” What do those things mean to you?
It’s always nice to be recognized for your work. But for me, I’m always thinking of how I can get better. Life is about growth as a person & an artist. So I just want to continue to deepen my work.
2. I’ve been a writer for several years now and have had many articles published. Sometimes reader response has been, shall we say, passionate. So a multi-pronged question: (I love those)
A. Do you read your reviews?
Sometimes I do & sometimes I don’t. I try to wait after the show is over.
B. Do you think reviews are important?
Sure, they can help a theatre sell tix, but ultimately, it’s just one person’s point of view.
C. What has been the nicest or most surprising thing a review has ever written about you?
When I did THE WINTER’S TALE inWashington,DC a few years back, a reviewer referred to my performance as a Hines Ward Touchdown–Loved that! I’m a Huge STEELER fan.
3. You’ve played some extraordinary roles in your career. (I saw you as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. You were amazing! Anyway…)You’ve run the gamut of hero and villain to heroic villain to villainous hero. Can you talk about what you do to prepare? I know some actors are pretty private about that, but as a writer who always tries to craft really unique characters, I’d love to learn about how you turn out such extraordinary ones.
Well, I always start with the text. I read & reread a script endlessly. I do a lot of research for every role to immerse myself in the world of the play. And, I make personal connections to the material in order for me to a have a stake in the playing of it. That’s only a bit of what I do.
4.Speaking of characters and great performances, you are set to star in not one, but two PICT productions of Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Ivanov. Can you tell me about the characters you are playing?
In THREE SISTERS I play Lt Colonel Vershinin, the town’s newly arrived battery commander. He’s a philosopher & a man who believes life will get better. Personally,he’s saddled in a troubled marriage & finds a new will on life with Masha (also married) and one of the “sisters” in the play. He’s a very complex man.
I also play Ivanov In IVANOV. He’s a man who once was a very successful & has fallen on hard times. He has sunken into a depression( mid life crisis if you will) & is struggling to find the meaning of life & the strength to go on.
Both of these roles are terrific & the cast in both are amazing!
5. These plays are very different. One is a dark drama, the other a comedy (or as comedic as Chekhov can get.) What attracted you to two plays that are so different?
The writing of ANTON CHEKHOV is so deep & complex. It’s so challenging for an actor to bring it to a vibrant life. Plus, the chance to work with some of my favorite people & artists again was enticing.
6. Let’s switch gears. You’ve performed all over. What is your favorite city?
I’ve performed in over 25 cities from NYC to LA. Loved working at The Roundabout in New York City.Boston is terrific as is Miami, WashingtonDC, & Philly. When I was in Venice, Italy,performing ANGELS IN AMERICA, that was unbelievable. All places have their distinctions, but there’s no place like home. And my home is Pittsburgh.
7. I believe Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s most thriving arts community. Do you feel there’s a difference when you perform here as opposed to…say…Tennessee?
Absolutely! This is a hardworking town & the artists here have that mentality. We are a town defined by it’s people. There’s so much heart here. I love it.
8. How did you get your start in the PGH arts?
Well, I what brought me first back to Pgh was a coproduction of a new play called OPUS at City Theatre & The Arden Theatre in Philadelphiain 2006. While doing that, Andrew Paul (PICT Artisitic Director) saw it and asked me to audition for a play he was doing called THE SHAUGHRAN. I got the part. And in 2008, I moved here with my family to be a part of the Great arts scene here. My Agents are in NYC, so I try to maintain a presence in the national & regional theatre scene too.
9. What’s next for you?
After the Chekhov festival, I start AUGUSTOSAGECOUNTYwith The REP here in Pgh.
10. Finally David, I can never end an interview without asking: what advice would you give to any performer starting out in Pittsburgh arts?
Follow your dreams of course, but you must work at it & respect the craft.