Interview With Daniel Davis.

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Photo by Joan Marcus

daniel Davis

DANIEL DAVIS (Selsdon Mowbray). This Arkansas native’s 40-year career includes work in regional theatre in the U.S. and Canada, primarily The American Shakespeare Festival, The Stratford National Theatre of Canada, The Guthrie, Seattle Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Old Globe Theatre, ten seasons with the Williamstown Theatre Festival and six seasons with the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. Favorite roles include Garland Wright’s production of The Misanthrope (Alceste), the American premiere of David Hare and Howard Brenton’s Pravda (Lambert LeRoux) directed by Robert Falls, the world premiere of The Film Society (Jonathan Balton) by Jon Robin Baitz and title roles in Hamlet, Peer Gynt, and Arturo Ui. New York credits include Wrong Mountain (Tony nomination), Talking Heads (Obie and Outer Critics Circle Award), La Cage aux Folles (2004 revival), and for Lincoln Center The Invention of Love and The Frogs. In 1971, he toured with Katharine Hepburn in Coco and toured again in 1982 as Salieri in Amadeus, which he also played on Broadway. Recent stage work includes the Classic Stage Company’s revival of The Cherry Orchard, in which he played Gaev opposite Dianne Wiest and John Turturro. In 2011, he starred in A.R. Gurney’s Black Tie at Primary Stages. He has played the title role in King Lear for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Kreon in Medea opposite Annette Bening for the U.C.L.A International Theatre Festival, and with the New York Philharmonic in a concert reading of Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” with Alec Baldwin. He spent six seasons as Niles the Butler on “The Nanny” and has had numerous guest roles on TV, most notably as Professor Moriarty on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Films include The Prestige, Sydney Pollack’s Havana and The Hunt for Red October. ( Bio Roundabout Press Release)

Corine Cohen: You were the funniest part of ” The Nanny” as Niles the Butler. Did you write the funny one liners and you are fantastic at accents! I read that you are from the South not from England. You fooled everyone. What is your favorite part about doing live theater?

Daniel Davis: Thanks to our brilliant writing team I think we were all pretty funny, but thanks for the compliment. I may have made a suggestion from time to time, but the writers knew best how to improve the story and the jokes. Most of my one-liners would come on the day we taped, after watching rehearsals all week they would come up with a zinger that would be the “blow” for the scene. I always trusted them to give me a gem, especially when Ms Babcock was involved.

And you’re right, I was born and raised in Arkansas. My bloodline is English and Irish on my Father’s side and Western European on my Mother’s. I’ve  always been an Anglophile. I was classically trained and spent the first twenty years or so of my career in Regional Theatre where the emphasis was on Classical text. Standard speech and ear training for accents,etc. were part of the work. My normal speech has a bit of the South still in it.

Corine Cohen: Love your work! You would be great on Downton Abbey if only it had a sequel! Do you have any funny stories of mix-ups that happened backstage in ” Noises Off”?

Daniel Davis: Noises Off was a very difficult show to rehearse. Michael Frayn has written a meticulously specific play. The second act is almost mathematically calculated, it’s printed in double columns, the left side of the page is Noises Off and the right side is Nothing On. If you follow the script, the events happen simultaneously, and each side cues the other. It’s almost impossible to describe and just as hard to perform. There were hundreds of hilarious misfires in the rehearsal. All I can tell you is that I carried a little notebook in my jacket for the first three weeks of previews that I referred to every time I came offstage to see where I went next and what I said when I got there.

Corine Cohen: If you could play any role on Broadway what would that role be?

Daniel Davis: Whenever I’m asked that question I draw a blank. I’ve been so fortunate in the roles I’ve been asked to do. These days it’s more interesting to me when someone offers a role I haven’t imagined myself playing. My bucket list is more about directors I hope to work with, especially on new plays, I’m a little burned out on the classics.

Corine Cohen:  The Nanny was such a success, do you stay in touch with any of the cast and I heard a rumour they were thinking of doing a reunion show this year? Is that true? I will let you in on a secret; it is one of my favorite sitcoms every created, and you and CC kept me in stitches.

Daniel Davis: I’m in touch with Lauren Lane(CC). We were friends before The Nanny was cast.I recently went to Austin, Texas where she lives and teaches to do a benefit reading of Love Letters with her and we had a wonderful few days together. I see Fran from time to time, saw her as the wicked stepmother in Cinderella on B’Way, hilarious. I see our producers the Sternins whenever they visit New York. I haven’t heard anything about a Nanny reunion. I missed the last one because I was in tech rehearsals for The Frogs.

Corine Cohen: If you could go back in time would you do anything differently?

Daniel Davis: I wouldn’t do anything differently because the outcome might be affected and I’m very content with the way things are.

Corine Cohen:  What are your favorite shows?

Daniel Davis: I’m looking forward to the revival of She Loves Me. I like musicals with great books. I find something to like in almost every play I see, the bad ones I don’t remember. When I’m not working, I go to the theatre at least twice a week, and I’m a subscriber at the Metropolitan Opera.

Corine Cohen: How do you prepare for a role?

Daniel Davis: I work entirely off the script. My technique is to base comedy in truth and attempt to do things funny instead of doing funny things. If it’s true, it can be as broad as a barn and still seem real.

Corine Cohen: If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?

Daniel Davis: Money sometimes changes one set of problems for a bigger set of problems, I’d be very careful about it.

Corine Cohen: Do you love NYC? What are your favorite spots in NYC?

Daniel Davis: New York is Access. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to move back. I walk around the City all the time; everywhere I go I find a new favorite spot. Myers of Keswick, a British market is my most recent. The Scotch eggs are amazing.

You can catch the very talented Daniel Davis in ” Noises Off” at the American Airlines at Roundabout. It is a must see! I thank Daniel Davis for taking the time to do this interview.

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