Playwright Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher’s stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the hottest tickets of the Broadway season—and with good reason. An unexpectedly fresh and urgent retelling of the seminal classic, it feels like a “Mockingbird” made anew. That’s in no small part thanks to the actors onstage, among them Gideon Glick as Dill, who captures the heart of the show as an “other” who even in the loss of innocence retains his optimism and heart. Previously of Broadway’s “Spring Awakening” and “Significant Other,” Glick sat with Backstage to discuss his unlikely road to finding his Dill, chief among them a deep dive into the Deep South and a queering of the role thanks to Lee’s original inspiration, childhood neighbor Truman Capote.
Playing Dill required a reinvestigation of the text.
“Dill has an enormous heart, and he’s also been through quite a lot and has persevered. And also, he’s an ‘other’ in a show about otherness in terms of Tom Robinson, Calpurnia, Boo Radley; Dill is one of them…. Also understanding that he was young Truman Capote kind of blew my mind, because Harper Lee and Truman Capote grew up next door to one another in Monroeville [in Alabama], which is where Maycomb is based off of. I didn’t know that, and I find it kind of bizarre that it’s a book about empathy and about otherness (also about racial injustice and social justice), but it’s not taught in schools. It’s this kind of queer character who’s been existing here. I was really excited that that’s kind of coming up to the surface in Aaron’s adaptation.”
Glick also researched more than ever before.
“This was a lot of research—probably the most research I’ve ever done because it’s circumstances I’m not accustomed to. I’m a gay Jew from the East Coast, and all of a sudden I’m playing this Southern dandy from Bayou Blue, Louisiana, but then also you’re representing Alabama. So I went down over the summer before the show started just to kind of get a feel for this place that we’re going to embody for a while. That was incredibly helpful. I’ve also never been to the Deep South, so that was a little scary but informative. And also, just a lot of literature about Capote and Harper Lee and Jim Crow South.”
Don’t forget to breathe.
“[Acting is] just about breathing, and it’s just about asking the questions that your character is actually asking, understanding what the stakes are, and then just connecting with your scene partner. You did your work, now you’re up there. Let it all go and just be present.”
He would advise his younger self to “just relax.”
“I would say just relax and that no matter what, it’s always going to be a roller coaster, and no matter what, you can be a working actor and still not work at the same time. Figure out what to do with all your creative energy, because I don’t think they teach that at school. Even Audra McDonald has a month or two where she’s not doing anything, and they don’t teach you what to do in those times. So I would tell me to fill that up, and I’m telling all of you to fill it up.”
Education as an actor is ongoing.
“I’m part of something called Actors Center. I pay, like, $300 a year, and there are classes that you can take for free for the whole year. I believe education never ends, and also just the act of doing, you learn so much. I feel I get stronger with every show I do because I’m learning about the craft and how to do it.”
You must learn to embrace your quirks as an actor.
“I do think what turns people off can also, to some people, turn them on. It’s what makes you interesting and different. And yeah, I was told, ‘Change your mannerisms, you’ve gotta change your voice,’ and still, I’m hitting up against it. But then there come these parts that you assume, and it’s almost like nobody else can do them. I believe in living life very full, for the same reasons why I majored in art history. I’m a searcher and I devour things, and all of that, you’re bringing to your work. And so if you’re changing any of that and if you’re censoring that, maybe for some people it works, but for me, it doesn’t. You’ve gotta find what works for you. And I found that when I change my voice and when I try to be stiller and so forth, if the character’s still, it’ll happen. You will find how the character is. But if you’re too worried about how you’re appearing, you’re just screwed.”
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