It’s taken almost 25 years but Lois Smith is once again a Tony Award nominee, this time for her performance as Margaret in Matthew Lopez’s play “The Inheritance.” (Her most recent nomination was for her featured role in Sam Shepherd’s “Buried Child,” in 1996.)
She stood out in her role as the caretaker of a sanctuary for men dying of AIDS-related illnesses, though only appearing in Part 2 of this six-and-a-half-hour epic directed by Stephen Daldry. In his review for The New York Times, Ben Brantley called Smith’s acting “quietly brilliant.” We spoke with Smith after her nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play was announced. Here are edited excerpts from that conversation.
How does this compare to your previous nominations in 1990 and 1996? Obviously, this has been a difficult and complicated year.
Oh my goodness, has it ever. Let me say that this is a kind of a stimulating day and professional stimulation has been in short supply this last six or eight months. Last week, we showed the “Angels in America” scenes, which amfAR had made, and that was extremely interesting. All the actors involved, we shot in our own rooms. Mine was a monologue. There was a lot of movie magic put into it. It was in no sense a Zoom reading. It was quite different. And last week, I remember saying to my family and friends, “It makes me feel like I’m working, even though I know I’m not.” I suppose today is similar.
What’s it like compared to the others? Outside our doors there is dread and misery abounding. That of course is a great difference in life right now.
Does the nomination mitigate the disappointment of theaters shutting down in March?
It’s a lovely thing to have happened. We knew we were going to close. We were very fortunate compared to all our colleagues in the neighborhood that day in March because so many of them — really the majority of them — thought they were getting ready to open and that had to be so bitter and so difficult.
You were the only female cast member in “The Inheritance.” Does that affect how you feel about being nominated?
The whole experience of being in this play was like nothing else. There were two long three-act plays and I was only in Act III of the second play so I went to work three times a week late at night.
To answer your question: No, I hadn’t thought about that. I loved this cast and they could not have been more embracing and enveloping and lovely to this “only female.” That was a pleasure every day.
You mentioned doing these different projects during the shutdown that gave you a feeling of being at work. What else have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
I have been fortunate to be spending time with my family who lives in Philadelphia — my daughter lives here — so I haven’t been by myself. I am certainly longing for the public life, which is one of the things about New York City I treasure and love. And I very much miss my friends.
There have been some pluses for me. I am certainly comfortable and I’m with people I love. I have three grown grandchildren in their twenties and I’ve gotten to spend some time with them. They were also home, which they might not have been in ordinary times. I feel better acquainted with all of them. So there has been that bonus, in my life.
There are, for some, some unexpected bright spots.
That’s true. In private life. Yes.
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