by Anna Russell, Associate Director of Marketing
With The Shoplifters now in previews, we thought it would be a great time to get to know Delaney Williams, one of the show’s supremely talented and affable stars. You may already know him from one of his numerous television roles (The Wire, Law & Order: SVU, Veep) or from Arena Stage, where he is now tackling his sixth role. Delaney recently sat down with Broadway World and DC Theatre Scene to talk about his role as the laid-back security guard, Otto, in The Shoplifters, so we decided to get to know the man behind the badge and walkie-talkie a bit better.
AR: Welcome back, Delaney! The Shoplifters is your sixth show at Arena Stage and it’s the first time you’ve been back since the Mead Center was built. How are you enjoying working in the new space?
DW: It is gorgeous! Inside and out! I actually was here briefly, just after the building opened, and before productions began again, rehearsing a piece that played elsewhere. At the time it was very new and it felt a little cold and cavernous but now it is really warm and inviting and feels properly lived in and comfortable, both to work in and to attend events.
It is still a little bit of a head trip for me though, because I'll walk off Stage Right at the Kreeger, take the same steps down and around as before on the way to the dressing rooms, step through the same door as before out of the theatre proper and into a disorienting, new and different ... everything ... and then, I'll sort of wander around, lost and aimless, until I stumble, by accident, right through a [hallway] onto the Fichandler stage and it's like another time-warp moment, back to just how it was so many years ago. Really kind of fun, actually!
AR: As a D.C. native and someone who has done a healthy amount of work in the area, what are a few of your favorite D.C. things?
DW: As a DC native and resident for most of the last 50 years the DC 'things' are way too numerous to even begin to mention, let alone the possibility of leaving some of my *favorite* favorite artists out as an error by omission, but my advice would be to seek out the things out of your normal comfort zone, the others will always be there. How do you actually know unless you actually go?
Then again, in 50 years, I have yet to make it to the top of the Washington Monument. Go figure! Maybe this time, just maybe on a Monday, before October 19th!
AR: Do you have a preference between acting on TV, stage or in films? If so, which do you prefer and why?
DW: The work, for me, is identical. The aim is to create as fully realized a human being as possible, who then lives the same moment-to-moment, over and over again, for the very first time, allowing an audience to experience and engage in and believe and enjoy the story as if they are an anonymous voyeur.
The old adage does ring true for me, however, in that film is, by and large, the directors medium; TV, by and large, the writers medium; and stage, by and large, the actor's medium. The actor's craft and art are most fully realized in the rehearsal room and in each and every single living, breathing and fleeting performance.
AR: One could argue that your biggest role has been that of Sgt. Jay Landsman on The Wire just based on volume of episodes and the lasting critical acclaim the show has received. Do you consider it your favorite or most important role? If not, what has been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on?
DW: Landsman on The Wire was an important role for me as an actor, both personally and professionally, and on a television show that I feel represents the very best that television has to offer. I am very proud of my work in the role and of the show itself, it will always be among the finest and most fulfilling jobs of my career.
That being said, by far the most fulfilling and I feel ultimately most creatively successful role I have ever had and may likely ever have was right here at Arena, as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge a few seasons ago—one of, if not the finest American playwrights of the 20th century, a play that is a much finer piece of work than it is usually given credit for, a role that (when his three dimensions are not given short shrift) is massive and beautiful and intimate and touching and tragic and comedic and ultimately enlightening and cathartic when you are open to it, a brilliant cast led by a brilliant director (Daniel Aukin) ...and at Arena Stage! Who could ask for anything more?
AR: What’s up next for you?
DW: I'm going back to work as that low-life lawyer you love to hate, John Buchanan, on NBC's Law & Order: SVU, with my first episode airing in October. My current co-star, Jayne Houdyshell, will also be back on SVU in her role as Sgt. Benson's family court judge, and we are desperately hoping to get the chance to reunite 'Alma' and 'Otto' in an upcoming episode! Of course, you should DVR the whole season in order not to miss that possibility, especially if your subscription and your tickets to The Shoplifters happen to fall on a Wednesday night!
(Photo: Delaney Williams from The Shoplifters. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.)