The following interview is part of the ongoing “Meet the Cast and Crew” series for The Actors’ Group. Rebecca Lea McCarthy conducts interviews with cast and crew of upcoming productions.
Meet David Farmer who plays Senator William Russell in The Bast Man. Gore Vidal describes Senator Russel as “a handsome ex-Secretary of State and Presidential candidate, he leads from his convictions and beliefs; he is well read, a ‘thinker,’ and also somewhat of an amateur philosopher, but possesses a certain moral weakness.”
David Farmer (William Russell) returns to the TAG stage in this his seventh appearance since 2003. He has directed 10 productions in all three TAG venues since 2002 and has performed with all of Honolulu’s theatre groups since 1976. He has been honored with five Po`okela honors and three nominations for his acting and directing. His favorite roles include Freud in Freud’s Last Session (HRT), Clov in Endgame (Solange & Associates), Herbie in Gypsy (ACT), Tom in Glass Menagerie (ASATAD), the Actor in Woman in Black (MVT), John in Oleanna (KT), Gloucester in King Lear (Shakesperience) and Eddie Lawrence in Shear Madness (MVT). He appeared in KKT’s Ka‘iulani: A Cantata for the Theatre International Tour, which traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles Festival in 1990. He appeared as Dr. Rank in TAG’s The Doll’s House (for which he received a Po`okela) and in Joe Moore’s Prophecy and Honor with Richard Dreyfuss and George Segal. He studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse, at Carnegie-Mellon, and with Iris Kline, André Gregory, and Alan Arkin. A Screen Actors’ Guild member since 1987, he is currently serving his second term as President of the now-merged union SAG-AFTRA, Hawaii Local. He recently completed a supporting role in Toto, an indie film shot in the Philippines currently making the rounds on the national and international film festival circuits. His television credits include co-starring in the original and current Hawaii Five-0, A&E’s Biography, and most recently a recurring role as Uncle Lucio, a vampire in the comedy series Vampire Ang Daddy Ko (My Daddy is a Vampire) on GMA.
David, I am so glad you had an opportunity to talk with me about your work in The Best Man and the current election. Everyone at TAG is excited that you are part of this production.
When we started talking you had expressed to me that it was a little early to discuss your process with your character, but we did talk a little bit about politics. When I found surprising is that you once had a desire to be president, isn’t that correct?
As a child growing up in the 1950s – when Eisenhower was POTUS and my dad a career military officer – my first conscious ambition was to be POTUS.
Wow, honestly, I don’t think I have anyone who aspired to the presidency! I’m sure as a child you probably didn’t have any real inklings of the massive responsibility that goes along with such a job. So what made you change your mind? Why go from POTUS to ACTOR?
Then, 60 years ago, in 1956 when I saw for the first time the Conventions on TV, I was cast in my first community theatre production, and I have been smitten ever since.
HAHA, can’t help but reflect that there is a very close connection between political conventions and theatrics. I was recently talking to a Facebook friend about this, somebody who is new to the country and is also a new cytisine. We discussed the fact that theatrics were core to the convention process, but I think he found out a little horrific. Still, I would argue they share many attributes. So … Actor and Politician?
In many ways, I’ve achieved my ambitions in both arenas: as an attorney blessed not only for the privilege of serving to help real people solve their problems but also being able to continue to be active on stage and in television and film and to serve as the president of SAG-AFTRA Hawaii Local (POSAHL?).
That is terrific David. And I know many of us actors appreciates your work with SAG-AFTRA Hawaii Local. Mahalo for your efforts!
Let’s talk a bit about your character, Senator William Russell. What are your thoughts on this character, what you value about him, and think about him?
JFK’s election and death were extremely formative events in our generation’s psyche. Some parts of Russell’s character — although Vidal based him on his admiration for Adlai Stevenson — echo JFK’s bio, including his infidelity (I’m still exploring the relationship with Alice). He still inspires me for his intelligence and style. The values articulated by the Democratic Party in this year’s election cycle also resonate with me in approaching the Russell character. Also Barak and Bill at their best.
As an actor, what are some of the things you do to make a bridge between you as a person and the reality of your character? Particularly with this type of character, where you are playing a personality that is larger than life?
Like many, I have real reservations about politics and politicians. To really inhabit this imaginary world, I’m exploring the notion that these characters are similar to at least some of us actors who strive primarily to be seen and applauded, with both Cantwell and Russell seeking the endorsement of THE Producer/Director, ex-POTUS Art Hockstader. It seems to be working so far.
Any other inspirations that you are pulling from to help you portray Russell?
BIG inspiration from the speeches at the Convention by Michelle B. Obama and Joe Biden. Nixon [and his] farewell speech to The White House. I was never a fan of his, but the sheer humanity of his speech brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32GaowQnGRw
Yes! The timing could not be better for a production of The Best Man.
Also, when you consider the actors who have played Russell – Melvyn Douglas, Henry Fonda, Spalding Gray and John Laroquette — it’s a unique role susceptible of many incarnations.
And we are truly excited to see what your incarnation is going to be like! I can’t wait to see you on opening night. Thank you very much, David, for taking a little bit of time out of your very busy schedule to speak with me today.
The Best Man is running at TAG September 2 – 25th.
Get your tickets today!
TAG, you’re it!
The world needs theatre and TAG needs you!
TAG-The Actors’ Group
The Brad Powell Theatre
The Shops at Dole Cannery
650 Iwilei Road, Suite 101
Honolulu, HI 96817
Order tickets online: http://www.taghawaii.net
Validated parking in Regal Theater parking structure.
Bring your ticket!
TAG is honored to be a member of Hawaii State Theatre Council. The mission of HSTC is to promote live theatre in Hawaii and encourage excellence in its management, performance, and production.