[ theater ]
Frank X is one of Philadelphia's most distinguished actors — and the Arden is one of our finest theaters (the latter cleaned up at this year's Barrymore's). Yet amazingly, The History Boys marks their first collaboration. There's joking disagreement between Frank and Arden artistic director Terry Nolen about what took so long. (Says Terry: "Frank turned us down 12 times!" Says Frank, "Terry asked me when I would come to the Arden. I told him, 'When you offer me a job.'") But they are united in their praise for each other — and their excitement finally to be working together.
City Paper: Who thought of casting Frank as Hector?
Frank X: Terry did. I got a call asking me to audition. I didn't put a lot of stock in my chances — it's so quintessentially British, even with [the Arden's] history of non-traditional casting. But I realized this might be my only chance to play Hector, even for four minutes! So I thought I'd go for it.
Terry Nolen: When I came to the project, I thought about the great actors I knew who could play Hector, and Frank was one of the very few. There's a humanity to his work that is compelling and so important for this role. We gave him two scenes to work on, and after I saw the first, I knew he was the one. We cast him that day — without seeing anyone else.
CP: Did the issue of color-blind casting come up?
FX: I was nervous about the play — but not because of that. It's a real challenge, a very great play so full of thoughts and ideas. It's so complex — so I was terrified!
TN: I don't see it as non-traditional casting. The most unusual thing about it really is that Griffiths [actor Richard Griffiths, who created the role] is a very large man, and Frank is very slim. So that will be different.
FX: I've been lucky in Philly to have a great shot at many roles. I couldn't have stayed otherwise. It's necessary for an artist to thrive. I couldn't stand it if I only got cast in "the Magical Negro" roles.
CP: Now that Frank has finally made it to the Arden, will there be more collaborations?
TN: I'll say! This is our "Frank X Season." After this, he'll play Montague in Romeo and Juliet, and Captain Hook in Peter Pan. I know Frank will be amazing with the kids.