Jodie Comer on the “Difficult,” “Exhilarating” Thrill of Bringing ‘Prima Facie’ to the Broadway Stage
Within the play Prima Facie, Jodie Comer is alone on stage for the total size of the present’s 100 minutes, beginning as a brash, bloviating barrister, then turning to a quieter, extra weak girl looking for justice for herself within the very authorized system that had beforehand propped her up.
Earlier than making her West Finish debut within the play final 12 months, the Killing Eve star says she hadn’t appeared on stage (apart from a play in a “very, very small theater” in Scotland when she was 16 years previous). And so taking up this marathon function not solely required intense dedication and memorization, but additionally a recalibration of her performing fashion with a purpose to emote to an 800-plus seat theater, fairly than to the digicam.
Within the drama, written by Suzie Miller, Comer performs Tessa Ensler, a proficient, younger lawyer who defends people accused of sexual assault after which goes via the justice system herself as a sufferer of rape. Comer has been enjoying Tessa since April 2022 on the West Finish (the place she received the Olivier Award for Finest Actress) and has now carried the function to Broadway for an 12-week run that started this April. One 12 months in, she says the function has made a deep influence on her life.
“I spotted that I used to be fairly fearful final 12 months of a variety of issues, particularly in my capability to do that,” Comer stated. “And I feel that truly, via this expertise, I’ve been in a position to rework that into a way of belief, which is a very nice feeling.”
As soon as she will get via the ultimate eight weeks of the run, the Free Man star says she’s open to doing extra theater, however she notes that she’s “intrigued to see” what sort of function might deliver her again, after performing in such a difficult, however “exhilarating” play.
Comer, who’s Tony nominated for her portrayal, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about why she determined to tackle the function, how she ready for it and the way its modified all year long.
What did you assume if you have been first approached about doing this function?
I believed that this was mighty in each sense of the phrase. I wasn’t truly certain if I wanted to audition or not. So I used to be additionally pondering that it could have been despatched to many actresses and whoever was going to do it could be the luckiest particular person alive. However I additionally simply didn’t know the way I might get to some extent of executing it. I knew it was going to be a problem and it was going to alter me as an individual. I used to be like 96 pages of dialogue and pondering “How on earth would you be on stage alone and do that?” so I used to be actually overwhelmed, however simply blown away by the script and the journey that I might go on with a purpose to get to a spot of performing that eight exhibits every week. I used to be deeply moved by it. It felt crucial.
Did you find yourself having to audition for it?
No, it was truly given to me. I requested my agent “When do I’ve to audition?” And he or she stated that James Bierman, the producer, and Suzie Miller, the author, had stated if it was one thing I linked with, Suzie would love to speak with me. And I keep in mind it was the primary lockdown and I used to be in Liverpool with my household and Suzie was in Australia and we jumped on a name and we have been on the cellphone for like two hours. I simply knew then that there was no query. And I additionally knew that if I noticed one other actress do that, I might remorse it for the remainder of my life. I feel that’s all the time a very good indicator as as to whether to do one thing or not.
How did you get into the character of Tessa?
There was a lot about her that I associated to due to the place she’s from, her household. Simply being from Liverpool and the traits of the people who find themselves from there, folks I do know, people who find themselves in my very own life. I feel a giant factor that I needed to type of embrace was her mind and sense of self and energy that she held and self-confidence. That felt…not international to me, however I virtually needed to embrace these elements of myself with a purpose to discover her. And the way she commanded the area and the arrogance that she carries in her execution. I feel I positively do have that inside myself, and I’ve come to understand that much more via her, which is humorous. I feel that you could, as a rule, study out of your characters. It’s a transaction. It’s like, you educate them one thing they usually all the time depart you with some form of perception into your personal life.
Within the play, you’re not solely talking as Tessa, however you’re additionally performing out all of the strains of dialogue round her. How did you put together for and get to the place of being able to carry out that eight exhibits every week?
We began rehearsals in March  and I had began studying the dialogue the November earlier than, as a result of I actually needed to be off e-book by the point I obtained into the rehearsal room. After which Justin, our director, obtained me up on my ft on the primary day. It was type of all methods go, and I hadn’t been within the rehearsal room lots. I’d solely been in a rehearsal room as soon as earlier than once I was actually younger, and it was all very new to me, and I used to be extremely intimidated and nervous. Nevertheless it was nearly being within the rehearsal room and getting up on our ft and dealing via it and enjoying round with issues.
How does it really feel now, performing this function in entrance of audiences each night time?
Exhilarating. It feeds my soul in such a giant manner. I feel it’s completely tough and difficult, but it surely actually invigorates me. I really feel like I’m having a dialog with 800-plus folks each night time and attending to see the way it strikes them. And I feel in theater, the vitality may be very kinetic, and it’s so addictive. I simply really feel so, so fortunate that I’m in a position to be a part of this enormous puzzle of people that introduced this collectively. It’s uncommon that you just’re blessed with a chunk of fabric and a job that challenges you on this manner. So I’m simply attempting to take in each second of all of it.
You’ve now been with the play via its West Finish run and now on Broadway. Has the function modified in any respect or advanced throughout that course of?
Completely. I feel now it’s simply type of sunk into me. The fabric, Tessa. I really feel like I’m discovering new issues. I additionally really feel very a lot modified by this expertise. And I feel we will change a lot inside a 12 months. So I really feel like via my very own evolution, Tess can also be evolving simply via various things each night time that I discover and assume, “Oh God, I’ve by no means finished that earlier than” or “That felt good, and why didn’t I consider that final 12 months?” That’s what I used to be truly actually enthusiastic about being within the rehearsal room [this time]. We obtained a couple of weeks earlier than we went into tech once we got here to New York and simply had that fixed type of discovery of going “Oh, wow, you already know, why didn’t we consider this final 12 months?” and it’s simply since you’re having to consider issues much less.
Are you able to speak extra about how the expertise has modified you?
I feel a variety of it’s deeply private, that I don’t essentially really feel the necessity to discuss, however I really feel like a girl. I really feel like I’ve stepped into my womanhood. I really feel like I’ve a lot extra belief inside myself and who I’m. I spotted that I used to be fairly fearful final 12 months of a variety of issues, particularly in my capability to do that. And I feel that truly, via this expertise, I’ve been in a position to rework that into a way of belief, which is a very nice feeling. That’s to not say I don’t have my moments, however I simply really feel like I’ve a clearer sense of who I’m.
With such a heavy material, can you depart the function on the theater or do you carry it with you?
I perform a little quiet down on stage afterwards and type of consciously let go of it. Simply the sensible motion of stretching your physique and attempting to let go of something that you just’re holding on to is admittedly useful. My mornings are a bit gradual. Typically I get up and I really feel like I used to be type of hit by a practice. It’s usually okay. You simply need to just remember to deal with your self as a result of I feel it’s in these moments if you slip up with these issues that you could really feel it just a little bit extra. However something I can type of assist myself, a voice quiet down, physique quiet down. I come house, and I’m sticking my head within the fridge for about an hour-and-a-half [laughs]. That sounds bizarre. I imply, simply extra that I snack nonstop.
That is smart. You’re on stage for therefore lengthy, and also you’re additionally working round and leaping on tables.
Yeah, you’ve obtained to refuel.
This interview was edited for size and readability.