In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of The Pitmen Painters, we meet James Miller.
Joel: Why did you want to become a member of the cast of this production at 1st Stage?
James: The script is great, the director is great, and 1st Stage is a great place to work. That’s a pretty easy decision.
Introduce us to your character and how you relate to him.
Harry is a WWI veteran who survived a gas attack in the Battle of the Somme. This informs both his occupation-unable to work in the mines, he has a job as a “Dental Mechanic”-and his worldview as a hardcore Marxist.
What do you admire most about your characters and what do you not admire about them?
Harry is firm in his convictions-even when they’re wrong. He truly believes in the possibility of a brighter future of opportunity and equality, and he’s excited about it. That said, he’s stands up for individual talent within the group. I think that’s a surprise, even to him.
What is the play about from the point of view of your characters?
“This is about politics, and that’s that.” It’s about class warfare and oppression, even within the art world.
How did you prepare to play Harry?
I did a lot of research on English socialism and shell shock–horrifying, really.
Tell us about your audition. What did you perform and where were you when you got the call/text/email that you were being offered the role and what was your immediate reaction?
I did a Pinter monologue. They called me back to read for Jimmy and Oliver, but Harry ended up being the right fit. I was thrilled. I still am.
What has been your experience with art and painting and how did this experience help you prepare for your role?
I started out training to become a visual artist–mostly oil painting and figure drawing. Theatre came later, but I’ve done some work for the show. To me, theatre is all about the ensemble-working together. Painting feels very lonely by comparison.
Which character is most like you?
What scene is the most challenging to master and why? And which scene that you are not in moves you the most when you watch it?
The ending is very difficult. It takes a delicate balance of tone and energy to make it feel sincere. I love Ben Nicholson’s cameo; there’s a world of subtext in there.
What is the best advice your Director Stevie Zimmerman has given you that has helped you to shape your performance?
What have you learned about art, artists, mining and painting that you didn’t know before you were hired for this production?
I didn’t know anything about mining, at all. The conditions were unimaginable.
What is your favorite line from the play that you recite and what is your favorite line than another character recites and why are they your favorites?
I have to say the line, “It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is what it means” without any R’s or T’s, which is a beautiful challenge in itself. But it’s also the opposite of my favorite maxim, “It doesn’t mean something. It is something.” -Samuel Beckett
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in The Pitmen Painters?
I always want the audience to fall in love with theatre; I want them to come back. More specifically, the show is saying that anyone can make art if they work hard and find their own voice, and that’s an idea that I can absolutely get behind.
The Pitmen Painters plays through October 13, 2013 at 1st Stage Theatre – 1524 Spring Hill Road, in McLean, VA. For tickets, order them online.
James Miller (Harry) is excited to be making his 1st Stage debut. Local credits include Ross in Voodoo Macbeth (The American Century Theater), Laertes/Player King in Hamlet (Baltimore Shakespeare Factory), and Malvolio in Twelfth Night (Perchance to Dream Theatre DC). EDUCATION: BA English & Theatre Arts, Cornell University. Additional training with the Tisch School in Dublin. UPCOMING: The Tempest (Baltimore Shakespeare Factory); The Apocalypse Comes @ 6pm (Single Carrot Theatre).