Tony award-winner John Gallagher Jr. is the latest Broadway star to trade the stage for the small screen. Starring in Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series, The Newsroom, John took five to tell Wonderland why making the move from theatre to television has been an easy one.
One of your first roles on TV was in The West Wing and now you’ve come full circle with a lead role in The Newsroom. What’s working with Aaron Sorkin like the second time round?
That was a great experience but working on The Newsroom has been a dream. As an actor, the chance to say the words of a writer like Aaron Sorkin don’t come along very often so you learn to relish the opportunity should you be lucky enough to get one. Fortunately, I’ve been very lucky!
You’re perhaps best known for your Broadway roles – what convinced you to take the leap from theatre to television full time?
Actors in New York don’t always get the chance to even be considered for these kinds of projects. Most of them are cast heavily out of L.A. but it just so happened that Aaron Sorkin, Alan Poul, Scott Rudin and Greg Mottola were at the helm of this pilot. Several of them are New Yorkers and theatre lovers with backgrounds in writing and producing plays so I think they were very game to come and meet with actors more accustomed to working on stage. I struggled at first with the potential of spending so much time away but working with that calibre of talent and for a network like HBO ended up being a no-brainer, and I’ve loved every second of the result.
Do you follow any other HBO shows? Are you a Girls fan like everyone else?
I love Boardwalk Empire and I have all five seasons of The Wire on DVD – it’s one of my favourite shows of all time.
Sorkin conducted research for The Newsroom by observing several cable networks. Did you do any behind-the-scenes prep for your role?
I didn’t have any time to do hands-on research because up until the day before I left for L.A. to shoot the pilot I was doing a play on Broadway called ‘Jerusalem’. I ended up going right from a play about rural Englanders to a show about New Yorkers working in cable news! Fortunately, Aaron is such a resource on set because of his wealth of knowledge of whatever subject he’s writing about.
Do you watch a lot of cable news now?
I can’t say I do. I find it difficult to separate the news that’s being broadcast from the often heightened and formulated personality of whoever it is that’s doing the broadcasting. I’m not criticising the format – I just follow the news online more than I do on television.
Are the characters on The Newsroom as fast-paced as their West Wing peers and if so, have you managed to master the art of ‘walk and talk’?
All of Aaron’s characters are awarded the gift of eloquence and intellect and most of them also happen to be workaholics who are operating under pressure and racing to beat the clock, so naturally they do end up talking very fast! Our set on The Newsroom is not as corridor-heavy as The West Wing so things manage to stay a bit more stationary!
Finally, are you aware of Richard Schiff’s Twitter campaign to appear on The Newsroom?
No – this is news to me! He was absolutely incredible on The West Wing and he was kind to me back in 2002 when I was on an episode so I certainly wouldn’t take any issue with him visiting ACN!
Words: Frankie Mathieson (@frankiewrites)