How did “Blackbird” find you?
Scott [Rudin, the producer] sent it to me, and when I finished reading it, I thought, “Oh no, I have to do this.” A 6 ½-page monologue! I didn’t know how or if I could do it. It’s the defining quality I look for when I’m choosing work: If I don’t know how to do it, that’s the hook — that’s what gets me excited.
Your role is a scorcher. How do you prepare yourself for getting on that stage eight shows a week?
I love this play, so a sense of purpose helps. It’s so taxing and hard to do, but I’ve tried to replace that with a sense of joy, that I’m doing the thing I spent the last 20 years learning. I’m listening to a lot of Sia, because it makes me want to kick down a door and rob a bank and run wildly naked down a street. It makes me feel emboldened.
How do you wind down afterward?
Jeff and I will joke, sort of elbow each other, talk about something silly, check in with each other. We’d never worked together before, didn’t know each other. The thing itself is so bonding. We’ve gone on in all states — we are wedded to each other in sickness and in health. He had a staph infection and did five shows with an arm that couldn’t move. I had the flu, bronchitis, vertigo and slipped a disc in my back 20 minutes before the end of the play. We will not miss a show, because we depend so heavily on each other. At this point, I’d literally have to not have a pulse not to be onstage!
About that title: Nowhere in David Harrower’s “Blackbird” is there any reference to a bird.
I asked him and he said, “I couldn’t think of what to call it, and that [Beatles] song came on [the radio] and I thought, ‘Hmm …’” He heard the lyrics and thought it seemed appropriate.
Has Paul McCartney seen it?
Not that I’m aware of!
How do you explain a play like this to your 10-year-old daughter?
She just knows that [Daniel’s character] is bad and I’m good! I’ve oversimplified it for her! She just knows that it’s hard work.
After Heath died, the two of you received a lot of unwanted attention. Has that gotten better?
Oh, so much! Standard operating procedures changed when my personal hero, Kristen Bell, lobbied Web sites and magazines to no longer publish photos of children. We moved — we left Brooklyn and lived in the country for six years because it was an intolerable state of existence. [In 2015 she bought a home in Ditmas Park.] Then Kristen Bell waved her magic wand and she got them to see the human side of it, and the market for pictures of these children diminished. It has changed our lives. I e-mail [Bell] once every couple of months and say, “I owe you everything. My daughter’s happiness is in your hands.” Talk about a go-getter!
How’d you wind up in Brooklyn to begin with?
It was the trees. The sky! It was 1998 or 2000, I was living in Manhattan and a friend said, “Come check out Brooklyn,” and as soon as I got off the train I thought, “Oh yeah, the sky!” I missed seeing the sky.
Speaking of missing: Do you and your “Dawson’s Creek” castmates keep in touch?
I see Mary Beth Peil, who played Grams. When I was doing “Dawson’s Creek,” she’d talk to me about a faraway land called New York City, where people did things like theater. She thought I’d like it because I liked to read and I liked words, and that was a place you could actually work with words. She’s been incredibly supportive through the years, and she lives in New York. I think everyone else lives in California.
Any chance of a “Dawson’s” reunion?
Not that I know of, but never say never.
The play’s run ends June 11. What’s your plan?
I’m going to finish off that Elena Ferrante series. I love her!