Tony Goldwyn On How “The Inheritance” Drew Him Back To Broadway

Tony GoldwynPhoto Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade 2020

Tony Goldwyn was drawn—almost like a moth to a flame—to “The Inheritance,Matthew Lopez‘s award-winning re-envisioning of E.M. Forster’s masterpiece “Howards End” to 21st-century New York at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre. In fact, he was more than happy to fill in for friend John Benjamin Hickey, who opted to make his directorial debut with a revival of Neil Simon‘s “Plaza Suite,” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, leaving Goldwyn to take over for his four-month absence.

As of January, he stars alongside Jordan Barbour, Ryan M. Buggle, Jonathan Burke, Andrew Burnap, Darryl Gene Daughtry Jr., Dylan Frederick, Kyle Harris, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Carson McCalley, Tre Ryder, Lois Smith, Kyle Soller and Arturo Luís Soria in the drama, which follows a cross-generational group of men as they deal with the aftermath of the AIDS crisis. The Olivier Award-winning play takes a closer look at what it means to be gay in America.

Goldwyn, who is best known for the TV show “Scandal” as well as “Ghost,” “Nixon” and “Chambers” is no stranger to the stage: he previously appeared on Broadway in “Network” opposite Tony winner Bryan Cranston and Tatiana Maslany in 2018 as well as as revivals of “Promises, Promises” and “Holiday.”

We chatted with the Obie-winning star about why the play is so important, and why it drove him to return to the Great White Way so quickly.

Tony GoldwynPhoto Credit: Kevin Lynch

You were last seen on Broadway in “Network.” How did you become involved with “The Inheritance” and what made you want to return to the NY stage with this particular play?

When the London production made the transfer to Broadway, John Benjamin Hickey, who originated the role of Henry Wilcox (and who is an old friend of mine), was unavailable for a four-month period as he’s directing “Plaza Suite” with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. So they reached out to me. I read 20 pages and knew I had to be a part of this. I’d been hearing about it from my brother John, who is a film and TV producer. He was obsessed with the play in London and ended up becoming a producer on the Broadway production.

You play the role of Henry Wilcox, a role some may know from the book “Howards End” and subsequent movie adaptations. What attracted you to this particular role?

I have never seen a character like Henry on the stage—a gay, Republican billionaire who has essentially shut himself down emotionally in reaction to the trauma of the AIDS epidemic. Of course, 30 years later, he faces a profound reckoning. He’s an incredibly rich and complex character whose conservative politics are given a very persuasive platform by Matthew Lopez. 

Tony Goldwyn
Goldwyn and Kyle Soller

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade 2020

How did you prepare for the role? What headspace did you go to? Did you draw any references from people you knew?

I read the play a lot. That sounds flip, but Matthew’s writing is so dense that pretty much all you need is in there to dig out. I also read books and watched films about the epidemic because I wanted to steep myself in that experience as much as I could. I was an adult at the time and lost a lot of friends and colleagues. But as as a straight man, I can’t possible internalize what it was like for the gay community.

What is it like performing this play in front of New York audiences, when the city of New York plays such a big part of the story you’re telling?

It’s really a communion every night. This play is so personal to the experience of so many New Yorkers, gay and straight. Audiences embrace the piece from the opening moments in a way I have rarely experienced. It’s why I work in the theater.

Tony Goldwyn
Kyler Soller, Paul Hilton and Goldwyn

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade 2020

As an audience member, you experience a wide range of emotions while watching “The Inheritance.” One moment you’re laughing out loud, the next you’re sobbing. What is it like being a part of something that audiences are responding to so intensely?

As I said, it’s a communion. We give 100 percent every performance and feel the connection with the audience intensely. When you hear people roaring with laughter one minute and audibly weeping the next, it affects you on a very deep level. It intensifies your commitment to deliver a fully authentic experience.

What’s next for you in 2020?

I have a number of projects in the works as a producer and director, so we’ll see which pops first!

To you, what is the greatest luxury in life and why?

My family. Aside from being a constant source of joy, they give me the steady foundation to push myself as far as possible creatively and to live in some pretty unstable and dysfunctional states of mind in the characters I play.