EXCLUSIVE: Laurie Metcalf Owns the Stage in Tony-Nominated 'Doll's House, Part 2' Performance

By
Photo: Getty Images

A longtime scene-stealer on TV -- thanks to her many supporting roles as Jackie on Roseanne, Carolyn Bigsby on Desperate Housewives, Dr. Jenna James on Getting On and Sarah on Horace and Pete -- Laurie Metcalf simply owns the Broadway stage. There’s no competing with the longtime actress, who was superb in The Other Place, performed maniacal laps around Bruce Willis in Misery and recently earned her fourth Tony nomination -- this time for playing Nora Helmer in A Doll’s House, Part 2.

The play -- a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 breakdown of marriage and gender roles -- sees Metcalf leading a standout cast, including fellow nominees Chris Cooper, Jayne Houdyshell and Condola Rashad, as Nora returns to the house she once left in need of a divorce now that she’s a successful feminist writer. What follows is a humorous 90-minute debate of society and gender roles as Nora lets her thoughts fly out of her mouth. “She is very much quick on her feet,” Metcalf tells ET about the challenge of playing what she describes as a “glib” character.

Tonys 2017: The Standout Performances on Broadway

Nora’s penchant for arguing lets Metcalf tag team with the other actors as she debates her way through the family, including her husband, daughter and the nursemaid. “[They] take each other on and [then I] turn over here and hear somebody new,” the actress says of the volley of dialogue that starts vibrating like a motor. “It starts to ramp up; the humor kicks in, and I think it’s a great rise for the audience.”

Written by Lucas Hnath, A Doll’s House, Part 2 marks the playwright’s Broadway debut. It was originally commissioned by the South Coast Repertory in California before opening at the John Golden Theatre in New York City. “We all worked on it together,” Metcalf says of the collaborative effort of seeing the show through from the workshop phase to the Broadway stage. “Everybody had a say and it was helpful in, I think, finding a balance for all four characters’ viewpoints. Lucas was open to working with everybody.”

As a result, the play earned eight Tony nominations, including Best Play and Best Direction for Sam Gold, with Ben Brantley writing for The New York Times that “every character in A Doll’s House, Part 2 is very much a living individual -- a solipsist, as we all are, with his or her own firm and self-serving view of things. They’re all right; they’re all wrong. But at least they’re talking, which is what it takes to build a world that everybody can inhabit.”

“[I] just felt really proud of the whole gang,” Metcalf says of the group effort.

Of course, Metcalf is not the only Hollywood star on Broadway to earn recognition this season. Also nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play are Cate Blanchett (The Present), Sally Field (The Glass Menagerie), Laura Linney (The Little Foxes) and Jennifer Ehle (Oslo). When it comes to sharing the category with Field in particular, Metcalf starts into a story about “hanging out” with the actress at Sardi’s in Times Square before interrupting herself: “I can’t even believe I’m saying that.

“She sent me the best opening night gift I’ve ever gotten in my life, which was an eye mask for sleeping, because we were comparing how hard it is for us to sleep in [the dressing room] and be fresh for the show, which is a huge weird worry on a two-show day,” the actress continues.

While a hit on Broadway, A Doll's House, Part 2 is set to close on July 23 after a limited nine-week run, no doubt allowing Metcalf to turn her attention to the reboot of Roseanne on ABC. Two weeks after the Tony nominations were announced, the network confirmed that the family comedy was returning for eight episodes in 2018. Speaking with ET before the news was official, all Metcalf could say was that “everyone is on board,” referring to the entire original cast, which is set to return with Sarah Chalke, who briefly replaced Lecy Goranson as Becky, in another role.

“I can’t imagine where the writers would take it,” Metcalf added. “It could be open to anything, but I can only imagine there will be a lot of laughs among the cast, because that’s how it used to be.”