Weekly Must List Pick: Tom Hiddleston on coming to Broadway with an act of Betrayal
Betrayal (2019 revival)
Marvel’s resident god of chaos is about to sow discord on a very different stage. Before he steps back into the role of Loki for the character’s eponymous Disney+ series, Tom Hiddleston is making his Broadway debut in a revival of Harold Pinter’s classic play Betrayal. The oft-revived drama uses reverse chronology to spin the story of a marriage unraveled by a wife’s years-long affair with her husband’s close friend. Hiddleston, 38, plays Robert, the aforementioned husband, while Zawe Ashton plays his wife, Emma. Charlie Cox, who also logged time in the Marvel-verse as the star of Netflix’s Daredevil, is Jerry, the third member of the play’s romantic triangle. This new revival, directed by Jamie Lloyd, is transferring from London, where it had a sold-out West End run that just concluded in June. (It began previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Aug. 14, ahead of an opening night on Sept. 5.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it about Betrayal that interested you?
TOM HIDDLESTON: I read this play when I was a student. There’s certain classes where a teacher would assign each acting student a play and a role, and you had to read the play and — it was almost a class in dramaturgy — you had to write a monologue for the character that wasn’t from the play itself, and then perform it to try and give the rest of the class a clue as to what the play was. And I was given Betrayal. I remember sitting down on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in the library and reading it in one sitting, because it’s quite short to read, thinking, This is amazing, I’d love to do this one day. But I was 20 years old and this is about people in their late 30s, early 40s. So I thought, gosh, this is a long way off — of course, it came around quick. [Laughs]
I find this play fascinating. It’s about the complexity of relationships, the profound commitment to trust, about knowledge, about time. And what’s thrilling about it for [my costars] Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton and myself is none of us leave the stage. There’s a charge between the three of us that we hope reveals something new about the play, that these three relationships — the marriage, the friendship, and the affair — are actually codependent. And when one breaks down, they all break down.
This play is really just the three of you, which is a very different dynamic than a Marvel movie. Was that something you were looking for?
I love doing lots of different things and I’ve been lucky enough over the 17 or 18 years I’ve been working, I have done some wildly different stuff. There is something very concentrated about this piece. There are so many scenes between two people, in between couples, and the third character is present on stage all the time — obviously not in the scene, not listening, but they’re representing that they’re in the mind of those people because there’s somebody in the background being talked about, being excluded, being heard.
You only just closed the London production in June. Is this a chance to open the seams again and dive back into the play, or not since it was still so recent?
The great thing about this play is it’s never the same twice, because the audience changes the chemistry. There is humor in the play — it wouldn’t be Harold Pinter without some dark humor — and some audiences come and they’re very keen to laugh, and other audiences are keen to listen and be quiet. That always changes things. I think over the run it started to settle in us in a deeper way, but I’m looking forward to diving back in. The bones of the production will be the same, but we’ll find new things. And that’s the great joy of doing theater, is that you keep chasing down new shades of the truth, especially with a great piece of writing. It’ll only be over when it’s over.
Tell me about working with your costars, Charlie and Zawe.
It’s been such a happy company. They’re both such fine actors and individuals, and Zawe and I were both part of this [Pinter celebration in London last October] and we read scene 5 from Betrayal. I’ve known her for quite a long time but never worked with her. Charlie I’ve known for a long time as well, relatively. We bounced around in Los Angeles at the same time when were young actors trying to get work, auditioning for movies that neither of us would get, and ending up going for a burger afterwards and going, oh well, next one! So it’s been a real pleasure, and we connected as a trio and can’t wait to keep going.
You and Charlie were also ships passing in the Marvel universe, which is interesting.
Yes, it’s been curious swapping stories about that. But yeah, I never worked with him in that space. But it has just been a joy [doing Betrayal], and it’s exciting that we get to do it again.
Why do you think this 1978 play endured the way it has?
It’s strange how it continues to feel modern, because the play’s also about loneliness and trying to connect. A friend of mine saw the production in London and said, in many ways it’s about a woman asking to be loved, and she’s not getting the love that she needs from either man. Or, it’s about one or both men, and their vulnerability. These are enduring themes — isolation, the complexity of intimate relationships, trusting the person you’re with, the difficulty of being vulnerable, and what strength it takes to be vulnerable and what strength it takes to accept someone else’s vulnerability. I don’t think these are human characteristics that are going out of fashion any time soon.
Do you remember the first Broadway show you saw?
I think it might’ve been Follies. And then I’ve been a few times since — I saw Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett do The Mountaintop, James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors. I remember coming to shoot the last three days of Avengers in New York and The Book of Mormon had just opened, but we were all trying to get a ticket and we couldn’t get one. Not even the Avengers could get in — that’s how big a hit it was.
You’re also doing the Loki series for Disney+. When do things begin on that front?
Loki will start at the top of next year. He’s such a classical character. [Thor and Loki], they’re from Norse myths — they have a kind of gravitas to them. Robert in Betrayal is much more earthbound. They’re both very complex, but Robert is a publisher and a husband and a father. Loki is the god of mischief. [Laughs] Two quite different figures.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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