James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury will be touring Australia as a part of the Pulitzer-Prize winning play “Driving Miss Daisy” as they joyfully continue their decades-long acting careers.
They veteran actors are excited to be continuing their careers into their 80s and see the new roles are exciting opportunities to keep doing what they love the most.
Even the demanding rehearsing schedules for the major production wasn’t enough to keep Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones away from the two roles that they immediately fell in love with.
Jones admitted that for him, it’s all a matter of just waking up and finding your passion for what you do.
“First of all, wake up,” the 81-year-old actor said. “Wake up and try to get your bones moving. And then be enthusiastic about what you do. I’m very enthusiastic about acting still. I love the process of creating a character.”
His love for creating characters is exactly what made him so passionate about taking on the role of Miss Daisy’s chauffeur Hoke.
Hoke’s illiteracy gave Jones a special connection to the character because his own problems with language and speaking left him practically mute until he was 14.
The legendary actor struggled with a debilitating stutter throughout his childhood, but after an English teacher set aside time to work with Jones on his speech he was able to become an eloquent speaker.
Hoke also found a way to conquer his struggle with language, and the personal connection to the character interested him long before he was even offered the chance to play him.
“When I saw Morgan [Freeman] do it, I said ‘I’d like to play that role,’” he said. “I thought I understood [Hoke] and I want to understand him more.”
Being casted in the play is finally giving the long time actor a chance to do just that.
“Hoke Colburn is such a character,” The “Lion King” voice actor said. “He’s illiterate, but he speaks English… and uses it very effectively and very poetically. That’s what I love about the role, trying to understand how he re-weaves language so he gets himself across.”
As for the “Murder She Wrote” actress, she is simply overjoyed to get to leave her former TV role behind and play a role that places her in the American South.
“You get on stage and you really can let it out,” Lansbury said with a wide grin on her face. “You’re not hampered by camera angles or lighting.”
Lansbury took on the role of Jessica Fletcher in the TV series “Murder She Wrote” for years, and she admits that it is the most memorable character she has played throughout her career but her heart remained on staged.
“Coming back to the theater about seven years ago turned the tide for me, it really did because it gave me a career after 70,” the 87-year-old acting veteran said. “I could still work in the theater and play great roles, but it wasn’t so easy to continue as a motion picture actress. Which I was very glad of – I didn’t like the way we were making movies… the kind of roles I would like to play didn’t seem to exist. But I love the theater and, as it turned out, it was the thing to do.”
While conquering speech challenges gave James a connection to Hoke, it was the southern atmosphere that made the iconic actress fall in love with playing Miss Daisy.
“I understand the southern mentality,” the “Miss Daisy” actress said. “I went to drama school with a number of young women who came from (the South) and I never forgot them and I never forgot the way they spoke. Their accents were so interesting to me.”
In addition to the thrill of getting back on stage and playing a Southern character, Angela also hinted that she is excited to be on stage with other acting greats – including Boyd Gaines.
“It’s a new role for me, I’m going into it hoping to bring something to the play that may be a little different than anyone else has up until now, and (hoping) to work with the best as an actress,” she told SBS. “The three of us together are going to be triumvirate – I hope.”
As for Gaines, he took the time to point out that he is perhaps one of Angela’s biggest fans.
“She’s got no greater fan certainly than I,” Gaines said with a smile. “I’m thrilled, that’s why I’m here.”
With special connections to their characters as well as their cast mates the play is sure to be yet another great success.
The talented actors have ten Tony Awards all together for their outstanding careers on Broadway.
The Australian tour will begin in Brisbane next month before they travel to Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.