Marsha Stephanie Blake has worked with an incredibly long list of hugely talented individuals over the years on movies and shows like When They See Us, Luce and Orange Is the New Black, just to name a few. But she’s also got an extensive amount of stage credits to her name and there was one in particular I was mighty eager to highlight on her upcoming edition of Collider Ladies Night, the Off-Broadway production of Othello that also starred Daniel Craig, Rachel Brosnahan and David Oyelowo.
The show ran from November 2016 to January 2017 at the New York Theatre Workshop, an experience Blake said felt a lot like doing theater in college. The scale of the show couldn’t compare to an enormous Broadway production, but with an ensemble like that, you can bet tickets sold out fast. Here’s how Blake described it:
“That whole experience was just remarkable in so many ways, a lot of it being that we were Off-Broadway so it wasn’t this huge show. It was huge in terms of who was in it. You know, 007 is in your play, you’re gonna get sold out. The minute we announced, we were sold out. It was huge in that, but we were in this tiny theater, New York Theatre Workshop downtown. When I say tiny, I mean probably as big as a large studio apartment. We were all in one dressing room. They just had a curtain between the boys and the girls. There were three girls and maybe 10 boys. So my little desk was next to David’s desk, but we had a curtain between us right here. But I literally could reach over and grab all his make-up and steal all his shit.”
As for working with Craig in particular, Blake was surprised by how nervous he seemed in her audition:
“What was wonderful about him, first of all, my audition with him, I don’t know why, but I went in and I’d done a bunch of Shakespeare and I was pretty confident with my Shakespeare stuff – and I don’t know if he did this on purpose; I should ask him at some point – he seemed so nervous that I ended up being not nervous. Does that make sense? He was sweating! We started doing the scene, he started speaking and he was speaking so low that I was like, ‘What? What are you saying? I can’t hear you.’ I was like, ‘Are you nervous? You need to speak up or something.’ And I found out later on [casting director] Jack [Doulin] was impressed by the fact that I wasn’t intimidated by Daniel and I was yelling at him right away to speak up.”
Whether you’re looking at Craig’s run as James Bond or the confidence he brings to most of his big screen roles, it could be easy to assume that Craig tackles everything he does with a degree of assuredness. Whether the sweat and nerves in this instance were manufactured or not, things wound up panning out great for both Blake and Craig on Othello.
“Maybe he was trying to make me feel less nervous, but can he manufacture sweat? I don’t know! Maybe it was a Shakespeare thing? Who knows? All I know is I went in there and what I saw was somebody who was like a deer caught in headlights a little bit, a little panicky and I immediately tried to make him laugh by yelling at him, and then we had the best audition. So we went from this very big audition and then [director] Sam Gold wanted us to do it as intimate, he was like, ‘Pretend like you’re in a movie and you’re just talking to each other right here. Don’t make it theatrically big, make it movie big.’ And we ended up doing this really emotional crazy scene like right up on each other and there you go. The rest is history. But he’s lovely. He’s just fun to be around. He’d be backstage playing his guitar and none of that big confident, as you say, James Bond personality at all. Except for when he was on stage and he had to be Iago.”
Looking for even more from Blake? Click here to hear all about her experience working on Django Unchained and keep an eye out for her full episode of Collider Ladies Night coming soon in celebration of the big debut of the new Netflix series, Social Distance.