“The family’s desires and dysfunctions are streamlined in a way that is already in the writing; we just hit it really fast,” he added. “It’s in your face, just like everything that is happening is in our faces now, and we don’t have time to sit around and meander our way into those things; they’re immediate.”
Jason Bowen rounds out the Tyrone clan as Jamie: a colorblind casting choice (Bowen and Blankson-Wood are Black, Camp and Marvel are white) that O’Hara said is intentional, though not one he wanted to factor into the DNA of the production.
“I was never going to do this play with all white people; it wasn’t anything that I had to think about,” O’Hara said. “Elizabeth had mentioned Ato, being a fan of his, so we only held auditions for Jamie, and Jason killed it. There was no manufacturing of the cast’s racial dynamics for any reason other than wanting the best actors we could find.”
Bowen notes that the heft of the story’s themes, as written, override any possible racial interpretation the cast could’ve envisioned.
“It’s a play about a family as they navigate addiction, and that’s something that transcends any racial aspect that we could even attempt to investigate,” Bowen said. “The play’s not about that. Robert could’ve come in with some conceptual idea he wanted to introduce, but it’s still going to boil down to these relationships.”
Blankson-Wood, who was performing a return engagement of his Tony-nominated role in “Slave Play” while rehearsals for “Long Day’s Journey” took place during the day, said that being able to act in a production that did not take his own race into account was “liberating.”
“The fact that I do not have to carry how I, as a Black person, fit into this family is just pure acting to me, because it focuses only on the imaginative truth of the work,” he said. “From an outsider’s perspective, I get the impulse to want to understand the racial dynamic, but that’s something I’m excited for the audience to do; that’s their job.”
Source: NY Times