Actor Tate Donovan now one of the "Good People"

Sun Mar 6, 2011 5:31pm EST
 
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NEW YORK (Back Stage) - Tate Donovan looks back on his early days in show business with a degree of horror.

"I was full of myself, competitive, selfish, judgmental, and not generous," he says. "When I was a lot younger I was very arrogant. I remember saying to myself in college that if I didn't have an Academy Award by the time I was 30 I would quit. I was so pompous. You think you're so special. Maybe you have to be that way when you start out."

Maybe. Now 47 and considerably more easygoing, he has appeared on film ("Good Night and Good Luck," "Nancy Drew"), TV ("The O.C.," "Damages") and Broadway ("Amy's View," "Picnic"), and never had to take a day job. He can't help wondering what role luck has played in all this.

It's a topic he has been thinking a lot about lately, especially now that he's starring in David Lindsay-Abaire's new off-Broadway play, "Good People," running through May 8 at Manhattan Theater Club.

It addresses many themes that resonate for the actor. Not the least of these is the question of how much choice does anyone have in life -- or is it largely dumb luck?

"You need lucky breaks," Donovan said before a preview performance. "I don't know why I get work and someone else doesn't. My understudy, Tony Carlin, is a great actor, yet every night I get to go out there and he doesn't. Why is that?"

Directed by Dan Sullivan, "Good People" centers on an encounter between unemployed single mom Marge (Frances McDormand), who never left the working-class South Boston neighborhood she was born into, and her ex-boyfriend Mike (Donovan), who is from the same community but has moved on.

He's now a doctor, married to an English professor, and living in a wealthy town just outside of Boston. This is not a love story; it's about class and how the past may be a foreign and intrusive world.

Donovan sees a similarity between Marge, who charges back into his life for a job, and some of his old friends who think he can launch them into acting careers. "It can be awkward when they say things like 'Hey, I want to get into showbiz. How do I do that?' Everyone thinks it's so easy because they may have been the funny kid in high school. That feeling of people hitting you up and you're not really being able to do anything for them -- I relate to that. It's great to catch up with old friends, and then you want to go back to your life, especially if you no longer have anything in common with these people."   Continued...

 
<p>Cast member Tate Donovan attends the world premiere of "Nancy Drew" held at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood June 9, 2007. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>