Where: his play's publicity office. 1 pm.
Tony Goldwyn has spent the past several months co-starring alongside Bryan Cranston and Tatiana Maslany in the hottest non-musical ticket on Broadway, the theatrical adaptation of the 1976 film Network. For audiences who only know him from his work in front of, and behind, television and movie cameras this past decade, it has been a thrill to see this classically-trained actor return to his roots. For Goldwyn, the choice to set foot on the boards again "has been amazing. It feels like coming home. I don't know what I'm going to be doing next after we finish Network on June 8th. I'm looking at things. Projects that I'm going to direct or act in. We'll see."
While his professional life may be up in the air at the moment, his commitment to his charity work remains consistent. He is on the Boards for both Americares, a health organization that offers free clinics and disaster relief all over the world, and Innocence Project, a legal organization that helps to free wrongfully convicted prisoners and reform criminal justice laws, and working with these organizations has become a major part of Goldwyn's life.
"Life is short, and I want to be engaged in life and productive and making a contribution in different ways. Whether that's through a piece of work, getting to be creative with my family, or trying to give something back in terms of charity work to shine a light and bring attention to organizations that are doing incredible work. To use whatever platform I might have to amplify other people's work that affects more lives than anything that I ever do."
Those things that Tony Goldwyn does—and does so well—are act and direct in film and television projects for over the past thirty years. Just recently, he immediately followed up a seven season run on the hit network series Scandal with another series, the new Netflix hit Chambers.
"Chambers is a really interesting piece because it covers a few different genres. It's in one sense a family drama. It's a high school drama. It's a supernatural thriller. The protagonist is a young Native American woman, and there are a lot of Native American characters, which is really ground-breaking for a television series. The writer/creator, Leah Rachel, is super talented, and it has a great group of young actors in it. So I really hope it finds its audience and has legs. There are a few projects I've worked on over the years that cover multiple bases, and this is one of them. That's one of the things that attracted me to that script. It's satisfying in a lot of different ways."
Something that many long time Scandal viewers were not satisfied with was the way in which his character was seemingly pushed to the sidelines during the shows latter seasons. What started out as a procedural case-of-the-week drama laced with political intrigue and forbidden romance had morphed into an edge-of-your-seat spy thriller that lost the hook that lured millions into the show in the first place. In the world of television watching, to have your favorite show do a 180 degree turn is a no-no. But as Goldwyn explains, in the world of television making, it is par for the course.
"When you sign up for a television series, first of all, you are signing over the reins to the creator. So it was Shonda Rhimes' choice how she wants to evolve her characters, and there's a natural ebb and flow of storylines where one character becomes very prominent for a while and then recedes into a more supporting function. That happened with Fitz, back and forth, throughout the show. So for me, I always knew that when Fitz left the Presidency, he would become a less prominent character and would have less force, so I was fine with that. The show kind of became something else, and I was happy to support that.
"I do a lot of different things in my life, so it actually was a luxury to be able to say, 'Okay, I'm not so heavily in the show right now, so I can go and be spending my time doing this or that.' If I was directing, then I would do that. So I never felt ill-used."
One of the main takeaways that Tony Goldwyn has received as a result of starring on Scandal is the addition of a whole new fan base made up of African-American women of all ages. The love affair between young, black and single political fixer Olivia Pope and his character, middle-aged, white and married POTUS Fitzgerald Grant III was the foundation of the show's popularity. Throughout the run, interviewers seemed to stay clear of asking about the racial element of the romance as if it was the elephant in the room, but not this interviewer.
TH: So you know you're the poster boy for interracial romance now.
TG: (looks surprised) I am?
TH: (chuckles) Oh, yeah! Most black women I talk to adore you. Just the mere mention of your name-- (laughs)
TH: Perfect example. I was telling a co-worker about interviewing you, and this young black lady I was helping said, (puts on around-the-way girl voice) "Y'know, I don't really find white guys attractive. But, --" (leans in conspiratorially and clutches his thigh) "-- gurrrl! --"
TG: (outbursts with laughter)
TH: "-- Tony Goldwyn is a Fine! Ass! Man!"
TG: (still laughing) Aw, that's sweet!
TH: Then another black lady in line behind her, who is older and usually very reserved, scoots over and says, (puts on church lady voice) "Are y'all talking about Tony Goldwyn?!"
TG: (cracks up laughing again)
TH: "Mmm! He can come to my cookout anytime!" (play slaps his knee) "If you know what I mean?"
TG: (still laughing) That's so funny!
TH: It's always some variation of "I don't like white men. But..." (winks and points at him)
TG & TH: (both laughing)
TH: I just think it's the greatest thing! How does that feel for you?
TG: (smiles) It's great! (laughs) I'm not even sure how to react to it. It's very flattering!
TH: I know there are quite a number of actors who would question the believability of playing a sexual scene with a black woman, which just perpetuates the myth that black women are not seen as desirable. But you've played several parts where you are seen at least kissing a black woman on screen.
TG: (thinks for a moment, then nods) That's right.
"I guess that's true for those actors. I've never experienced that. I experienced it much more back in the day where people were afraid to play a gay character. I played a few early on in my career, and people were like—" His voice falls to a hushed whisper. "'Are you sure you want to do that? That could be career suicide!'" Goldwyn shakes his head at the sheer ignorance. "People have their baggage, but they need to set that shit down and connect with people on a human level!
"On a deeper level, I feel like Scandal has given me a kind of welcoming into the African-American community that I feel incredibly privileged about, especially in this moment. The divides between everything are so starkly highlighted in these years that we are going through that it can be in one sense good because a lot that was buried under the surface is now exposed, but some of it needed to stay under the surface.
"So I felt during Scandal, and since, that it was like I found a connection. I felt like as a white guy—not that anybody would ever be the exact opposite—there was almost a familial thing where I have felt embraced in a way that I feel super lucky and appreciative of. I don't know how else to put it. I'm not even sure I totally understand it because the cultural bridges and divides between all of us are something that I'm struggling to understand, and to figure out how to communicate with people. Always!" he exclaims. "Differentness is always a challenge, whether it's racial divides, cultural divides, political divides. I'm always trying to find ways to be allied with people and respectful of people, and share and make differentness a strength. Just the fact that people feel that way--aside from just being flattering--it's also really beautiful."
Because Tony Goldwyn was on a hit series playing one half of the hottest couple on television, it was understandable for fans to become highly invested in the characters. It has been more than a year since the show last aired, yet he still has to contend with a fandom that at times can be a bit too familiar and overzealous with their admiration.
"The way I handle that is with trying to be humble. If people are appreciating my work and supporting it, I am grateful to them, and I try to be gracious. It's a little bit tricky with the fan thing because there can be a false intimacy that develops. I think it's always been that way, but social media has really enhanced it because you are on Twitter or Instagram, and certainly with Scandal we were very interactive with our audience.
"I believe that the vast majority of people, it's fun for them, and they enjoy it. Then there are obviously people who maybe it's not such a healthy thing. I've never understood the whole 'super fan' thing. There are people whose work I admire, but to be obsessive about it? Even back in high school, I remember some of my friends were really into only just one particular band, but I didn't get it.
"People tend to become obsessed or project fantasies that are not real, and I have no way of knowing which is which. I treat everybody the same. I don't know who is who. I don't know if somebody's just a cool person, and that's what they're into. They give me gifts, and that's so sweet. But I have to be careful not to let someone get too—" He raises his hands and makes a pushing away gesture.
"I think some people can have a fantasy that it's actually a relationship or a friendship. They think it's a mutual thing, and it's not. We're not friends. We have not actually developed a friendship. I'm grateful to you for supporting my work and expressing your enthusiasm and admiration, and I'm super humbled by that. But I'm a little cautious if I see the same faces over and over."
Some of those same faces have been known to bully each other online about who has the most selfies with him, and who can or cannot afford to travel to events where he is scheduled to appear. The worst are the ones who call him "bae" and profess their undying devotion to him while they spew out insults directed at his loved ones and promote blind items that insinuate imagined relationships. Instead of being angry or irritated, Goldwyn merely dismisses the hypocrisy and immaturity.
"That's all silliness. That gossip. The internet is just a big version of high school. And not in a good way! I don't read the comments on social media. I don't go online and look at pictures of myself. I certainly don't go trolling the internet to see what people say about me. Why would I want to? I can't know about any of that. I have no awareness of that because I don't pay any attention to it. I think people get all worked up about that stuff as it's happening, but then it's gone—" He snaps his finger, "—in five seconds because someone else is saying something else. People want attention, and they want to say inflammatory things. If you want to engage with that person, then that's your fault. And you know what else? All that stuff just evaporates. People talk shit, and that's their right. It literally has nothing to do with me.
"I feel the same way about gossip in general. People love to gossip and talk shit about each other and I learned professionally early on, don't engage in that stuff. It happens all the time in the film business. In the makeup trailer, people are talking because there's a lot of pressure and tension and personalities. 'Ooh, you know what she did?' 'Really? What happened? What did they do?' Or an actor or some producer has behaved badly, and people like it. It creates tremendous discord and toxicity, and I have no patience for it in a professional environment. I do not engage, and I will shut it down if I see it! So I don't indulge in it because to engage in it is to amplify it, and it's all people's insecurities."
There are many families in Hollywood today who are part of a second, or even third, generation working in some capacity of show business. But when you hear the name "Goldwyn," you know you are dealing with the original Hollywood dynasty. Four generations and counting, it has been synonymous with the origins of the industry and quality films.
TH: I hope you don't mind if I geek out on you for a moment because even though I'm sitting here all calm and collected, the film historian in me is like, (bounces up and down on the couch) "He's a Goldwyn! He's a Goldwyn! He was born to make films!"
TG: (laughs) Growing up, I hated having a famous last name. (stops himself and rethinks his statement) Hate is a strong word, but it was a drag. In school, there was always somebody saying, (puts on surfer dude voice) "You're MGM!" When I first started out as an actor, I was going to change it and I'm very glad I didn't.
TH: That would have been the second time your name had gotten changed.
TG: That's right.
TH: "Tony Goldwyn" sounds a lot better than "Tony Gelbfisz."
TG: (smiles) It does.
TH: Bottom line, there would be no Hollywood film industry without your grandfather! But I've always wondered, when you're sitting in a meeting listening to some studio executive tell you, "No." about a project or financing, do you ever feel like saying, (yells) "If it wasn't for my family, you wouldn't have this job!"
TG: (lets out a loud laugh)
TH: (laughing) Come on, admit it. You know you have. I would!
TG: (still laughing and nods) I've thought that at times. (smiles) And I had two famous grandfathers!
To Tony Goldwyn's credit, he has never behaved like the entitled Prince of Hollywood that his name would allow. Everyone I have spoken to who has worked with him or knows him has nothing but the highest praise for his character and work ethic. As one person put it, "If anybody in this town had a right to walk around like his shit don't stink, it would be that guy. But he is as chill as can be." And a beloved legend stated of his fellow actor, "He comes from this old Hollywood family, so you think the worst. But he's been around a long time, and he stuck with it. And he's a good actor! It's nice to see him now getting the respect he deserves."
With the rise in the news lately of celebrity parents who go too far to make their children's lives as comfortable as possible, and age old tales of industry nepotism, Goldwyn can understand why assumptions would be made about him. But Mama and Papa Goldwyn were determined not to raise any spoiled brats. "That was all good parenting," he simply states. "It was drilled into us—sometimes a bit too much—that we were no better than anyone else. It's what my wife Jane and I have passed onto our children.
"I was in a family where I at least had a sense of what the business was, which most people don't have. The more literal nepotism of someone gave me a job? No, that didn't happen. I went to two auditions that I got through my family. One through my father and one through my brother and both auditions were terrible. Everybody in the room was awkward because they were only seeing me because of who I was related to as a favor, and I just decided if I was going to do this, it had to be on my own.
"I wished then I had the opportunity I got in Ghost earlier, but it took me six years of working as a professional actor before I got a big break. I'm grateful for that now, but in terms of people's preconceptions, people are going to think what they're going to think, and it took me some time to stop worrying about that. I was never worried about what the general public thought, but I was concerned about how people in the business perceived me. It was important to me that people not think that I had been handed everything.
"Now I look at it a little bit differently because I did feel for years like, 'No! I did this on my own, and I worked hard for everything I got and I made my own way!' To some degree, that is true, but honestly, it's become a cliché because that's what everyone says with my inherent privilege as an upper-middle class white man in America. A lot of my colleagues who are people of color or women had to struggle way harder. I work hard, and I try to be humble about it.
"I have a friend, Kennedy Odede, who grew up in the biggest slum in Africa, and he has started an extraordinary community organization and is really changing the world. And Kennedy is fascinated by people who achieve great things. So many people who have achieved great things did so, and became prominent, because of either the luck of birth or the luck of circumstance. Like how much is inherent gifts and talent and hard work, and how much is you just happen to be born in this situation? Either not in poverty, or you happen to be the guy that they were like, 'Okay, you're the guy.'
"Kennedy said to me, 'Tony, I know you're good, but you just got handed that part on Scandal. You had the tremendous good fortune just because you got lucky. That just fell in your lap.' And I'm like, 'Yep, that's true!' I'm pretty aware of that, and if someone resents me for it, I'm sorry. But I think we all need to be aware and to be careful not to take too much credit for our achievements or our successes or what we have been able to have in our lives, and I don't think there's anything constructive about apologizing for it. As this same person said to me, 'Guilt is a luxury that poor people can't afford. Your feeling guilty about it is completely useless to me.'
"I don't feel guilty unless I'm not paying attention, you know what I mean? Unless I'm into my comfortable little bubble where I can delude myself into thinking, 'I'm Tony Goldwyn! Everything's awesome!'" he declares in a self-mocking tone. "Whatever your deal is, you need to be not living in your own head. And that's connected to the whole thing of gossiping and internet trolling and all that stuff we talked about. It's all a bubble existence."
Even though this publication is called All About ACTORS, if you are having a chat with someone who has four critically-acclaimed feature films and dozens of episodic television credits under his belt, you would be remiss if you did not ask him about directing within the two mediums.
"They're quite different jobs. I started out directing movies. I had been an actor for a long time, but the first thing I directed was a movie. When you direct a film, you really are the creative center of it and often developing it from an original idea that you work on with a writer, or finding a screenplay and working with a writer to get it into shape. Then from casting to filming it and creating the visual style, and then months and months of editing every single frame, every piece of music. You're the final arbitrator of it.
"Television is very different. Television is very writer-driven. The creator of the show is the writer, and the director of the pilot will often create the visual style for the show, but in service of that writer and what their vision is. A director coming in to direct episodes really steps into a moving train and you have to adapt to whatever the style of that show is. You have a very short amount of time to prep it, and then you shoot it, and your job really is to get the best performances that you can and really work with the actors to elevate the material within the time that you are there. You try to get into the head of the creator for what they would want and what the spirit of that show is that already exists. I've had directors say to me, 'You know your character better than I do.' They have a very hands-off approach, but I like a director who comes in with a sense of collaboration and inclusiveness.
"It's a fun job. But then you go in the editing room and put your cut together and hand it over to the creator, and all their decisions are final. So it's a smaller job, and it's less responsibility, but it's also not as full-bodied a job creatively. I prefer features, but I find I enjoy directing television. I think a good television director can make a tremendously important contribution, but it's not something I would want to do as a steady diet. What I like to do is produce and direct television where I'm involved in developing the thing from the beginning to the end like a film director."
A mutual friend of ours recently told me, "Tony is one of the finest guys in the biz," and I cannot think of a better and more succinct way of describing him. Whether it is acting or directing and producing, it will be interesting to see what happens in this next chapter of Tony Goldwyn's accomplished career. He is at a place in his life where he no longer has anything to prove to anyone but himself, and he also has the wisdom to look back on the path his career has taken thus far with great appreciation.
"I feel that I have a balance in my life that I'm very, very grateful for. My family is very important to me, and parenting is very important to me, and my marriage is very important to me, and yet my work is also really important. So I feel like I've somehow stumbled into finding and maintaining a kind of balance, and I'm very grateful that I didn't let one erase the other, which can easily happen. I have a lot of friends that that's happened to, and I easily could have fallen into that trap. At times I felt like I was making career sacrifices in order to support my family, and there were other times I felt like I sacrificed aspects of my family in order to service my career. Luckily, that balance was able to find equilibrium again." AAA
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This was an amazing article about Tony. Thank you for interviewing him. He is such a humble actor and great to his fans.
TG is one of a kind. He does many things within a very short period of time and does all of them very well. I acknowledge him being a role model to me, I encourage him in all his endeavors and that he could go beyond acting by putting most of it to real life. Example is his role of President in SCANDAL. Writing that and assisting in acting and acting like he did, was great talent. God doesn't give that to many people. I love you Tony.
Tony Goldwyn is humble, kind, compassionate, giving and honorable. Plus fearless. How many other white males would have taken on Scandal the way Tony did showing complete love for a black woman? That took guts for him to take the assaults he no doubt received. But the love he garnered for that risk will last a lifetime. Also, he is a handsome and fine actor. He's a total package. Love him. Wish him well and will continue to follow his career.
I once read that humility is authenticity. The phrase was explained to me as living the truth about oneself and with others. It's about spiritual maturity and presenting who you are to others, as you are. Not presenting a fake version of yourself. This is the feeling I had after reading your article with Tony. I could sense the realness of him and how grateful he is for everything he has accomplished but more importantly how grateful he is for his parents' guidance, the love, and respect of and for his marriage and children. And how he was able to not (over the years) lose himself completely in one extreme (balancing career and family) or the other.
It's fascinating, I think, to read about people whose life is basically handed to them and yet they find a way to make it on their own merits. Hard work. Creating opportunities for themselves when no one is listening or paying them any attention. I remember after Ghost and Tony was not really in the 'know' anymore. I followed his career and noticed that he continued to grind it out with smaller projects smaller roles and bought his time. Paid his dues. Studied his craft and is now an outstanding actor/director.
I also find it comforting in how he treats 'us' as fans. I totally fangirl out, after meeting Tony earlier this year and desperately tried not to embarrass myself. Tony, being the person he is, treated everyone equally. If you asked for an autograph, photo, and hug. He gave you all three. Just don't try that was Bryan Cranston. His bodyguard shut people down. LOL.
I totally understand why fans behave as they do in his presence. I remember in an interview Tony mentioning that fans react to whatever situation they experience him in and that it's not completely him that people are really drawn to but whatever role/character he played. And for that, he is touched that he is able to bring a character/role to life. He goes on to say that as long as he remembers it's not really him, 'Tony'. Because we as fans don't' know him personally, allows him to be Tony when he meets fans and it is then he can show his appreciation, gratitude, and thank us for our support. Tony is one of the few actors that really appreciates his fans and acknowledge 'us' all the time. And yes I agree with him, we are not friends. LOL! If we are all honest with ourselves, meaning fans, we know what it takes to be in a relationship, friendship or otherwise, and from there we should all agree that we are not friends with any of the actors we stan. I hope that one reality of fact won't keep us, as fans, from appreciating our favs, what they represent and mean to each of us.
Congratulations on interviewing Tony, not once but twice. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your interview and looking forward to reading your article with Bryan Cranston.