All in the Family



RON RIFKIN MAIN X390 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COMSince Saul’s come out, even though he’s sometimes on the periphery, when he is involved, he has dealt with a lot of pretty heavy issues that are a huge problem among older men in the gay community. Chief among them is this feeling of loneliness, that the best years of his life are behind him. How did you approach those scenes?
Well, I’m, 71. So I understand what that feeling is like. I’m surrounded by young people. I know I’m healthy and energetic, talented, attractive ... I know all that. I’ve been around a long time, I’ve done a lot of work, but still. I’m vulnerable and feel my age. I have those same feelings. Also, I had prostate cancer. I was diagnosed in June, so I’ve had to deal with that.

How is everything going with that? Everything is OK?
Yeah. I was diagnosed in April and had my surgery in June. You know, it’s all complicated. Actors really tend to use their inner world as much as they can. So certainly I can relate to all of that as far as Saul is concerned. Saul is my real name, actually.

Oh, yes, that's right.
Yeah ... it’s my given name. My best friend wrote this pilot, and so, originally, Sally’s character was named Iva, who’s my wife. When Betty [Buckley] did the show, the character was named Iva, but when Sally came along, they changed it to Nora. They felt that Sally wasn’t really an Iva. My wife was a dancer on Broadway.

And you, of course, have done tons of theater yourself.
Yeah, theater is my world.

I know TV schedules are busy, but during breaks, are you still able to do it?
Oh, sure. I did a [Brothers & Sisters creator Jon Robin Baitz] play a year ago at the Kirk Douglas, opened with Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Radnor ... we did that play [The Paris Letter], and Patty ... Patricia Wettig played my wife in it. So that was a year ago.

The cast on Brothers & Sisters is ...

One of the best on TV.
Probably. I would think so.

How many of you are on that show now?
Yeah, I think it’s gotten less. Emily [VanCamp, who played Rebecca] is no longer on the show. The kids are no longer regulars the way they were. I think it’s nine. Gilles [Marini] has been added to the cast.

How is the dynamic? You work with so many of them, but two in particular come to mind. What has your experience been like working with Sally Field?

You know, she’s an old friend of mine. We worked with each other at the Actors Studio going back 30-some-odd years. We really feel like brother and sister, so it’s really easy for us. And the scenes they seem to write for us usually are emotional scenes, usually dealing with a trauma of hers or a trauma of mine. It’s really easy clothing for us to wear. We just fall right into it.

Tags: television