T. R. Knight returns to the stage in Parade, a dramatic musical turn, within days of his Grey’s Anatomy character being killed off. Leo Frank, the character he’s playing, is based on the tragic life of a Jewish man who was wrongfully accused of murder. While he adamantly refuses to make comparisons -- they are, admittedly, a tad facile -- Knight was also the victim of a scandal that was rooted in discrimination and public proclamations over which he had little control.

While his decision to leave the hit TV series (for which he received an Emmy nomination) had nothing to do with his well-publicized coming-out process, it feels like Knight is more fully possessed than ever, projecting an inherent sweetness that is immediately palpable.
Knight radiates a refreshingly rare humility. You were a gay man playing a straight guy on television. Now you’re playing a Jewish character and presumably you’re not a Jew.
T. R. Knight: No, I’m not. In my life, I’ve been interested in Judaism. I’ve played Jewish characters before. When you play someone -- especially when you play someone who really existed -- you try to research as many parts of the person as you possibly can. That is definitely part of him. Being raised in Brooklyn is part of him. There are many books about this case. But when you do research and you play a real character, you also have to give over to the dramatic work. A lot of times, certain aspects of the character don’t match up. When I played Mozart in Amadeus, I remember doing loads of research, but the play is basically a memory play. Like Amanda in The Glass Menagerie [Tennessee Williams], it’s maybe not how she really was but how Tom imagined her. So it’s how Salieri imagined Mozart. You have to give over to the story that the playwright is telling. In this story, the character is a very complicated person. He’s very uncomfortable with emotions -- he’s comfortable with numbers. He’s a very analytical thinker and he’s out of place. He’s Jewish in a very Christian world and it definitely carries weight that he’s a Northerner in the South -- only 50 years after they were defeated in a war. He’s doubly an outsider and also in a marriage where they don’t quite understand each other; even though she is Jewish, she’s a Southerner and that’s confusing for him.

Do you personally relate to his outsider status in any way?

Anyone who is a member of a minority can relate. But not only people who are members of a minority; I think pretty much everyone walking on this earth can relate to being an outsider, in whatever shape or form. We’d be surprised that people we don’t think of as being part of a minority -- many of my friends, for example -- have things that can make them feel that way.

Tags: Theater