Jonathan Pryce makes 'Merchant of Venice' a family affair

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Jonathan Pryce is no stranger to William Shakespeare, but one play he has refused to do is "The Merchant of Venice" — until now.

Fresh off two seasons on "Game of Thrones" as High Sparrow, the Tony winner is now on an international tour as Shylock in a Shakespeare's Globe production that co-stars his daughter, Phoebe Pryce.

The tour takes him to Washington, D.C., and Chicago this summer before a fall tour of five Chinese cities, including Hong Kong and Beijing, a return to the Globe in London and a bow in Venice. He told The Associated Press this may be his last Shakespeare play.

Associated Press: Why has it taken so long for you to do this part?

Pryce: I've never really liked the play. I never thought I'd play Shylock. When the Globe asked me last year to do it, I immediately said, 'No. It's not something I want to do.' And then I thought, 'I usually say no or yes too quick.' There are projects I can look back on where I wish I'd said 'no.' So I said, 'Give me the weekend so I can read it again.'

AP: You're performing it in the UK, U.S. and China during what many people believe is a rise in anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments.

Pryce: It seems more than ever, for me, more appropriate that we should be performing this play. I mean, you've got your own situation here, but in Britain the vote that we should leave the European Union unleashed something very quickly. We live very comfortably in Britain thinking there's very little racism and we all get on very well together. And then you realize, 'No, it's there, it's still there. It's just been under the surface. And given a voice, that voice gets loud.

AP: Might you ever return to "Game of Thrones"?

Pryce: I can safely say that I'm dead. I'd like not to be dead because the two seasons I did, I really, really enjoyed it. It was a great character, well-written. There's a reason why it's the No. 1 TV show in the world — because of the care they put into it. I was surprised when I went into Season 5. I expected them to be rather complacent — 'We've got this hit show' — but it's not like that at all.

AP: A revival of your old show "Miss Saigon" is touring Britain and will be back on Broadway. You've see it. What are your thoughts?

Pryce: If anything, it's darker and harder and my old character — the Engineer — there's even more desperation about his situation. Again, like 'The Merchant of Venice,' it's reflecting our times. Even though it's about Vietnam, it's about people desperate to leave a war-torn country.

AP: In this play, you share the stage with your real-life daughter. Is that odd?

Pryce: It's nice that we're father and daughter, but she's a very independent person in her own right. We get on very well. And also their relationship onstage is very good because we're in conflict. It's a lot easier to be in conflict with your family on a stage than off.

AP: Are there any Shakespeare roles you'd like to do?

Pryce: Well, I've done most of the big ones. I mean, I could do a geriatric 'Romeo and Juliet.' I did 'King Lear' in 2012 and I thought I wouldn't do another Shakespeare after that. And then this came along. But there aren't that many roles for people my age that I want to do. I wished that I loved 'The Tempest' more as a play. And I have said 'no' to that a few times and never thought, 'Let me re-read it and see if it will change my mind.'

AP: You know you'll be back in five years starring in 'The Tempest.'

Pryce: I know. You can quote me.


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