Barry Primus Interview-Part 3

Barry Primus
By Harry Governick
Artistic Director, TheatrGROUP
September 3, 2001
The Interview – Page 3

B: And you could carry that off.

H: It was an experiment.

B: Yeah. But to carry out a two-hour play where you’re gonna be drunk in one scene, and you’re drunk for the whole play… how would you do it, you know? You need your strength on the stage. You need your sense. You’ve gotta be responsible to the play and to the other actors. You know. Who knows what the hell you’re gonna do? I would be terrified to do that. But on film, I can see taking a drink, and, you know… or… you know, something…


B: I don’t know about that.

H: I know. I’m just kidding.

B: I did a film where I had to take LSD, but I didn’t take it for that. I used something else. The fun is to create things. Give the illusion of it, you know? I had to play, on Cagney And Lacey, a drug addict, and uh… I would take coffee before the shot, you know? I would take coffee, and then, I had a brandy bottle around. I would sniff the brandy bottle, because a brandy bottle… I remembered that when I drank brandy it could make me quite hyper. So between the two, I would just use that sometimes. But I would also mix that with other stuff. Other sensory things. But I certainly wouldn’t try drugs on film.

H: No, I was… something had popped into my mind… when I first started with Strasberg in ’75 there was talk that Jack Nicholson had done LSD when he made this movie, uh…

B: The Trip.

H: Yeah, The Trip.

B: Well, he might of. In those days. You know? They certainly might have. But that’s not what made him a good actor. He’s a talented actor anyway.

H: It was just a rumor anyway.

B: Well, some people might have experimented with that. It was the late sixties and the seventies. And people were experimenting. But the stage is quite different, isn’t it?

H: Oh, yeah.

B: Did you see the James Dean thing?

H: No, I didn’t.

B: I played Nick Ray, and he’s very hyper, and this and that, and I worked on a sensory thing for that.

H: Which was?

B: Drugs. He had some problems with that. I worked on that at the Actors Studio in a sensory class. With Susan Peretz. I’d go in there and work on it. Then when I got to do it, I dropped it. Just let the work be there. Because whatever you work on is going to be there anyway. My problem, and a lot of people’s problem is to hold on to the work.

H: Trust it?

B: Yeah, you gotta trust it. You gotta trust that it’s in the work. It’s in the work. And then just do the scene.

H: So then you would work on certain sensory elements that would recreate ‘where you would be’ if you were doing a certain drug?

B: I did that a little bit, but mostly I worked on a substitute for drugs, because I don’t take drugs. I used [sensorially creating] electric current in my hands and legs.

H: Oh. That’s good.

B: And I used talking to a person who makes me hyper [substitution].

H: Did you create a person, as in an ‘imaginary monologue’?

B: Yeah. A friend of mine. We would be at a party, and I would be talking as if I were at a party with him. I felt free and open. And crazy, you know? That’s when people say, ‘Hey, Barry, what are you on drugs, or what?’, you know? There are certain topics that I talk about that make me hyper. And that was it.