“I’d never seen anything that talked about grieving the way this movie does,” says Tony Award winner Reed Birney of his latest film “Mass.” In the directorial and screenwriting debut from Fran Kranz, two sets of parents meet years after a school shooting claimed their sons. Birney portrays Richard, whose son committed the act of violence. The tremendous experience of playing this man tortured by impossible circumstances (alongside a group of stellar castmates) was catnip for Birney. “It was the kind of thing that, as an actor, I’ve waited my whole life for,” he confesses. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“He’s condemned to a life of despair,” reveals Birney of his character Richard about the effects of loss. The film centers around a meeting between Richard and his ex-wife Linda (Ann Dowd), whose son committed the school shooting, and another couple (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton), parents of a victim. That Richard remains closed off and unable to truly examine his own feelings, even in such a rare and potentially healing situation, makes him the ultimate tragic figure. “I found his repression heartbreaking,” admits Birney. Instead of finding a path forward, “he wants to hang on to any little shred of what his life was before the incident.”
Acts of violence and death have become all too common in contemporary American society. And the opportunity to tell the often untold stories of the child-less parents was a challenging and unique opportunity for the veteran actor. “When these things happen…almost the first thing I think is, ‘how are these families going to survive?’” says Birney. The veteran performer was grateful for a role in which he could embody what someone thrust into that situation might feel. “We were playing ordinary people in truly extraordinary circumstances,” he notes.
Birney won a Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in “The Humans.” He has an additional Tony nomination for “Casa Valentina.” His performance in “Mass” recently earned him his first Gotham Award nomination.
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