Jesse Tyler Ferguson interview: ‘Take Me Out’

“My job was to find out who my Mason was and carve a new path for him,” explains Jesse Tyler Ferguson of his character in “Take Me Out.” The actor portrays an accountant who discovers a love of baseball in the Second Stage Theater revival of Richard Greenberg’s Tony-winning play. His efforts to reinvent the role earned him a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Play, his first bid after 25 years on stage. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

“I was incredibly intimidated. I dealt with a lot of imposter syndrome,” admits Ferguson. He had seen the original staging of “Take Me Out” where Denis O’Hare gave a critically lauded (and Tony-winning) performance as Mason. That performance still lived “vividly” in his memory, so part of the rehearsal process was finding new ways to embody the role. “A lot of time it was doing the exact opposite of what I remember Denis doing,” he notes, “I chose to take a lot of the comedy out of the first act and make him more pragmatic and more analytical.” This setup allowed Ferguson to infuse elements of his own unique personality into Mason by the time the character blossoms in Act 2.

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Of course, anyone who has seen or read the play will know that one of its greatest highlights is the monologue where Mason passionately describes baseball as “a perfect metaphor for hope in a democratic society.” When Ferguson was offered the part, he took the script to a park bench to reread, and “just cried” when he reached this speech. “Being up there and navigating that monologue… it’s such a gift,” he professes. The actor believes this moment is special because of the ways in which the hyper analytical Mason attempts to tap into the overwhelming emotions of the sport. The audience is easily pulled along for the ride, eliciting audible gasps and sighs which thrill Ferguson. “Even if you don’t love baseball, it means so much, it’s so meaningful,” he says.

After “marinating” in this character for over a year and a half when Broadway shuttered due to Covid, Ferguson feels like he has arrived at a place of great depth in his performance. Though that doesn’t mean he is finished exploring. “I love my version of Mason,” he expresses, “It took a long time for me to figure him out. I’m still kind of tinkering with him.” Greenberg’s script provides plenty of emotions to mine every night. “The part is such a gift. He has beautiful dialogue and glorious monologues,” gushes the actor. “If you honor that and you play the truth of it, so much of the work is already being done for you.”

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As for the Tony nomination, Ferguson confesses: “It’s a big moment for me.” Not only is this his first career nomination, but this year marks the 25th anniversary of his New York stage debut in “On the Town” at the Delacorte Theater. That production quickly transferred to Broadway, marking his debut on the rialto (and in a serendipitous twist, his “On the Town” scene partner Lea DeLaria is currently starring in “POTUS” directly across 44th Street from “Take Me Out”). Though the actor tries not to hype up awards moments, he’s also a five-time Emmy nominee for “Modern Family,” there’s a line of Mason’s which he continually returns to: “don’t diminish it, it would be ungrateful… I keep reminding myself of that,” says Ferguson, “it’s a profound thing. It is meaningful.”

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UPLOADED Jun 6, 2022 2:36 pm