Nathan Lane Q&A: ‘The Nance’ and ‘Modern Family’
Nathan Lane has won two Tony Awards but is still without an Emmy despite six nominations. But that shut-out could be over this year as he has two strong contenders in the derby: reprising his Tony-nominated performance in "The Nance" and returning to his scene-stealing role of Pepper Saltzman on "Modern Family." And, as Lane reminds Chris Beachum and me during our recent webcam chat, "Bob Newhart won on his seventh, so maybe that improves my chances." Indeed, the TV legend picked up the prize for a guest spot on "The Big Bang Theory" in 2013 and Lane knows that Emmy fact all too well as he was also a nominee that year for "Modern Family." With Newhart having spoken to Chris during that Emmys season, perhaps the Gold Derby good luck charm will kick in once again.
Lane lost his other two Emmy bids for playing Pepper to guest hosts of "Saturday Night Live" — Justin Timberlake in 2011 and Jimmy Fallon last year. He returns to the race this year for his appearance in "Fight or Flight." This comedy of errors sees Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) pitted against Pepper and his partner Ronaldo (Christian Barrillas). Both couples want to adopt a baby that they mistakenly believe has been abandoned. "It is amazing to me how they have maintained the quality of the writing over five years with 22 episodes a season; that is a lot of work."
Speaking of a lot of work, Lane explains how he flew west and shot his scenes in Los Angeles on a Monday, his one day off from a packed theater schedule. He started the most recent season by headlining the smash hit comedy "It's Only a Play" and then took a break from that sold-out Broadway run to reprise his role in Eugene O'Neill 's four-hour epic "The Iceman Cometh" over at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Neither of those plays required Lane to raise his voice in song. He won both of his Tonys for taking on iconic characters created by Zero Mostel in the musicals "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1996) and "The Producers" (2001). He had first contended at the Tonys for the 1992 revival of "Guys and Dolls" but lost to Gregory Hines ("Jelly's Last Jam").
Lane's most recent Tony nomination, and first as Best Actor (Play), was for his heartbreaking portrayal of a closeted burlesque star in Douglas Carter Beane's "The Nance" in 2013; he lost to Tracy Letts ("Who's Afraid of Viriginia Woolf?"). He tells us how happy he was when PBS decided to film this production as the kick-off to the 40th season of "Live from Lincoln Center."
As he explains, "they came and saw the play and were very moved by it. They felt it was important that the play be shown across the country. It is an interesting story of that time period, 1937, in New York political life and gay history." As for the finished product, "it is more intimate than the play, the camera gives you focus. You might have missed certain things if you were just sitting in the audience watching the play and I was surprised how intimate it became, how certain things became very strong and prevalent."