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Quick Hitters With Richard Jenkins

Exclusive outtakes from Davy Rothbart's interview with character actor Richard Jenkins

Davy Rothbart interviewed Richard Jenkins, one of Hollywood’s most recognizable character actors, about Jenkins’ career, the kind of roles directors always seem to offer him, and his new films, Norman and The Rum Diary. Enjoy these exclusive extras from their conversation, and read the entire Q&A here.


You started out in theater, working for a long time with the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, and later serving as its artistic director. Which plays have you seen recently that really stood out?

I saw Clybourne Park, which won the Pulitzer, and deservedly so — a really strong production. And I saw and especially loved Good People, which stars Frances McDormand. I love her in anything she’s in, on-screen or onstage, it doesn’t matter.

Music plays a big role in The Visitor, as your character, Professor Walter Vale, takes piano lessons as a way to connect with his deceased wife, and later learns how to play the drums from the Syrian immigrant he’s befriended. What kind of music do you like to listen to?

I’m kind of a music illiterate. I pretty much listen to whatever I like and try to keep it a secret because it’s so cheesy. I grew up in the early ’60s and listened to a lot of doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll. I love artists like Harry Connick, Jr. And I’ve always been a Tony Bennett guy. These days I like this guy Jason Mraz; he’s terrific — a throwback, a real balladeer. And I heard an a cappella group the other day called Straight With No Chaser. They were amazing. I like stumbling onto music that’s new to me. Andrew Bird, who did the score for Norman, I caught him on Letterman and was a fan right away. I’d like to see him in concert someday. And then there’s Tom Waits — I’ve loved him for 20 years. I introduced my daughter to his music, but she’ll deny it. She’ll say it was the other way around.

Davy Rothbart is the creator of Found magazine, editor of the Found books, author of the story collection The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas, and a frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life. He’s also the founder of an annual hiking trip for inner-city kids called Washington II Washington. In November, he’s visiting 15 cities in the Midwest and East Coast on the Found vs. Found tour.


Previously from Davy Rothbart:

What’s Your Deal? With Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko
What’s Your Deal? With Joseph Gordon-Levitt
What’s Your Deal? With Dominic Fredianelli
What’s Your Deal? With Bismack Biyombo

Filed Under: Art, Celebrities, General topics, Richard Jenkins