‘Scandal’s’ Tony Goldwyn on His Early Career in Theater

These days, Tony Goldwyn is causing a national “Scandal” every week as the leader of the free world on ABC’s hit show, but he got his start — and his first notice on these pages — on the stage in New York City.

Do you remember your first mention in Variety?

It was for an off-Broadway play. It was a dream come true. It was like I made it! It was one of those small casting announcements, but to me, it was like being on the front page. One of my first auditions when I got to New York had been at the Manhattan Theatre Club. I had auditioned for the lead and didn’t get it. But I got the understudy. I went through a few months of having to watch someone else play my part, which was a growth experience. When I auditioned for their next show (“Digby”), they ended up casting me.

What was the best thing about that time in your life? 

I grew up in a Hollywood family, but theater was what held the real romance for me. All of the actors in the cast with me were older than me, and they were people whose work I admired. Just to be in that company was a really intoxicating time in my life. The show was really funny and a hit, so I thought, “Oh my God, I’ve arrived.” But what I wasn’t prepared for was when the show closed, I was unemployed again.

Did you get any support from your family?

My older brother was starting his own business at the time. He had left this safe corporate world to be an entrepreneur and running a company out of his apartment. He was struggling just as much as I was, and I said to him, you know, when we get to be 40-years-old and look back on this time, if we don’t appreciate the romance of it and how exciting it is then we’re idiots. And we were a couple of a–holes.

How long was it before you got your big break? 

I’m still waiting for the next one! I learned that breaks are incremental. My big break was “Ghost,” but that was six years later. “Digby” was a break that I could actually make a living with. It gave me a credit that meant something. At that stage, you’re one of a thousand young actors starting out. That enabled me to be one of a hundred.

What did you learn from the experience?

What a taboo it is to laugh on stage. John Glover and I had this very funny scene together where he was making fun of my lack of intelligence without me knowing it. And he would just get more outrageous every night. The laughs would get bigger and bigger in the audience, and he was trying to crack me up. And one night, because I was inexperienced, I lost it. As soon as I broke up laughing, the audience stopped. It was a mess, and I was like, “oh right, that’s an important acting lesson.”

What’s the most valuable showbiz lesson you’ve learned? 

That it’s about your work ethic. The only thing that we can control is the quality of our process. You can’t control outcomes. You can’t control box office. You can’t control critics. You can’t even control if something is going to work creatively. But if you’re always just making sure you’re always trying to grow as an artist, then that’s what  sustains you.

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