Gideon Glick, who grew up the son of college professors outside of Philadelphia, is currently starring as Dill Harris in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Bartlett Sher. It is Glick’s third stint on Broadway after appearing as Ernst in Spring Awakening and starring as Jordan Berman in Significant Other. Glick is engaged to a young doctor from his hometown and they are about to move from their apartment in Brooklyn to a new home in Manhattan. I met Glick for lunch in Brooklyn before the big move. I even got to his neighborhood early, so I browsed the Unnamable used bookstore and bought him a gift before our lunch – Truman Capote’s Brooklyn Heights: A Personal Memoir – as a nod both to his portrayal of Dill and his waning weeks in Brooklyn himself. Here is some of what we talked about that day.
KEVIN SESSUMS: Are your college professor parents happy that you are engaged to a doctor?
GIDEON GLICK: Actually, he and I grew up together. We went to high school and summer camp and college together, but we didn’t know each other. He knew of me just because I was “the out kid.”
KS: I’ve read that you came out in seventh grade. Is that right?
GG: Yeah. I did. And I was a theatre kid. His sister did plays with my brother. I went home once to take care of my mom’s puppy for a week when he was finishing his residency at Penn. We’re all from around Philadelphia. He said hello to me at the gym. And from that moment – that was four years ago – we’ve talked every day since.
KS: Get married, and that will stop.
GG: (Laughs) No, we’re very co-dependent.
KS: Okay. You’re engaged. You’re buying an apartment together on the West Side. Do you have a dog?
GG: We have a dog.
KS: Are you going to have kids?
GG: No. Well, that will be at a point when we are so financially stable that we don’t have anything to worry about.
KS: You’re 30, right?
GG: I’m 30.
KS: You’re entering the prime-rib stage.
GG: Is this prime rib? How?
KS: 30 – 35. Yep: prime rib.
GG: What makes this prime rib?
KS: You’re not a kid. You’re an adult. You still have your looks. You’re hitting your stride professionally – and also, obviously in your case, personally. You’re still fucking every day – according to our earlier conversation before I turned on this tape recorder.
GG: (Laughs) Okay. I’m going to choose to believe you. Things are good. Things are good. But it’s hard to feel settled even when everything is going your way. I am conscious though that everything is in place in a wonderful way.
KS: Is such steadiness good for you as an artist? Sometimes our art is conjured from a bit of chaos in our lives. Your career has been on a steady upward trajectory since you arrived in New York when you were still a teenager.
GG: My therapist seems to think I thrive on being unsettled. So we are coming to terms with that – no matter what I will figure out a way to kind of unsettle myself. I don’t know if that’s true. I’m not quite sure. I would like to think that being settled would allow you to take an extra plunge. There is definitely the security of a net. I know that things are in place, so I can take extra chances.
KS: You’re buying this apartment.
GG: That’s risky.
KS: But it is also a sign of success – especially for an actor in Manhattan.
GG: Yeah. Yeah. I do feel fortunate.
KS: I am an admitted fan, Gideon. I even saw you in the one-night-only reading of Larry Kramer’s The Destiny of Me in that benefit for The New Group. The whole cast was great, but you and Ellen Barkin, who played your mother, were truly extraordinary. You two came with fully-formed characters. Those of us in the audience that night witnessed something special.
GG: Ellen is amazing.
KS: I told Larry Kramer that I hope a production happens from that reading because people really should see what you and Ellen conjured together.
GG: Knock on wood. That would be great.
KS: Truly – you were remarkable in that reading.
GG: Thank you. It is a very special piece. I also feel as a queer, too, that you have a young queer Jewish character in that play and those don’t exist that often. It makes me think of Capote and Other Voices, Other Rooms. He’s not Jewish, but you have a 13-year-old gay character. We don’t have that many young gay characters in the pantheon.
KS: Since you’ve been out since you were in seventh grade and your first role in New York was as a gay character in Spring Awakening and you’ve played others in your career, do you worry about being typecast as the gay guy who gets cast in gay roles? Have you had those discussions with your agent?
GG: Not really. I don’t worry about it. I’ve always just gone with my gut. I think because I came out so early, there was never a question as to what I was going to do, or not do. Also, because I came to New York in that gay role and, as a result, it was part of the conversation, it was never something I cared to deny. That would have felt like a step backwards. I believe in radical honesty – not only interpersonally, but also in your work.
KS: Speaking of radical honesty – you have talked before about your being in the past part of an open relationship with two other guys.
GG: I just ran into one of them yesterday. The other two guys are still together and they now own a house up in the Berkshires.
KS: So you were the one brought into their relationship? You were the smart, cute little canapé?
GG: (Laughs) Yes, I was the one “brought in.” It was an exciting time.
[There is a pause in the conversation for me to give Gideon his gift. He studies the photo of Truman Capote on the book’s cover.]
Truman Capote was so striking as a young man. I have a beautiful portrait of him in my dressing room. I think it’s in this Brooklyn Heights house. It has a kind of kitschy, eclectic background. It’s a very famous portrait. My partner got it for me.
KS: Had you read To Kill a Mockingbird before getting the part of Dill and moving into that dressing room?
GG: I read it in seventh grade.
KS: Seventh grade was a big year for you. We were given a choice in my Mississippi school when Mockingbird came up to read. We could either read it or Catcher in the Rye. I choice Catcher.
GG: I am surprised you had a choice being in the south. That’s a hard pick though. I probably would have chosen Catcher in the Rye, too, back then. Sorry, Harper. But each book stands by itself. To be honest, I didn’t really understand Catcher as well when I read it in high school. I re-read it in my mid-20s and I enjoyed it immensely. But I didn’t enjoy it during high school. Mockingbird I really enjoyed in middle school. That’s how I learned how to be a critical reader. I learned theme and metaphor from Mockingbird. Reading that book is literally how I was taught how to read a book analytically.
KS: Are you a big reader?
GG: I am a big reader.
KS: Have you stopped – at the suggestion of your shrink- reading Virginia Woolf?
GG: (Laughs) Oh, God. You really have gone into the depths before meeting me today. Yes, I did stop reading Virginia Woolf. That was at a very dark time.
KS: I don’t want any stones hidden anymore in your “Woolfian” pockets, Gideon. That will be the title of this story: No More Stones in his Pockets.
GG: No more.
KS: So how did you come to playing Dill in this production? Did you audition? Did they come to you and ask you to play the role at this point in your career?
GG: I was asked to do a developmental workshop. They asked me to participate. There had already been a couple of readings with Celia Keenan-Bolger and Will Pullen and they had been offered the parts of Scout and Jem. So they had already decided that adults would be playing kids when I joined the workshops. Then after I joined them – about a week and a half into it – they offered me the part. It was quite exciting.
KS: I got a standing room ticket – the last one for a recent matinee – which was the one closest to the lobby doors. Whoever designed that theatre should be dug up and shot. Not many theatres have lobbies which abut the the theatres proper. There was a constant hum of conversation out in the lobby so that it was like listening to the radio while watching something on the stage. It was maddening.
GG: That would drive me crazy. I’m so sorry.
KS: It did drive me crazy. I bring it up only in my wish that you speak to the management to quiet the folks in the lobby during the performance.
GG: I will.
KS: I just had to bring that up. Thank you for speaking to the folks at your theatre. But back to the performance itself. Are you and Celia and Will playing the roles as children or are you playing it as adults remembering being children? Or is it more about being child-like? There is a lovely layered grace to what you three are doing that is hard to decipher but it certainly is effective – even with the lobby noise layered into it, alas, the day I saw it. There is nothing twee about what you guys are doing – and that would seem to be a danger with it all.
GG: No. And that’s conscious. That’s where you’d get into trouble. There’s two levels. There’s the kids looking back, and then there’s the kids. So there are two dimensions. Sometimes they are the same; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes you can be the spirit of the child when you’re narrating. Sometimes you can be the older one looking back. Sometimes you an be the older one in the scene. I think it is far more interesting not to be so cut-and-dried. As a result – what’s the right word? – you’re getting this amalgamated version of it where you’re not just looking at a child.
KS: It plays into the construct of the play itself which is constructed with a fractured sense of time, and not a linear one. There is an in-the-moment fractured quality to the characters of the kids that none of the other characters have, so that they mirror the play itself.
GG: Yes. Yes. I can only speak for myself as an actor – maybe I can speak for them, too, in this – but we are more concerned with the spirit of the roles than the actuality of them. If you go into them thinking: I am going to act like a child – then you’re screwed. And I don’t think the audience is going to enjoy that. But if you’re concerned with the spirit, that is more interesting. When I’m up there I feel like a child. And that’s all that really matters.
KS: With Dill specifically, there is a knowingness he has as a child that feeds into what we are talking about.
KS: I didn’t know until I was doing research for our conversation today that the actor who played Dill in the film – John Megna – had died of AIDS.
GG: Yes. There is a queer legacy with this role.
KS: Are you playing Dill as a queer child?
GG: Yes. 100%. I think it is quite remarkable that we are taught this book – which is a book about empathy and otherness – and here you have a very butch female protagonist and her queer friend and we never talk about it when we study this book. Aaron [Sorkin, the playwright] has done a really wonderful job of bringing the “Truman Capoteness’ of the character into it.
KS: Atticus in the play – especially in the way he’s portrayed by Jeff Daniels – seems quite aware that Dill is a queer child in a way that I had not noticed with him before in other iterations.
GG: I think everyone is aware of it. I mean, in the book they talk about how he is different and kind of peculiar, which are all loaded words.
KS: And the way he dresses with his belted shorts, etc., is pointedly described.
GG: Exactly, which is fabulous. All that colored-in 100% of my interpretation. But my version of Dill is culled from Aaron’s adaptation, the book, Truman Capote’s life. And then also Joel Knox from Other Voices, Other Rooms, which Capote says is somewhat autobiographical, where you have this 13-year-old queer kid in 1948 in the southern Gothic style. I’m deeply inspired by that.
KS: Where do you fall in your own family with your siblings in your own growing up?
GG: I was the youngest. My brother- the middle child – is artistic and a brilliant visual artist. He used to act and he can also write. My sister is a psychologist.
KS: What kind of professors are your parents?
GG: My mom is a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s written a bunch of books which are usually about visual patterns in the media depicting something. It is typically a macabre subject matter – such as Kennedy’s assassination or the Holocaust. My father is a leading scholar of oral medicine and infectious diseases. Actually, Larry Kramer gave him an award once-upon-a-time because he was on the vanguard of HIV/AIDS.
KS: Everything connects.
GG: Everything does connect.
KS: I call these Heightened Coincidences – in which everything connects – God Moments. Do you believe in God?
GG: I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. But I do believe in …. energy. I do believe we’re all connected. I would say I’m more agnostic because I am somewhat spiritual. I mean, I’m an artist … so ….
KS: Every artist has to believe in mystery … or The Mystery.
GG: Yeah. You have to. What we do is so ephemeral and you can understand it and not understand it all at once. It is so not rational what we do and how we come to it and how it succeeds. I like to think we try to cull meaning out of everything. So I think we can learn from our experiences. Now I don’t know if they happen for a reason. But I think that is what part of survival is: learning.
KS: You’re 30. I’ll be 63 in March. Let me just say there is a lot of learning left for you – and I say that with a lot of love.
GG: Oh, I don’t think it ever ends. And I think you learn and learn – and then you get really confused again.
KS: You call it learning. I call it healing. I think we go through our whole life trying to heal.
GG: I think my therapist believes that, too. Do you think we’re seeking healing though?
KS: Yes. If we’re evolved.
GG: That sounds like a book I read once. Something like Care of the Soul – something like that – about the sacredness of everyday life, or something. It’s reminiscent of what you’re saying.
KS: What have the audiences been like for Mockingbird? I read about that small boy who was sitting on the front row whom you noticed when he broke out into tears when Tom Robinson was found guilty. The experience sounded both traumatic and sort of healing for him – which is what theatre maybe should always be about when it is working as art.
GG: That was very moving. Yes. You’re right.
KS: Do you think Mockingbird is finally a play for white folks about black folks to make white folks feel better about not being certain sorts of white folks ourselves? I was really made aware of that aspect of it all there in a Broadway theatre with a vast majority of white folks who had spent a lot of money to see it along with those standing in the back with me who’d spent our $39 a piece.
GG: Again, it’s about who gets to tell the story. And we, as a culture, are much more aware of this now than we were before. At least, I am. This is a book written by a white woman and adapted by a white man with a creative team of whites. So, yes, I am aware of that. I still think it’s impactful. I don’t know how to . …. ah … I think it’s tricky territory.
KS: Aaron has given the maid Calpurnia agency in this version of the story. She is played brilliantly – and movingly – by LaTanya Richardson Jackson. But in the era of Trump, Atticus to me is on shaky ground when he serves as a spokesman, at times, for the false equivalency that there are good and bad people on both sides of a social argument – which is an argument about racism in this story. Thank God, Calpurnia is given the agency to call him out on that and lift his consciousness a bit as she, in turn, let’s hope, lifts that of each Trump supporting tourist sitting in that theatre.
GG: And I think all of that is Aaron’s way of reconciling that it is a white point of view … But I also think of this as a “trauma play” in that there is trauma in the childhoods of these characters and we are coming back to revisit it. We three seldom leave the stage. And we are coming back to revisit that trauma – whether it’s racial injustice or loss of innocence And for Scout and Jem, it is the trauma of actually being physically attacked. And I think when you’re watching us watch it, it is about reconciling the trauma and reconciling what happened. I find that very moving.
KS: I was sitting reading your Twitter feed before you got here, Gideon. I fell for you on your Twitter feed. I knew you were a talented actor. And political. But I didn’t know you were so witty and clever – and wry. You’re very wry on Twitter – which is better than being snarky on it. You are a kind of a catcher in the wry yourself.
GG: Twitter does lend itself to that – wryness. It’s funny because there is no sarcasm font. So some people misconstrue it.
KS: I could have read your Twitter feed for another hour.
GG: Well, thank you. I’m honored.
KS: I love that you gave a shout-out this morning on Twitter to actress Jayne Houdyshell. She’s one of my favorites, too. You tweeted, “This is your yearly reminder that there is literally nothing that Jayne Houdyshell can’t do.” I once was alone on a Thanksgiving night in New York and went to see that Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet by myself and I saw Jayne there by herself too. I was so moved by that. I had to go up to her at intermission and let her know how much I loved her and her work and how I had seen her in that very theatre in Follies singing “Broadway Baby.” Another Heightened Coincidence. A kind of God Moment maybe. I told her that she had given me so much joy. I didn’t acknowledge that she was alone – nor that I was – but I did acknowledge her artistry. I hope it meant something for her to hear that on that Thanksgiving night when we each were all alone. Telling her that, in fact, made me feel less alone. That is what she does as an actress too: she makes me feel less alone. There is that aspect to what you do, too, Gideon. She not only brings joy to others as an actress but on that Thanksgiving night there in that theatre she was also seeking it. I was moved by that too. She was seeking out joy.
GG: I love Jayne Houdyshell. I worship her. I was talking to her after a performance of The Humans one night. My friend Stephen Karam wrote it. [Glick was in Karam’s Speech & Debate.] And a friend was in it. I was close to that production. She’s been very supportive. She’s been one who has said – and I believe this is true for some people – that one must “follow the work and do the work. That’s the only way to do it.” I think there is some correlation of her going to see On Your Feet on Thanksgiving because that is her joy: it’s the work, it’s the community. That is what has motivated her. It’s not awards. It’s not being a major TV star. That’s never been her thing.
KS: She hit the seam in her ore rather late in life.
GG: It’s a beautiful thing.
KS: She moreover finds the simple seam in the complex ore in her art.
GG: There is something unshakable about her. There’s no artifice in anything she does. Ever.
KS: Same for you. I am so old that when I went to see The Humans I realized that the actress playing the crazy old grandmother, Lauren Klein, had been the hot-chick waitress at my favorite Village restaurant – Tupelo Honey- back-in-the-day.
GG: I love time though. I love time. There is a really amazing Goya painting called Truth Rescued by Time, Witnessed by History. I find that deeply moving – that time will save the truth, that truth will reveal itself over time.
KS: Well, I hope that will be true of this dark political time in which we are now living.
GG: I have to believe it’s so.
KS: Once you accept the fact that Trump is president nothing is too outrageous to flow from that fact. And we also just have to admit that a full fourth to a third of this country is fascist. There is no other word for it. This is a fascist regime – an oligarchical theocratic fascist regime.
GG: I think it’s fascism but we’re also a very capitalist society. I think Trump is using capitalism as a way of control.
KS: Is it capitalism if it is based on pillaging the country’s treasury in order to destroy the foundations and institutions of our government to enable the destruction of our constitutional republic?
GG: But he’s someone who came up through pyramid schemes and I think he sort of pyramid schemed his way up to the presidency. And he pyramid schemed the people saying if I give you this, you will get this. Then he didn’t deliver. I mean, he is a con artist.
KS: To bring this back to To Kill a Mockingbird, Trump has done the opposite of what Aaron Sorkin has done in his adaptation. Aaron gave new agency to the African American maid in the story and Trump in his rise gave new agency to the racists in America and the country’s darkest impulses. And let’s bring it back to Dill also.
GG: Let’s always bring it back to Dill.
KS: When I was a Dill-like sissy boy in Mississippi, I felt so frightened by the racist culture around me in that 1960s south. I feel again in the age of Trump like that frightened little boy surrounded by so much hatred being given agency. I feel Dill-like again. I wrote a whole book about that called Mississippi Sissy – which is at its heart about otherness.
GG: Dill is a Mississippi sissy. Why didn’t you bring me that book? I am going to order that on Amazon.
KS: I love thinking of my book backstage with you and Dill at To Kill A Mockingbird. Thank you. That makes me tear up. Being of-a-certain-age and having been a boy back then and then a gay man in the face of AIDS when ACT UP was so important to saving our lives, I sense right now in America that we are flummoxed about what to do. It is as if we don’t know how to do activism anymore – especially as gay men.
GG: That’s what Larry Kramer was saying to me.
KS: Is it the fault of social media?
GG: I think during the ACT UP era that when you made a statement it was much larger in its being made. There wasn’t that much access. We have access to all the statements now. There is no filter anymore. So as a result, one amazing “punch” isn’t as strong anymore because we’re getting all this stimulus everywhere. Did you follow the MAGA kids story in Washington? I was up till 2 a.m. the other night watching all the videos and trying to understand it so I could have a nuanced interpretation of it.
KS: But that’s the trap – the false equivalency trap. We saw what we saw and then we are gaslighted into doubting what we saw. It is the gaslighting of the Trump era that is one of the most dangerous aspects of it to me. Being gaslighted is the handmaiden to the incessant lies. It is all connected and it is all about destroying objective truth.
GG: But this is exactly what I’m saying: there are too many filters. There is too much stimulus.
KS: I think “The Tell” for someone and their beliefs is to look at their social media feed and see their reactions to the MAGA kids and the Parkland kids. That’s all you need to know about them. How they reacted to each group of kids. I side with the Parkland activists. They give me hope. The MAGA kids were there, first and foremost, to march in order to assert their dominion over the bodies of women. All else flows from that.
But let’s bring this back to you, Gideon. You are engaged politically and that moves me. Moves me deeply. Thank you for that. But I sense that engagement is a part of your teeming mind. You are so smart and you seem to see it all – all of it – and all at the same time. Your mind is so active. So is acting for you a way to still your mind? Does it offer you a kind of meditative state? Are those two hours onstage each night a time that your mind can come to rest and not be so damn busy? It is when your mind can be mindful and still. It is not about thinking. It is about trust. You walk to the precipice and you step off and you catch the wind current.
GG: Yes. Yes. It is a release. It is a precipice. That is the way that I view it. I always think of this man – there is the cliff and he is about to jump off. That is how I think about acting. And that, to me, is the best. There are times when I’m in my head onstage and I hate it. It’s the worst feeling in the world. There is nothing I hate more. I mean, well, there is – there’s lots. But in terms of myself, there is nothing I hate more. And the feeling of being free – and being enmeshed with these people onstage with me and with the audience – it is truly the greatest feeling in the world. The greatest. I don’t know if I relate it to having an overactive brain. I just know, to me, it is a catharsis. It is ecstatic – meaning to leave the body.
KS: We’re back now to talking about the mysteries inherent in your art. As a writer, I have narrative antennae. I can look around this restaurant and have a sense of everyone’s stories going on around us.
GG: Yes. It’s about reading the dynamics of a room. I get that. As a young queer person one develops that, too, I think. It’s about survival. It’s a form of gaydar – whatever that really is. Early on as a queer kid, you have to define yourself by something else, by what one is not. That is much more complicated.
KS: But you came out around the age of 12. I find that remarkable in its way.
GG: Yes. I was just very precocious. I was just very aware.
KS: Which is what I’ve been talking about. But you were not only out to your parents, but also to your classmates?
KS: They were accepting of you?
GG: They were accepting. Not everybody.
KS: Were there other out kids your age?
GG: No. I was the only one.
KS: In recovery there is a term: tragically unique.
GG: Do you mean I had a desire to be tragically unique? No. It was just I had no concept of shame about it. That for me was very clear. I would say I started coming out in seventh grade and by ninth grade the whole world knew. So it was still a process. It wasn’t as if in seventh grade I made this big announcement. But that was when I started telling people and started telling my family. Again, I am fortunate that I never felt shame about my sexuality.
KS: What do you have shame about?
GG: My own thoughts … ah … lots of things. The way my voice sounds. There’s so many. There are worlds of things. It also oscillates. Things you can be shameful about, the next day you can be really, really prideful about. Nothing is stuck. Everything is in flux.
KS: When I was a kid and I played make-believe, I would make-believe two main things. I was 30 and I was Julie Andrews.
GG: (Laughs) How did that Julie Andrew thing work out for you?
KS: I’m sitting her talking to you about being 30, that’s how I guess. You’re an out, queer, successful actor who is engaged to a Jewish doctor and newly emerged from your 20s and entering the prime-rib part of your life. Are you comfortable being a role model for younger queers?
GG: Yeah. I used to not be. When I was younger – not that I was working against it – but I thought: why should I be a role model? I’m just a gay kid. What do I have to give other than the fact that I’m gay? I didn’t really understand it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is and how integral it is as a society that you give back and that you nurture. I had mentors. I should be a mentor. That’s just the way life should work.
KS: In some way, you will always be that 18-year-old kid in Spring Awakening.
GG: I think for a lot of people I will be.
KS: Based on all the politics we talked about, let me ask: Have you ever fucked a Republican?
GG: (Laughs) No. Not knowingly.
KS: You grew up on the Main Line outside Philadelphia. You were out in seventh grade. You had to have fucked a Republican at some point. Your high school on the Main Line, in fact, has had quite a roster of alums – Kobe Bryant, Alexander Haig, among them. And now you.
GG: (Laughs) That’s a false equivalency.
You can follow Gideon on Twitter @gidglick