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Strong Female Lead: Janet McTeer Thinks Hamlet’s Depressing Too


First off, if you haven’t seen Ozark yet what are you doing with your life? (Going to Broadway, we hope!) But seriously – the Jason Bateman-helmed American crime drama is worth a watch for Janet McTeer alone. She plays a lawyer for a Columbian drug cartel and she’s scarier than the men she works for… in a good way… because she’s amazing. Even more amazing, you can now see the Oscar and Golden Globe nominee on Broadway, where she’s starring as the iconic Sarah Bernhardt in the dramedy Bernhardt/Hamlet at the American Airlines Theatre.

In 1897, international stage celebrity, Sarah Bernhardt, decided to tackle the role of a lifetime: Hamlet. The lavish production could make or break her career, so the stakes were high. In Bernhardt/Hamlet, McTeer plays Bernhardt, playing Hamlet. And while Hamlet itself isn’t exactly comedic – this production blends drama and comedy for a fresh take on this historic version of the Shakespearean classic. Broadway Spin caught up with McTeer to hear about her first time on Broadway, her second time on Broadway, and her predictions for the future.

Jason Butler Harner and Janet McTeer. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Jason Butler Harner and Janet McTeer. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Broadway Spin: Back in 1997, you made your Broadway debut in A Doll’s House – and won a Tony Award. What was that time in your life like for you?

Janet McTeer: Coming to New York was extraordinary.  It was an amazing experience. I had never been to New York and here we were doing this play. Theater in London is different from theater in New York, especially 20 years ago. There was all the publicity. Everyone reads the New York Times and reviews. It was the weirdest thing. I remember going into a restaurant the day after opening night. And when I walked in, people literally stood up and clapped. I had no idea what was going on. I was like, “What the…?” It was just extraordinary. It was a huge trip.

Janet McTeer and Brittany Bradford. Photo: Joan Marcus.

BS: In Bernhardt/Hamlet you are playing Sarah Bernhardt playing Hamlet. Is there a role that you’re just aching to play?

JM: Not so much. I’ve been asked to play Hamlet a few times but always said “no” because I felt that he was so unhappy. What is grief and depression? I just thought, “I don’t how you could play that role every night?” But then, over the years, because I am such an incredibly happy person and my life is wonderful, I found the idea more appealing.

Janet McTeer. Photo: Jake Tessum.

BS: Do you have a hard time separating from the characters you play at the end of the night?

JM: I have a friend who says that whenever I start doing a role she can always see it sort of creep up on me. So, maybe I only really think I would quite like to play Hamlet because I’m playing Sarah Bernhardt rehearsing Hamlet, but ask me in three weeks and maybe I’ll be miserable. (Laughs)

Somehow… we doubt that.

Bernhardt/Hamlet is playing American Airlines Theatre and tickets are in play through Broadway Roulette.