The Crucible's Jim Norton and Ciarán Hinds on Frozen, Game of Thrones ..

"Who is this man?" bellows Ciarán Hinds at the beginning of The Crucible's sensational second act. Cast as the all-powerful Deputy Governor of Salem, Hinds is staring at Jim Norton, who plays a farmer pleading for the life of his condemned wife. Offstage, the Game of Thrones vet and his Tony-winning co-star know each other extremely well, having co-starred on and off-Broadway (in Conor McPherson's The Seafarer and The Night Alive, respectively), on screen (in McPherson's The Eclipse) and at London's National Theatre (in Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch). They share a dry wit and, as natives of Dublin (Norton) and Belfast (Hinds), a deep understanding of the enduring resonance of Arthur Miller's 1953 drama. Over afternoon coffee, Hinds and Norton chatted about fame and friendship and revealed each other's secret talent.

Q: You two have worked together so often, do you feel like an old theatrical married couple?

JIM: People will be talking soon, yeah.

CIARAN: People have been talking for quite a while. Both of our wives have their doubts, as well. But it's been fantastic.

JIM: There was a moment a couple of years ago when I went off to do Of Mice and Men with Chris O'Dowd, another tall Irish man.

CIARAN: He was cheating on me.

JIM: But it didn't work out because Ciarán is a better cook. When we were rehearsing The Night Alive in Dublin, they put us in the same apartment complex, and Ciarán cooked in the evening. He would shout down the stairs, "Do you want fish or pork?"

Q: Ciarán, having seen you play so many scary characters, I felt a little intimidated to meet you.

JIM: You should be. He's a very frightening person.

CIARAN: I'm worse at home, apparently. I go home and everyone hides behind the furniture. Now and again I'm asked to play some mean-minded people, like Danforth [in The Crucible]. That kind of rigid, angry person still exists in a certain part of the Northern Ireland psyche. When I was growing up, evangelists would set up their tents and preach the same kind of thing they were talking about in Salem.

Like all great plays, it has a universality and speaks to today. People are very moved by it.

Q: The Crucible is a staple at American high schools. Were you familiar with it?

CIARAN: We read it in school also. We knew that Arthur Miller wrote it as an allegory of what was happening in America, but frankly, Northern Ireland has always been at a crossroads of some kind. You don't need to see it in the light of the 1950s.

JIM: I read it when I was 18 in Dublin and immediately read everything else I could find by Miller. Like all great plays, it has a universality and speaks to today. People are very moved by it.

Q: This production is excitingly theatrical. Is the play as intense to perform as it is to watch?

CIARAN: Oh god, yes. There's a lot of argument, debate and discussion, and the lighting [in the court scenes] spreads over the first six rows of the audience, so in a way, they're complicit. We can see them, which requires a much greater focus. It's kind of scary but also very interesting.

JIM: It requires intense listening between the actors to stay in the moment. And [Ciarán] comes on halfway through the play, which is the hardest thing. You have to get up to speed immediately.

CIARAN: I listen to the first act in my dressing room, just to get into the mood of the work being done and to hear how the audience is responding.

Q: Tell us something about each other that fans might find surprising.

JIM: This will probably embarrass Ciarán, but he can really dance. I saw him in a play at the National Theatre, Burnt By the Sun, in which he had to do a Russian dance, and he was incredible.

CIARAN: I've lost it now, though.

I'm a man of many parts-most of them missing.

JIM: I know you have, but that's my secret. He will have no idea what to say about me. I'm a man of many parts-most of them missing.

CIARAN: Jim was a fantastic 400-meter and 800-meter runner when he was young. He could have run for Ireland, he was that fast. Now he can be seen walking for miles in various directions.

Q: When you came in, Ciarán, it was obvious that people recognized you. Is that ever an issue?

CIARAN: Oh, I don't mind. I just go about living my life. I go shopping; I ride the bus and the metro. People who come up say something quickly; I don't get harassed.

JIM: Remember when that cop stopped you?

CIARAN: I was passing through the theater district one day, and this cop came up and said, "Excuse me, sir, I'm going to have to book you." I said, "What for?" And he said, "For impersonating a Roman emperor." [Hinds played Julius Caesar in HBO's Rome.] It was gorgeous! But I'm able to go about my business.

JIM: When I worked with James Franco, he couldn't go anywhere. And when you and I did Hamlet [with Benedict Cumberbatch] it was crazy.

CIARAN: Hundreds of people at the stage door! He handles it well, but it can't be easy. Some people crave attention and fame when they start out, but they don't really understand what it's like when you get to that level.

Q: What about your work on Game of Thrones [as Wildling leader Mance Rayder] and Frozen [as the voice of Pabbie the troll]?

CIARAN: Game of Thrones is relentless, isn't it? But I was only in it a little bit. I was told [Mance] was an important character, and then they barbecued him. My ashes are bagged away somewhere. [With Frozen] some people try to get brownie points with their kids by saying, "This is Pabbie." And the kids look at me and say, "No, it's not!"

Q: You've certainly done your share of spooky dramas on stage. After this, a comedy might be nice.

JIM: I think we should do a musical of The Odd Couple. How about that? You can dance...

CIARAN: ...and you can sing!

Author: Kathy Henderson
Date: 2016, April 19


Photos by Jeremy Daniel


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