Two-Time Tony Nominee Eve Best on Starring in Love in Idleness in London & Why Kevin Spacey Should ‘Permanently’ Host the Tony Awards

Q&A by Matt Wolf • Jun 10, 2017

Two-time Tony nominee and onetime Nurse Jackie TV name Eve Best has returned to the London stage to give among the season’s most scintillating star turns in Love in Idleness, the Terence Rattigan revival that has transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the Apollo Theatre for a limited run; Trevor Nunn is the director. caught up with the ever-enchanting Best as she was having her hair done one recent afternoon, so that she would look suitably glam for a play that takes her widowed character, the seemingly flighty but also loving Olivia Brown, on quite a journey.

Is your hairstyle important to this play?
Absolutely! This is my own hair that audiences are seeing, and it gets quite a beating. So, now you know what goes on behind the scenes.

How prepared were you when this play and this part came your way?
It arrived completely out of the blue. I had never been in a Rattigan play, though I sort of had a sense about him and was aware of some of the plays he had written, but I also didn’t know the Menier Chocolate Factory, though I had heard a lot of wonderful things about it. The only thing about the project that was familiar to me was Trevor [Nunn, the director], whom I deeply loved and still do so it was tempting to be back in a rehearsal room with him, after The Cherry Orchard [with Vanessa Redgrave] and The Coast of Utopia.

What especially appealed to you about the offer?
A lot of it is that same old conversation about really terrific parts for women being few and far between. I had played Cleopatra at the Globe a couple of years before and it felt like until I start looking at parts like Arkadina [in The Seagull] and Ranevskaya [in The Cherry Orchard] that I had covered most of the classical characters I wanted to play. So, this came to me as almost a completely new part and even a completely new play, given the work Trevor has done on the text.

How has it felt performing Olivia over the past few months, as she moves from the socially aspirational consort of a rich politician [played by Anthony Head] to a loving, indulgent mother to her teenage son?
What’s extraordinary is that the play feels so relevant and pertinent to everything that’s going on in the world right now, so you can feel people’s emotional connection to what is being talked about. But at the same time there’s a lightness of touch to it, and it’s also terribly funny. Rattigan has this fine comic scalpel that is very similar to Noel Coward: all three of [the main characters] are completely absurd, and [the play] at times becomes farcical in many ways.

Is it difficult navigating the shifts in tone?
There’s a line that my character says at sort of the crisis point in the play when the couple are having to part, which is, “I do feel at times like this it’s much better to make people laugh than to make them cry,” and I feel like that is the heart of the play. Every time anybody tries to spread hate or discord, the only response we have is to love and to spread more light.

Are you enjoying playing a character who, one might say, is always “on”?
Olivia at the beginning is so dazzled and is having such a delicious time playing the societal game and being rich and then she plunges with real ferocity into the role of responsible socialist mother in a working-class environment. But I think you could argue that it’s all a kind of play-acting for her: she’s got this new role that she is determined to fulfill for the sake of her son, and underneath her heart is broken.

As a two-time Tony nominee, the first of which was for starring opposite Kevin Spacey in A Moon for the Misbegotten [in 2007], what do you think of Spacey hosting the ceremony this year?
I think it’s wonderful! Why hasn’t Kevin always been hosting the Tonys? He should be permanently hosting them; he’s the obvious person.

What are your memories of Tony season, having been through it two years in a row—the second time for Pinter’s The Homecoming?
The whole thing was quite overwhelming, especially the first year because it was my first experience of Broadway and my first real experience of New York. I was lucky with Moon that I had my hand held a lot by Kevin and also by the wonderful Colm Meaney, who were both in the play with me and were veterans at that kind of thing, so I felt kind of nurtured.

Did it feel very different to the London awards season?
The thing is that New York isn’t just about the Tonys but there are all the other awards ceremonies that lead up to it, and all the interview lines. I was kind of plunged into it as a total novice, and I just remember that it was very expensive because I had to keep buying outfits; you weren’t allowed to wear the same dress. London, though, is catching up: the Oliviers now are massive.

With a dual career now in both London and New York, how do you decide where you want to be?
You don’t decide, or at least I don’t. I follow the work and tend to do things if they’re “unturndownable” and Old Times, for instance, a year or two ago on Broadway felt like an “unturndownable” project, so there I was in New York for six months.

Do you keep a base in both cities?
I relocated back here after Nurse Jackie, so I don’t have a place anymore in New York. But I still feel very much as if a strong part of my heart is there, and the next time a project rears its head, I’ll have to pack my bag and off I’ll go!