WW: What's it like working on a character, Palmer, for 4 years of development? How has he grown, changed, how have you influenced that?
MJU: It has been quite a trip, to say the least. As the play has grown and expanded, we have had the unique chance to really delve into this pivotal evening in these brother's lives. What were the circumstances that led to nearly a decade of not seeing each other, and what were the inciting incidents that finally forced them into the same room? Working with Cassie as a playwright has been incredible during this process because she is very interested in collaborating on the play and tinkering and finding the right fit for the play. Some changes were logistical, as simple as how do we get someone out of the living room - and some were sweeping dramaturgical changes such as the reasons and revelation for Palmer's arrival in New York City. The biggest change for Palmer that I feel like I have had some influence with would be the evolution of what Palmer knows and what he doesn't know. The slowly leaking reveal of information as currently constructed gives Palmer a clearer descent into rock bottom despair.
WW: What is it like rehearsing while wearing an eye patch?
MJU: Hard! A lot harder than I imagined it would be as well! But, the longer I wear it, the more I get used to it - and the more I learn how to handle the deficiencies that it presents. There is a little something about Palmer not being able to see the 'whole picture' that we have always talked about, but being presented with it in an immediate context has been a constant reminder to how Palmer has become who he is as he comes to see his brother, Turner.
WW: Do you relate to Palmer in any way?
MJU: Palmer craves approval and attention - and as an actor, I could say I relate! But seriously, Palmer has been dealt a rough hand from an early age and really has not had anyone to lean on. I was much luckier than that, and have had an incredible support system my entire life. However, I do think that Palmer and I both try our best to mitigate any grief with humor. As he says in the play - 'When you look like this, you kind of have to be (funny)'.
WW: If you could give Palmer a piece of advice, what would it be?
MJU: If I had a piece of advice for Palmer, I think it would be first things first - get some help man! An addiction to prescription drugs is not going to end up good for you. And as an added bonus - it's very likely that you will be able to find some people who you have a shared experience with and can feel safe opening up to. These are very likely people who you will be able to lean on in the future.
More about Michael here at http://www.michaeljamesunderhill.com/
Stay tuned for more interviews from Victor Shopov and Melissa deJesus!
EYES SHUT. DOOR OPEN opens August 6th and runs until August 15th at The Inner Sanctum in Dudley Square, MA. For more info and tickets visit www.waxwingsproductions.com