David Hyde Pierce: Balancing 'Julia' and Stage

David Hyde Pierce balances acting in 'Julia' and theater.

by Zain ul Abedin
David Hyde Pierce: Balancing 'Julia' and Stage
© Jamie McCarthy/GettyImages

In the bustling heart of Manhattan's far West Side, at the Shed in Hudson Yards, a theatrical dream team has gathered for the premiere of "Here We Are," a posthumous masterpiece by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. The work, inspired by two films of Luis Buñuel, captivates audiences with its surrealistic flair and star-studded ensemble.

Among the luminaries are Rachel Bay Jones, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Denis O'Hare, Amber Gray, Steven Pasquale, and Micaela Diamond, fresh from her Broadway success in "Parade." Yet, it is David Hyde Pierce who ignites the stage with his portrayal of a conflicted bishop, sending the audience into rapturous applause and gasps of delight.

David Ives, the playwright collaborating with Sondheim on this project, praises Pierce's comedic mastery and innate sweetness, traits that resonate deeply with his character in the show. Pierce's diverse career spans from his Emmy-winning role as Niles Crane in “Frasier” to an acclaimed stage actor with a Tony Award for “Curtains” and notable performances in “Spamalot,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “A Life”.

Pierce's Diverse Pursuits

Currently starring in the TV series “Julia” as Paul Child, Pierce juggled his busy schedule to avoid a conflict with the proposed “Frasier” reboot. His commitment to a variety of meaningful projects reflects his desire to explore diverse roles rather than revisiting past successes.

"Here We Are" juxtaposes two distinct worlds from Buñuel's films. The first act presents a lighthearted quest for a meal by a group of affluent friends, while the second plunges into a more somber, existential crisis, echoing Sartre's “No Exit” and "The Twilight Zone." The musical composition, bearing Sondheim's distinctive touch, plays a pivotal role in unifying these contrasting narratives.

Pierce, in discussing his character's role, highlights the musical and dramatic intricacies of the production. He compares Sondheim's late style to Beethoven’s, noting a sophisticated blend of familiarity and innovation.

The actor’s approach to his character balances humor with a profound underlying struggle, reminiscent of Sondheim's “Send in the Clowns”. In reflecting on his career, Pierce expresses gratitude for the varied roles he has played, from his early days witnessing “Sweeney Todd” to his current portrayal of Paul Child in “Julia”.

His insights into Sarah Lancashire's portrayal of Julia Child and Anthony Hopkins' Nixon underscore the depth and complexity of acting. "Julia" emerges as a narrative that embraces life's second acts, showcasing aging not as a limitation but as an impetus for continued growth and exploration.

Pierce's research into Paul Child's life deepens his appreciation for the dynamic and occasionally conflicting nature of the Childs' marriage. As "Here We Are" concludes its run at the Shed, with no immediate Broadway plans, Pierce reflects on the show’s intent.

Emphasizing the production’s dedication to Sondheim’s legacy, he expresses contentment with the project's scope and impact, regardless of its future trajectory. This attitude, mirroring his approach to his diverse career, exemplifies a balance of ambition with a grounded appreciation for the present moment.