Amy Sohn is the author of the novels Prospect Park West, My Old Man and Run Catch Kiss and has also written for The New York Times, Elle, The Nation and Harper's Bazaar. The author, who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, has written television pilots for such networks as HBO, Fox, and ABC.
In her latest novel, Motherland, Sohn introduces readers to five mothers and fathers who find themselves adrift professionally and personally. Among them is Melora Leigh, a former A-list actress who is starring in a Broadway revival of 'Fifth of July' with Jon Hamm and Blythe Danner. Sohn enjoys mixing fact and fiction in her novel, including a passage which reads: "Page Six had run an item on Melora...and it had been picked up by BroadwayWorld.com" The shout-out to our site prompted us to chat with this talented author and find out how her passion for theater influences her creative process.
I have to start off by asking, is the character of Melora based on anyone we may know?
I get that question alot! Melora is a combination of many actresses of a certain age. You can say she's Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Connelly and Sienna Miller all rolled together. And I do not know any of those people personally.
To the extent that I was thinking about them, it was really mainly in terms of their career trajectory. I liked the idea that Melora had started out as a child actor and had a lot of success in Hollywood early on, but had also done a lot of theater. I didn't want her to be the typical film actress who's never done theater and then suddenly decides to. I probably was thinking a little about a Jodi Foster, but none of those woman actually did a lot of New York theater starting out. So in that sense, Melora is an invention.
I wanted to play around with the idea she was returning to the stage, and she actually had some experience on the stage, and yet a lot of people were gunning for her to fail. She felt that she wasn't getting the respect that she deserved, given the fact that she wasn't a dilettante in theater. That she actually worked on and off Broadway as a teenager.
So you were really referring to the current trend of Hollywood stars coming into Broadway shows?
Yeah, well there is a current trend for big stars to come on to the stage, and some have a background in theater and some don't. It's like every couple of years, an actress tries to do this and people come at it with so many different expectations. The producers need them to get people into the theater and then there's the fans who are more movie fans, some of them going to the theater for the very first time in their lives just to see this person, and then the diehard New York theater people, a lot of them feel like it’s unfair, like they’re taking roles away from hard working but lesser known theater actors. Even though they must understand on some level that Broadway needs celebrities in order to sell tickets.
The character of Melora faces some challenges in her return to Broadway.
Yes. I wanted to create a situation where the character had an extraordinary amount of pressure on her where she was also working alongside other celebrities, which is also common now on Broadway. We’ll see these revivals with two movie stars opposite each other, one may have more experience than the other, like Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd, although he wasn’t quite a movie star when he did 'Three Days of Rain' with her. But just the idea that she was working with other famous people who might be more successful than she was and might be feeling competitive with her. I thought about all the dynamics that go on in putting on a play; what we read about on your site and in the tabloids, about actors fighting, whether or not any of its true, I wanted to have fun with the idea that she was unappreciated by her cast mates, that they felt competitive with her and that…well we won’t give away the ending!