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Prolific actor Scott Cohen has earned himself a considerable following with appearances on NYPD Blue, Law & Order, The Practice, and, most famously, as the love-struck Max Medina on Gilmore Girls and tormented shape-shifter Wolf on NBC’s cultishly adored mini-series The Tenth Kingdom. Now he’s making his New York debut in Caryl Churchill’s Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, a searing critique of U.S. foreign policy and Britain’s enabling of it, presented in the form of two men on a sofa floating high above the stage, an American named Sam (Cohen) and a Brit named Guy (Samuel West), who are trapped in a miserable, co-dependent relationship. Cohen spoke to Vulture about the play, which runs until April 6 at the Public Theater.
Is it scary up on the floating sofa?
The scariest moment for me is in the seventh scene when I’m doing the torture bit — okay, it’s not a “bit” — but when I do the torture scene and then I completely undress and redress in the dark and then lay down on the sofa. It’s scary simply because I’m in a very vulnerable position emotionally, and I’m in a vulnerable position physically since I have to actually scoot over to the edge of the couch. So as I’m putting on my pajamas I’m thinking to myself, One of these days I’m gonna end up on the floor.
The play has the potential to be a major controversy magnet. What’s been the response so far?
Responses have not been so contentious in nature — I mean, I wish they were! With the audiences we’ve been playing to, the skew is toward preaching to the choir. I mean, if people walk away thinking, “Wow, we are so controlling, and we don’t let people breathe and we don’t let people do what they want to do, but at the same time, that behavior has allowed us to live the life that we have chosen to live — this is why I have a couch and an apartment and a piano and a chair and coffee in my cup,” if it creates that kind of conversation, that’s great.
Do real-world foreign-policy developments affect how you play the role?
Not in terms of character choices, no. To us it’s about two men in love with each other. It doesn’t matter to us that Sam might be seen as abusive or controlling or scared or pioneering or industrial or whatever adjective you might think of — to me, Sam is desperately in love with Guy and needs Guy to complete his being, his soul. When Sam references interfering with other countries — putting up propaganda posters or preventing elections or meddling in South Korea or Guatemala — those are all ways of impressing Guy.
I have to ask: Any chance of a Gilmore Girls or a Tenth Kingdom movie?
They talked about a Tenth Kingdom movie years ago, but they couldn’t figure out how to get it done. That was a shame, I thought. I’ve heard talk through the press that there’ve been conversations about a Gilmore Girls one. [Series creator] Amy Sherman-Palladino’s coming to the play this week, so I’ll probably bring it up with her.
One of your fan sites combines your birthplace and your Tenth Kingdom character’s name and calls you the “Bronx Wolf.”
Wolf was such a wonderful, wonderful character that it’s hard to let go. I tried to get people interested in a second movie for years, and Simon Moore wrote a treatment, but the ratings on NBC were not as good as they wanted them to be — though if you compare them to ratings now, I think they were probably fantastic! But there are so many other things that have gone on since then that have been equally interesting. This play is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to work with Caryl, who is, I think, a genius — somebody who brings you back to the joy of the work. She is not a mimic, she doesn’t copy anybody. You feel like part of a creation, and there are very few people out there like that. —Mac Rogers