Kate Burton on 'Under Milk Wood,' Celebrity Parents and TV's Embrace of Women Over 50
"In my [Emmy] category this last year for 'Scandal,' every nominee, with the exception of Kate Mara for 'House of Cards,' was over the age of 55. How amazing is that?"
Fresh off her Emmy nomination for playing right-wing zealot Vice President Sally Langston on Scandal, Kate Burton takes to the airwaves this weekend in a radio theater performance of poet Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood for L.A. Theater Works.
From Sept. 18-21 at the James Bridges Theatre at UCLA, Burton will be joined by Matthew Rhys (The Americans), Laura Evans (BBC's The Basil Brush), John Francis (Invasion Roswell), Jason Hughes (Midsomer Murders), Christopher Monger (director, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain), as well as her son, Morgan Ritchie, which makes this all-Welsh version an intergenerational affair.
"Both my parents participated in the first recording of it, and then my father (Richard Burton) made the film with Elizabeth Taylor, my stepmother, and Peter O'Toole. So it's been a family affair, and it's really fantastic to be doing it with my son, Morgan," Burton tells The Hollywood Reporter about returning to L.A. Theater Works, whose productions are heard in over 80 markets in the U.S., including KPFK here in Los Angeles.
She talks about her childhood spent on movie sets, growing up with the Bogart kids, blazing an unexpected career in television, movies and theater, and how women over 50 thrive on TV.
With his history with the play, how instrumental was your father in your understanding of it?
Growing up with my two Welsh families, my family was populated by people such as the people that appear in this play. We all grow up with parents from other lands, and you understand how your family communicates to each other, what their humor is, how they express themselves. It's why I feel so comfortable doing Shakespeare, how I feel so comfortable doing movies. It's in my bones. I was brought up visiting various parents on various either stages or soundstages or on location.
It's such an unusual upbringing, movie stars for parents.
My summers were spent with my father and stepmother traveling the world, going to various countries, various locations for films. I grew up also with other children who had similar circumstances to me. My mom (Sybil Williams) was close friends with Lauren Bacall, for instance, so I grew up with her children. Sam Robards, her son, is one of my closest friends. The children of Leonard Bernstein, the Bernstein kids and the Robards and the Bogart kids are like my cousins 'cause we all shared that kind of thing that our parents were luminaries.
What was some of the best advice you ever got from your father or stepmother?
My father gave me some acting advice about acting for the camera and staying still, that it's a very different animal than acting for the theater. The best advice was from Brian Mann at ICM and my manager Larry Taub: Be very, very careful about taking the jobs that aren't classy; check yourself and be careful of doing anything that you would not be really proud to be in.
Three Tony nominations, three Emmy nods —
I have four — my first Emmy nomination I did win. It was an After School Special, a Daytime Emmy. To be nominated for a Tony in the best actress category, there's a 50/50 chance you're going to be nominated because there are only a limited amount of best actress possibilities. Being nominated for featured actress is probably a 10 percent possibility because there's so many more in featured actress. To be nominated for an Emmy is an unbelievable achievement. They have hundreds and hundreds of choices. And in my category this last year for Scandal, every nominee, with the exception of Kate Mara for House of Cards, was over the age of 55. How amazing is that?
It's a good time to be a woman in television.
I am 57 years old, and I have had constant work, not only on cable but on network television. To be nominated for a network show, I felt so honored to be sitting with five of the greatest actors: Diana Rigg, Jane Fonda, Allison Janney, Margo Martindale, Kate Mara. I just feel so blessed.