Off Script: Michael Shannon Curates a Boozy Playlist for His 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' Role

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Michael Shannon

The Tony nominee tells THR why he respects the Broadway community and with which co-star he rocks out on the Lower East Side.

Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical epic Long Day’s Journey Into Night clocks in at three hours and 45 minutes, but the revival’s runtime has its bitterly humorous moments from Michael Shannon as Jamie Tyrone, the clan’s cynical eldest son who drowns life’s disappointments in women and booze. THR’s review calls the featured actor and first-time Tony nominee “a fascinating stage beast, as magnetic as he is onscreen, with an expressiveness that extends from his brooding facial features to his rangy body and large, swatting hands. His Jamie is funny in his sourness but also deeply angry and broken beyond repair. … Shannon puts such a unique spin on so much of his dialogue that the play's final act takes on invigorating new life.”

Shannon, 41, goes Off Script to explain why he respects the Broadway community, what’s on his character-specific playlist and with which co-star he rocks out on the Lower East Side.

What’s the best part about being part of this show with Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne and John Gallagher Jr.?

The back-and-forth when we’re all together onstage. It’s funny because this is all happening so quickly, we just opened the show and I think we all still feel like we’re working on it. It’s a work in progress. So as nice as it is to get acknowledged, we still feel like we have a lot of work to do. We’re all pretty no-nonsense and are focused on trying to do the best version of this play that we possibly can.

Coming from Hollywood, what do you like most about the Broadway community?

I’m still getting to know Broadway; it’s only my second show [after 2012’s Grace] that I’ve ever done here. I come from a black box theater world of Chicago, so this is fancy. But it’s great to see, particularly with this show, that no matter how fancy it gets, people still care mostly about the work. They don’t get off on the fanciness of it.

Michael Shannon and Jessica Lange in 'Long Day's Journey Into Night.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus

What time do you wake up on a show day?

I got two small children, one of which has to go to school. But I don’t get the luxury of taking a hot bath all day or something.

Do you eat dinner before or after a performance?

I don’t eat before I go onstage. I can’t do it. And it’s just so late when the show’s over too. I usually go home and see what’s in the fridge. Last night I ate leftover chicken and broccoli from the kids’ dinner. Nothing fancy.

What’s something special in your dressing room?

I have a record player, and I listen to things that inspire me or get me in the right frame of mind. I’ve picked them specifically for this show, and it’s different music each night. For example, the Billy Strayhorn classic “Lush Life” seems particularly appropriate, so I listen to a beautiful version of that from John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. It’s one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded.

Any pre-show rituals?

I turn my phone off at half-hour and I don’t turn it back on until the show is over. I need to go back in time, and I can’t do that if I’m screwing around on an iPhone. That would be horrifying.

What do you do when you’re not onstage during the show?

I’m just listening to the play.

Do you have trouble sleeping afterward?

No. I’m exhausted all the time. I sleep happily.

What do you do on your day off?

[Recently,] I played a gig. I have a rock band and Johnny Gallagher Jr. has one too. We played in a little club in the Lower East Side. It was a blast. He’s a great singer and songwriter, a super talented kid. My music is more kind of noise. We should do a tour.

Michael Shannon in 'Long Day's Journey Into Night.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus