Spotlight: Sam Waterston


Best known as District Attorney Jack McCoy on "Law & Order," Sam Waterston has an accomplished film career as well. His performance in 1984's "The Killing Fields" earned him an Oscar nomination and he has worked with Woody Allen on no less than three movies. Currently, Waterston stars in the Long Wharf's Theater's production of "Have You Seen Us?" in New Haven, Conn. He recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Zorianna Kit.

The Hollywood Reporter: After 15 years on "Law & Order," do you ever get bored?

Sam Waterston: I always told myself that I would leave the minute I was bored and I'm surprised that over all this time it hasn't happened.

: You also played a D.A. on the TV series "I'll Fly Away." By now, do you feel you could actually do the job in real life?

Waterston: Not on your life. I have that whole "a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" so it's good I don't have anything to do with the court of law -- except in the pretend world.

THR: Do you feel typecast by the role?

: Well as we speak, I'm in New Haven playing a down-and-out South African alcoholic in a brand new play by Athol Fugard ("Have You Seen Us?"), so it hasn't really been a disadvantage.

THR: Is there something you'd secretly like to do but no one would think to consider you for?

Waterston: It would be a great vacation to do something silly with no redeeming social values at all. Something that's just for laughs.

THR: What do you consider your breakthrough role?

Waterston: Well I had a breakthrough year when I did "Much Ado About Nothing" in Central Park, "The Glass Menagerie" with Katharine Hepburn (for TV) and "The Great Gatsby" in the movies. And I met my wife.

THR: Your ancestors were passengers on the Mayflower. Does that history ever figure prominently in your acting work?

Waterston: The fact that I had relatives like that was crucial in getting to play Nick Carraway in "Gatsby." There was some question about whether I had the right pedigree for Nick's kind of background, but ultimately, my ancestry came to my rescue.

THR: Do you have any mottos that you live by?

Waterston: When I was young actor, I remember seeing a quote of (baseball Hall of Famer) Satchel Paige's on an ad on the New York City bus saying "Don't look back: Something may be gaining on you." That's been my watchword ever since. I've never, ever, felt that I could relax and rest on my laurels.
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