One year into the run of To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway, Ed Harris has taken over for Jeff Daniels in the role of Atticus Finch, the white lawyer defending a black man wrongly accused of rape in Maycomb, Alabama.
And while Harris has, of course, read Harper Lee’s original novel and seen the movie, “You read the play and [playwright Aaron] Sorkin’s take on it, and it’s so different in terms of who this man is and what he’s dealing with and how he’s trying to maintain his sense of goodness and tolerance in this world of hate and prejudice,” he told CBS This Morning.
With this freshness in mind, Harris avoided seeing Daniels’ performance—which means Harris has never seen the play he stepped into. “I didn’t want to be influenced by it,” he said. “It’s such an individual experience to portray any given character.” With his interpretation, Harris brings a lot of himself to the role. “My main job is to be as much myself as Atticus as I can be,” he said.
Harris made his Broadway debut in the 1986 play Precious Sons by George Furth. He returned 10 years later as Major Steve Arnold in Taking Sides. Now, 23 years later, he steps back on the Main Stem stage with a hope: “If it can help open anybody up to the world and to life and to being more generous and more open and more loving, then we've achieved something.”