Age & Hometown: 29; New York, NY
Current Role: Patty Ann Donovan, a down-on-her-luck Irish-American racist who agrees to "ghost-buy" a home for an African-American family in 1950s Boston, in Lincoln Center Theater's Luck of the Irish.
Getting Nasty: Luck of the Irish is the second meaty off-Broadway project in a row for Amanda Quaid, the daughter of Oscar-nominated actor Randy Quaid and his first wife, Ella Marie Jolly. Last summer, she won raves as a London woman caught in a love triangle in Mike Bartlett’s Cock. This time around, Quaid is the least sympathetic character in Kirsten Greenidge's drama, playing a debt-ridden Boston wife who harbors bitterness toward an upwardly mobile black family. “People seem to see as my strength these angry, wronged women,” Quaid notes with a laugh, explaining that in the case of Patty Ann, “I had to keep giving myself permission to let it be ugly, because the uglier she is, the more poignant her struggle becomes. Her emotions—hope, disappointment, envy, entitlement—are things everybody knows something about. That made it a story I could come to personally, and it gave me access to her nastier side.”
Theatrical Calling: “My parents divorced when I was three, and I was raised in New York, mostly by my mom," says Quaid, who prefers not to speak about her famous dad. "I wasn’t raised in a Hollywood environment; my parents would take me to the theater all the time. My idols were Uta Hagen, Janet McTeer and Cherry Jones. Theater was really what I felt a calling to do.” At 16, Quaid began studying at Hagen’s HB Studio before earning an English degree at Vassar. At 25, she made her Broadway debut as Jill Mason opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. “Anna Camp, the woman I was understudying, got True Blood, so I got to go on a lot," she says. “It was thrilling.” Asked about play's infamous nude scene, Quaid says with a laugh, “I didn’t know if I was going to spontaneously combust the first time, but ultimately it wasn’t that big of a deal, and the cast was so supportive. Daniel, especially, was so inclusive. He’s a true man of the theater, in a way that is very elegant.”
The King's Speech: In addition to her stage work and offstage life in Brooklyn with her husband, Noel Velez, Quaid moonlights as an accent and dialect coach. “Speech is the window into how somebody is thinking and how they’re feeling,” she muses. “I like to think of [acting with accents] as an act of empathy, but you also need to be willing to make a total ass of yourself.” Inspired by her mom, a geriatric psychotherapist, Quaid recently found herself teaching Shakespeare to seniors at the Hudson Guild Senior Center as part of an arts partnership. “It’s poignant to see people in their seventies and eighties take on something new,” she says. “We put on a show of sonnets that [the seniors] presented alongside professional actors. It was great—I wish I had more time for it now.”