From transformative roles in off-Broadway dramas Tribes and In the Wake to a shocking TV stint on the addictive ABC series Scandal, Susan Pourfar proves time again why she was the recipient of the 2012 Clarence Derwent Award for most promising female performer on the New York scene. Now, Pourfar is taking the stage in Oscar winner Ethan Coen’s first full-length play, Women or Nothing, at off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater Company. She and Halley Feiffer play a couple so desperate to have a child that Pourfar's character agrees to sleep with a man. (Since the script is by Ethan Coen, strange complications can be expected.) Broadway.com caught up with the Obie-winning actress to find out what drew her to the play, whether she will return to Scandal and why she has never joined Twitter.
What made Women or Nothing stand out when you read it?
I got that feeling where, four or five pages in, my heart was pounding. I just stopped reading and wrote to my agents saying, “Oh my god, this is so unbelievably good.” Ethan Coen has a unique voice. He’s so imaginative, and the style is so wholly original and can only come out of his brain. This feels like it’s built for the stage.
How does the play compare to Coen's famous films [Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski]?
It’s funny, I’ve been revisiting his films and you can't compare them. Each time [Ethan and his brother Joel] make something, they create a world from scratch, so I don’t necessarily draw parallels to other things his fans may have seen. As always, it’s that sense that the writing has a basis in reality but is tweaked ever so slightly, and that’s what’s original.
What’s the dynamic like between the four actors in the show?
Halley Feiffer and I are partners, and Robert Beitzel is a co-worker she has invited over to engage in an activity with me because we want to have a child—she really likes this guy and believes he will have superb DNA. Then my mother [Deborah Rush] comes into the mix. I won't give too much away. The subject matter is serious, but I think the play is quite funny.
You do so many new works in New York. Any classic roles you’re itching to play?
After Tribes, I was thinking, “Wow, what’s the next challenge? I haven’t yet done any Shakespeare in New York.” Then I got this script, and I thought, “OK, this isn’t Shakespeare, but the challenge of the language is similar, so it feels like I’m getting to do Shakespeare in a way.” This has the element I'm hungry for in a classic play: You have to have an incredible amount of technique to handle this language. I don’t think you can mumble your way through Shakespeare, and you certainly can’t mumble your way through an Ethan Coen play.
Let’s talk Scandal. Was it fun to play badass assassin Becky Flynn?
It was so awesome. I cannot even tell you how fun it was to learn how to assemble a rifle. I totally lucked out because the character is kickass, it's [creator] Shonda Rhimes, and Guillermo Diaz [Huck] could not have been a kinder human being. He was so playful.
Did you have any idea where that character was going? Were you under intense gag order?
I was definitely under gag order! All I knew at my audition was that she was a mirror image of Huck, but I had no idea about the assassination attempt or hooking up rifles.
Were you a fan of Scandal before joining the cast?
I was following the show because Jeff Perry [presidential chief of staff Cyrus Beene] was in Tribes. Every Thursday night, the cast would leave the theater, gather in an apartment and watch the first season as it was happening.
Any chance we’ll see you on Scandal again?
I’m not dead. You never know. I honestly don’t know.
The Scandal company tweets like crazy. Do you feel any pressure to join Twitter?
I’m not on Twitter, and I have an ambivalent relationship toward my Facebook page. I don’t have that many 140 character things to say. The kind of things I want to express are long form, they aren’t tweets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so impressed by some tweets, but I’m no Steve Martin!
Don’t miss Susan Pourfar in Women or Nothing, running at the Atlantic Theater Company through October 6.