As the gripping stage thriller Catch Me If You Can heads for Cardiff, Piece of Pink Pie is pleased to share this Q&A with one of the stars, Linda Purl.
The play, which also stars Patrick Duffy and Gray O’Brien, opens at the New Theatre on Monday (28 February) and runs all week, before continuing its UK tour.
What can audiences expect when they come to see Catch Me If You Can?
It’s full of twists of turns. I remember when I first read it, it just pulls you in right away. You feel like ‘I’ve got this figured out’ and then you don’t, then you don’t, then you don’t again. It’s challenging for the audience and hopefully we’ll have them on the edge of their seats as well as laughing along the way. With all that we’ve lived through and are continuing to live through, it offers a delightful escape. It’s also delightful for us as actors because it’s such a fun group to work with. A week into rehearsals we already felt like a family. We have the most wonderful director in Bob Tomson and the most wonderful troupe.
How would you sum up the character of Elizabeth and her role in the story?
She’s sweet, tough and brave. How do I say this without giving it away? There’s a villain in the piece and in the grand tradition of an Agatha Christie, the characters are trying to figure out the truth through their own agendas. And Elizabeth herself has a very specific agenda from which she does not waiver.
Does the play present any specific challenges for you?
We’re discovering the challenges as we go along but the specificity of it is the real joy. Our director Bob is masterful at crafting everything. It’s choreographed and it’s like doing a dance together. It’s very much an ensemble piece and we’re finding this intricate weave that the play provides and which Bob is leading us through.
Your co-star is also your partner Patrick Duffy [who plays Daniel Corban]. Have you worked together before?
We did a reading together in 1980 in Los Angeles, which was the first time we met and which we both have a vague memory of. Then flash-forward to 2021 and we did a movie together [Doomsday Mom] in Canada. Canada was in heavy quarantine at the time but you were allowed to go in and out for work, although after arriving we weren’t allowed to step out of our room for two weeks. We’d just gotten together as a couple and thought ‘It might be a disaster if they lock us up together’ but we survived. Then we did the film together and thought ‘What if we have different rhythms?’ but it was so much fun working together. What was unusual, though, was walking to the set holding hands with a fellow actor.
You became a couple during lockdown, didn’t you?
We did, yes. We’d bumped into each other a couple of years ago and it was very nice, like ‘Hey, long time no see!’ We kept in touch via a group text with mutual friends, then the pandemic hit. Patrick and I began Zooming each other. We chatted one night for a couple of hours and it was like ‘Let’s do this again’. We found we had a lot of things in common and a lot of friends. Before long we were Zooming literally every night for two or three hours. He’s so smart, kind and intuitive, he writes poetry and he read me a poem that made me think ‘Gosh, there’s a lot to this kind soul and this beautiful human being’. One night he ended our chat with ‘Love you!’ so [laughs] the next night I might have tarted myself up a little more than usual. Some threshold of possibility had been crossed. One conversation lead to another in a very Victorian way and after about three months of this, when lockdown lifted, he jumped in his car and drove from Oregon to Colorado. It was terrifying and we were both shaking like leaves but we took the leap and it’s worked out wonderfully.
You’ve done so much high-profile TV work. What roles are you most recognised for by the public?
It’s always for different things. Unlike Patrick, who had such enormous iconic successes with Dallas and Step by Step, my career has been much more journeyman. I’ve done a plethora of movies-of-the-week, going through every ailment a girl could have – suicide, alcoholism, put-upon, you name it – as well as having been the villaina couple of times. Happy Days was a hallmark for me, as was playing Pam’s mum on the American Office. I did the first season of Homeland and what a cast that was, and Matlock was another great experience. When the public recognise me it depends on what era they’re from, and I’m ancient enough to have lived through all of them. But as I say I’ve had a much more journeyman kind of career on TV, balanced with music and theatre.
You’ve done a British Theatre Season in Monaco but is this your first time performing in Britain itself?
I’ve never worked on a British stage before. I’ve filmed here a few times but no, the only time I’ve performed in the UK is when I’ve sang at places like The Crazy Coqs and The Pheasantry in London. Am I nervous? Of course I am! I’m getting hives just thinking about it but it’s so exciting. We were saying to our castmates the other day ‘Why do we do this?’ because it’s always terrifying. It’s like labour pains, where you forget what it was like and go ‘I’ll have another kid, it’ll be fine’. But the joy, the learning curve and the life adventure of it far outweigh the hives.
What are you most looking forward to about touring the country?
We’re going to be experts at packing and unpacking and we’ll have the privilege of knowing a good deal more about your beautiful country than we did before. The tour is taking us up and down the country and we’ll be driving as much as possible so we will be relying heavily on GPS because, for example, we go from Windsor to Belfast to Cardiff to Blackpool. I’m not sure how much sightseeing we’ll get to do in each town, though. With COVID still out there we have to err on the side of extreme caution and we’ll be happy just to keep our noses to the grindstone.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?
It used to be: Toothbrush, a couple of changes of clothes, let’s go! Now it’s the supplements, the potions and the lotions. And I have to bring my workout clothes. Give me a piece of floor to roll around on and somewhere to go for a brisk walk and I’m happy.
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