Mary Badham, who starred in the movie 'Mockingbird', joins the Broadway tour

Mary Badham describes herself as “just a retired old lady who likes to be in her garden and play with her grandchildren”. But in 1962, ...


Mary Badham describes herself as “just a retired old lady who likes to be in her garden and play with her grandchildren”.

But in 1962, she was a child star, captivating the nation with her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Scout, Atticus Finch’s daughter, in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Now, six decades and many careers later, she’s helping to dramatize history once again, this time from a different perspective. Badham, who has never worked as a stage actor, is now in rehearsals for a nationwide tour of the Broadway production “Mockingbird” in which she will play Mrs. Dubose, Scout’s mean neighbor and morphine addict.

“I’m going to come full circle,” Badham said in an interview. “It’s something I had never considered.”

Badham, now 69, is still a bit hazy on how it happened. She says she got an out of the blue call from the production, inviting her to audition. The play’s director, Bartlett Sher, said Badham’s name came up while brainstorming for the tour, and the casting team tracked her down; he says as soon as he saw her doing a workshop, he knew she could do it.

“She hasn’t been on stage, and it was a big adjustment for her, but she’s going to be great – she’s got a brilliant, flamboyant intelligence, and a good listener and a precise delivery and all the things you need as a great actor,” Sher said. “And it was incredibly fascinating – I’ve never had such an experience, to have this voice of cultural history from the very work that we were doing, and to see how we changed and how she changed. was lovely to have her in the room.

Badham has always been a bit of an accidental actor. She had no experience when a talent scout showed up in Birmingham, Alabama, where she lived, looking for a Southern girl to play Scout in the film adaptation of the 1960 novel. , Pulitzer Prize winner by Harper Lee, about a white Alabama lawyer – Finch – who agrees to represent a black man accused of rape. Badham’s mother performed at a local theater and his brother (who became a director) was in drama school; she passed a screen test, and before she knew it, she was off to California, playing alongside actor Gregory Peck, who became an important mentor and friend.

“I had no idea what was going on – I was just playing,” she said. “I don’t even think we had complete scripts, because there were certain words and things that were deemed inappropriate for children to hear. I had no idea what the movie was about until we started going to premieres and then we were all in tears.

In the decades that followed, Badham worked in cosmetics sales, became a certified practical nurse and even occasionally appeared in film and television. She never became a large animal veterinarian – her childhood aspiration – but, with her husband and two children, she has made a Virginia farm her home. “I’ve always wanted to live on a farm and have horses and animals, and we’ve had that over the years,” she said.

“I’m not an actress,” she added. “Acting is something that just happened to me.”

She said she found it difficult to watch the film “because all my friends are gone now – there are only a few of us left”. But she usually says yes when given new “Mockingbird” opportunities; she has spent decades talking about history in schools, universities and social clubs. “‘Mockingbird’ has been my life,” she said.

“It’s just weird, and I told the man upstairs – I just feel like he has something he wants me to say, and he picked me to Say it and keep saying it,” she added. “My job has basically been to keep that story alive and get people talking about it, so we can try to move forward with all of these issues that we still have.”

And what is the message of “Mockingbird”? “We should try to learn to love each other and to be good people,” she said.

The show tour, directed by Richard Thomas as Atticus and Melanie Moore as Scout, begins performances March 27 in Buffalo and opens April 5 in Boston, followed by runs across the country. This adaptation, written by Aaron Sorkin, opened on Broadway in 2018was hugely successful before the pandemic and again sold strongly when Jeff Daniels returned to lead the cast as Atticus Finch. As Daniels departed and the Omicron variant increased, the show announced it was taking a nearly six-month hiatus, with a revival scheduled for June 1 at a small theater. A London production is due to start on Thursday.

Badham said she was worried about playing Ms. Dubose because the character uses racist language to describe black people. “I had a real problem accepting this role, because I have to use the N-word, and I have to be this horrible, bigoted, racist person,” she said. “I went to my African American friends and said, ‘Do I want to walk around as this awful old lady?’ And they were like, ‘This is important. It’s part of the story. You have to go out there and make it as bad as possible and show what it really looked like. ‘”

Badham also said she believes the character of Ms. Dubose as a morphine addict is important at a time when many Americans are struggling with opioid addiction. “It gives me another side of the story to focus on,” she said.

After a few weeks of rehearsal, she said she felt more comfortable.

“It’s scary – I’ll tell you bluntly, I’m deathly terrified every time I have to open my mouth, and I had no idea I was going to be on stage this much,” she said. declared.

But, she says, she can feel the presence of others who have already told the story, and it reinforces her. “I feel like they’re with us, supporting us,” she said, “because they know it needs to be said.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Mary Badham, who starred in the movie 'Mockingbird', joins the Broadway tour
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