'Hamlet' Star Nathan Darrow Says Despite His Acting Success, Not All Is As It Appears

Jun 14, 2017

So what's it like going from a blockbuster hit like Netflix's House of Cards to returning to your hometown to perform outdoors in a Shakespeare play?

That was Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann's question for actor Nathan Darrow on the day Hamlet opened in Southmoreland Park, presented by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

"I like this question because it allows me to maybe give a little speech," Darrow replied. "Maybe I'm a little sensitive, but I can't help but hear a little bust in my hometown in it. Because I figure, why not Kansas City?"

Acting, he said, "is always difficult and it is always worthy. And that doesn't change with your location." 

Darrow, 40, graduated from Shawnee Mission North in Overland Park, Kansas, and returned to Kansas City after graduate school to perform on stages such as Kansas City Actors Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, New Theatre Restaurant and Unicorn Theatre. He moved to New York in 2009. 

In the last few years, he's played the bodyguard Edward Meechum in House of Cards and a trader in Showtime's Billions. On Fox's Gotham, he's the villain Mr. Freeze. And, most recently, he appeared as Bernie Madoff's son in HBO's The Wizard of Lies.

John Rensenhouse as the Ghost, Nathan Darrow as Hamlet in the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s 2017 production of 'Hamlet.'
Credit Brian Collins / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

Darrow's back in Kansas City for the title role in Hamlet.

As the tragedy begins, Hamlet's father, the King, has died mysteriously. And, shortly after, Hamlet's uncle has married his mother, the Queen. To get into character, Darrow says he mined Hamlet's back story using hints from the play. 

"We think of Hamlet as a person who is unable to act," he said. "I don't know that this is his nature."

Instead, Darrow described Hamlet as "capable of being active, and organized, and engaged in life. Of course, death is something that when it hits, it changes it all." 

Despite success on stage and in television, Darrow still calls himself a working actor, always on the lookout for the next opportunity. 

"In reality, this was the next, best job for me," he told Kaufmann.

The trajectory of a successful actor "is usually much more varied and complicated than (the idea) we're given through magazines and television, the way we think of the life of an actor," he said.

"Money, success does not insulate you from having to meet the challenge of that." 

Listen to the entire Central Standard conversation here

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival presents Hamlet, June 13 through July 2, Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Southmoreland Park, 4598 Oak Street (west of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art), Kansas City, Missouri, 64111.

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.