Today’s edition of the INTERVUE, we are going to deliver the first of two interviews for the upcoming Shakespearean play 1 Henry IV that will run at Folger Theatre through October 13th. First up on deck is Tyler Fauntleroy, he plays Hotspur who battle against our next interviewee Prince Hall played by Avery Whitted.
So, tell us about your role as Hotspur, for those who are not familiar with Henry IV.
Yeah, sure. So, Hotspur’s real name is Henry Percy. Hotspur is his nickname. He is of the Percy family, who actually, it’s his family that helps King Henry IV get into his position in the first place. So, in the beginning of the play, which is Hotspur and his family. Hotspur is a very good knight. He’s a good warrior. He has his nick name of “Hotspur” for his prowess on the battlefield, as well as his quick temper and his rage that he’s prone to every now and then. But yeah, that’s who he is in this production.
Excellent. So, what got you interested in playing Hotspur? In fact, I’ve heard that you and Avery actually auditioned for the other role (laughs)
That’s great. We sure did, yeah. It’s so funny, because the first day, the second day of rehearsal, he and I had a conversation about that. We thought it was so cool how that—I’m a sucker for a story like that, you hear like, “oh, this actor actually wet for this, but then they played THIS and oh that—perfectly!” You know, it’s always—I love those ‘behind-the-scenes’ stories. But yeah, my original appointment for this production was for Prince Hal. I went for Prince Hal and I got called back for Prince Hal and I felt that it went good, and then as I was leaving, I was getting my stuff to leave and they went, “oh, can you stay and read for Hotspur?” I went, “yeah, I can do that. I can do that.”
So, they gave me Hotspur’s monologue. They said he’s kind of a leader in the play, right? So, I looked up just to get the circumstances, making sure I knew what was going on in the scene. And the language that Hotspur used, the way he structured his thoughts, all those things just intrigued me and then just given the circumstances around why he was saying what he was saying in this particular scene I was just, “oh man, like–” I just saw so many colors to how to play it, and it seems super fun to me, so I was like, “ok, if Hal didn’t work out, I would be A-OK if I had to play Hotspur.” So, I go in and I do the audition, and they give me a lot of time to prepare it which was good, because it was my first time seeing the material for Hotspur that day. But yeah, just the way that he spoke about honor and the things he believed in and his sense of justice intrigued me to him as well. But yeah, I went to do the call back and the rest is history.
I got a call later in the week, and yeah.
Wonderful. And I understand you’re making your DC debut at the Folger Theater, is that correct?
That’s correct. That is correct.
So, what is it like to make that debut on one of the best Shakespearean theater stages in the nation?
Oh, man. It’s humbling, I’ll tell you that. It’s just a beautiful opportunity to be working, not just in D.C., but working at the Folger, you know? One thing that I’ve been doing since I got here was listening to every actor, watching every actor and just learning all that I can from them, you know?
Because they’ve been in the game for a long time. But yeah, it’s just a humbling, amazing experience to get to do this. It’s such a great venue and I feel like I’m being so challenged and pushed in a way that I haven’t yet before. And it’s like I said, it’s just the fun part of just exploring my characters with the others actors who have who have so much experience and just learning from them and getting their advice on things, and I have such a great director as well. Rosa is amazing. She’s our wonderful, fearless leader, and the atmosphere here at the Folger is wonderful, but you know, the staff, the cast and crew, it’s just a great atmosphere environment. A clay, you know what I mean?
It feels like a safe space we all have; the freedom and we’re encouraged to try things and if something’s not quite working and there’s a free open space to collaborate, which is refreshing. But yeah, it’s an honor to be able to make my D.C. debut and then also, like I said before, at the Folger, it’s something else.
Exactly, something else. It takes on a whole new level. I definitely agree with you. Now, speaking of Rosa, your director, she refers to this play and Shakespeare’s other historic plays as “political warfare plays.” Do you agree with that sentiment?
Oh, yes. Absolutely, absolutely. One of the things that she pointed out in the early days of rehearsal is to make sure as we were going through the story, look for the moments when it’s personal. And what I mean by that is, look for the moments when these people in positions of power and authority make decisions that affect everyone based on their personal feelings. You know, you find a lot of characters make decisions based on self-preservation on whether they’ve been wronged by another person. You know what I mean? A lot of people in this play feel they’ve been wronged by the king.
And that leads to rebellion; that leads to a potential split up of England as a whole, all because of a personal debt that certain folks feel has been unpaid, you know? So, finding the personal is what I think is like to the political warfare of the story.
Excellent. Yes, indeed. I definitely agree with you 100%. Now, you’re playing with Avery, who I talked to earlier in the day, and you are both at war, at odds with each other throughout the play. So, I want you to talk about the chemistry between the two of you as actors and your characters.
Right, yeah well, Avery is an awesome dude. It’s been great these past couple of weeks getting to know him and hanging out and talking about things. We find where we have similar interests on a lot of things, which is great, so the moments we are in rehearsal and do actually do fight each other. We’ve been choreographing the fight this past week so it’s fun to like, in those moments when we’re literally trying to kill each other onstage, when we have a break we just joke and laugh about stuff because the bond is there offstage, which makes what we do onstage all the more fun and exciting, because we talked about how we have—because we went in for each other’s parts, we have so much respect for what the other has to do onstage every night, when the show happens.
So also having a knowledge of each other’s parts having both auditioned for them also adds a deeper level of respect and reverence to what we have to do, I think that just adds to the chemistry and how we see each other, as Hal and Hotspur, also as Avery and Tyler.
That is wonderful, and it is always great to hear that the actors try to bring some of their personalities into the roles that they play. Speaking of working with actors, you’re playing opposite with Edward Gero as Falstaff and he is a staple in the D.C. theater community, and I want you to talk about working with him.
Yeah, like I was saying earlier, just what I’ve been doing is soaking up all the knowledge and wisdom I can, and that is one of the key people I’ve been getting that from, you know? Every time he’s onstage, I like to watch and just see how he has such a master of the language. He’s just—every word is respected. Every thought and idea is fresh and new, and he’s just an incredible storyteller and I’m just so blessed to be in a cast where I’m able to say I worked with him.
But yeah, just…you know, on our lunch break sometimes, we’ll talk about our characters and things. He and I had a good conversation about Hotspur not too long ago. What’s cool about Ed is that he’s played a lot of these parts already, so we talked about one time when he played Hotspur back in the day.
We had a good conversation about that. But yeah, I’ve just been learning how effortless he makes it look, you know what I mean? That’s what I’ve been so taken with, how he just has such a grasp on the language and the story he’s telling. It’s just a beautiful thing to watch.
It is indeed. I remember seeing him in The Will in the Hill play a couple of years back and he did a tremendous job. Now, I’m told Henry IV, Part 1 is a very physical and visceral production and has lots of movement and fight scenes, and you were telling me a bit about the fight scenes. I want you to tell me about the physical and visceral aspects about this play.
Yeah, I think it’s such a beautiful story and beautiful vision that Rosa have, because I think the movement pieces we have given an added depth to war as a whole, because I think the important thing to remember in this play is it’s not just these fights that you see amongst these characters that you’ve grown to know over the course of the play, but England is at war, you know what I mean?
And I think the movement pieces give light to that fact. But yes, it is a very physical show. Even the things we’re doing in sections where the fights are abstracted requires a lot. And the set itself, you’ll see there’s things you can climb on, things you can lean on, things you can jump off of. So, we’re doing things like that.
On top of the actual sword fighting, which that in itself—when Avery and I just go through it slowly, our sword fight, we’re both just restless and sweaty and all that stuff. So, it’s definitely one that you can’t sleep on as an actor. You kind of have to leap forward into it, or it’ll run you over if you don’t run with it. But yeah, yeah.
Absolutely. So, when did you realize that you wanted to become an actor and make this your career?
Yeah, wow! That’s a great question. So, I always credit why I’m an actor, or how I became an actor, why those thoughts even started in me. It’s because of the movie—I know you’ve heard of it—Toy Story. (laughs)
Really? Yes, one of my favorites.
That’s actually the reason why I was even intrigued by it. I didn’t even realize that’s why I liked it. What I loved about Toy Story was the story of it. As a kid of three or four, I would tell the whole plot to anyone who would listen to me. As a three or four-year-old, I had my toy Woody, my toy Buzz, and I’d reenact the moments in the movie so that people could get the story clearly, you know? And so, my mom was like, “hey, maybe you should think about trying acting,” but I wanted nothing to do with it. I was so shy. You know?
I was scared of my own shadow as a kid. But I did love to sing, so gradually I started singing in church. Once I started singing in church I thought, “this isn’t bad.” I found that I still had an itch for storytelling that needed satisfying, and so I went to my best friend—she did the sixth grade musical at our school when we were in middle school—she invited me to it. And I saw all the kids onstage. I don’t even remember what school it was, but I saw all the kids onstage looking like they were having the time of their lives. Looking like they were having a blast and I thought, “I want to have something like that,” you know?
That’s what I want to do. It was just like, every big number to every small detail. The ensemble onstage. I was just so like, “wow! All that world right in front of me!” I want to be a part of creating a world like that, you know, that people can feel what I’m feeling right now. But yeah, after middle school, after sixth grade, I started auditioning for plays in middle school, did the plays the rest of middle school, followed into high school. Junior year, I was still on the fence about whether I wanted to do it or not, just the whole can I make this an actual career, money all those things. But then, I had a good talk with my mom and grandma, and my aunt, my support system, figuring out what my career was going to be, what I was going to pursue. I told them, “hey I think I want to try this acting thing.” And they agreed, they were supportive and so, here I am.
Nice! Now, on the flip side, what is one role that you would love to play one day in your career?
Oh, wow. That’s good, I’ve got a couple. One day, when I’m old enough I’d love to play Aaron Burr in Hamilton.
That’s a dream of mine. (laughs) When I’m old enough.
Especially since Hamiltonis tour ing around the country and coming back to the Kennedy Center next summer.
Oh, wow! Nice! Yeah, that’s a dream of mine, to do that one. And we were talking the other day, a couple of the cast and I, just other Shakespeare roles. I really want to play Hamlet at some point in my life.
Yeah, I really do. I really want to tackle that, because I love how cerebral he is and that journey he goes on through the play. I really want to take that journey with him, you know? So those are the two where I’m like, I want to do those.
What is one piece of advice would you give to an actor who’s upcoming and wants to do what you’re doing? What advice would you give them?
Well, I would say be patient with yourself. Give yourself some grace as you’re working on your craft. I think a lot of times, sometimes with actors, because what we do is so personal, your emotions can feel very tied to what you do, but the advice I would give is try your best not to compare yourself to other people, you know? Know that you’re gifted enough, who you are is enough, and no one can do what you do the way you do it.
1 Henry IV runs through October 13th at Folger Theatre. Tickets are available online at
www.folger.edu/theatre or by calling the Folger Box Office at (202) 544-7077.