November 15, 2002


An interview with
Scott Helm
































































































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Scott Helm in Fully Committed
Scott Helm in Fully Committed

Scott Helm is currently starring in Fully Committed, a one-man show in which he portrays Sam, an out-of-work actor, and the thirty-nine other people he talks to in the course of a day. We spoke with Scott on the telephone earlier today, after having seen the show a second time on Thursday night.

Congratulations, first of all. This is quite a triumph for you.

Thank you. It's a lot of fun. I think we had about 500 people last night.

On opening night, when the phone cord went flying, the audience was really pulling for you. There were audible sighs of relief when you got the phone back together. Those moments must've seemed endless.

No, that was fun. When the phone cord came out, it was like a little gift.

Are you from Charlotte?

I'm from Tennessee.

What was the first play you did here?

The first play I did here was Light Up the Sky. That was for Charlotte Rep, back when they did the Golden Circle Theatre.

You also worked at Children's Theatre.

Yes, the third show I did in Charlotte was The Reluctant Dragon. I did quite a bit of work there, worked with Alan Poindexter.

We first followed your career when you did a show for Innovative Theatre. You were in The Changeling, which Alan adapted and directed.

Yes, as Lollio. That was a long time ago, maybe 1994.

What do you think is different about acting for children?

Nothing. If anything, it's harder. Kids live in that fantasy world all the time, and you have to work hard to keep that illusion alive for them.

As well as doing main stage work, you've performed in the New Play Festival.

I've been in that several times. Back in the day, I was in the Float Plane Notebooks, and was in the production that came out of that. I was in A Dangerous Place, and a couple of others.

You went to New York for a little while.

Yes, my wife Claire and I went to New York in 1998. We were there for around six months. It was great.

Would you consider moving to New York to pursue a more serious career?

I have a day job, but I'd consider moving. It's a lot of fun doing this stuff.

There was a lot of really good buzz about your current show before it opened, from people in the M. Butterfly cast, & other people who were able to see run-throughs of Fully Committed before it opened.

That definitely generated some things. Word of mouth is having a great effect. I wish the run were just a week longer.

Would you consider a reprised performance later?

It's possible, if the timing and circumstances were right.

You were in Angels in America. What did you think of all the controversy that came out of that production?

I thought it was pathetic. But it came back to bite them. Several county commissioners were voted out of office. For the most part, I felt fairly insulated from all the hoopla. There was a sense that we were doing some important work, and a sense that the show should be all that it could be. We went about doing our jobs as we normally would, and it was a great cast.

Before Sam, what's been your favorite role?

My favorite role... at the time you're doing them, they're all your favorite, so that's a hard question to answer. A lot of the roles I've done have been more character-oriented. Playing the bartender in Picasso at the Lapin Angile was a gratifying role. I didn't say a whole lot, but when I did, it was all payoff lines. There are those sorts of roles that are easy and fun. It's a good way to make a living. This role of Sam is tough.

Let's talk about Fully Committed. When did you first read it?

I first read the entire thing before my callback.

When you read for it, did you know that you were right for it?

No. In fact, I didn't expect to get this role.

Why not?

Michael Bush had asked a bunch of folks to come in and read, and I was one of them. Heretofore, most of my roles have been supporting or character roles. In that regard, I'm a very good utility player. I have a range that allows me to play a bunch of different sorts of people, but I didn't think that parlayed into an ability to do them all at once.

Did they read any women for Fully Committed?

Yes, they did. Claire was actually one of the women who read for it.

Claire's family has some connection to Charlotte theatre.

Claire's father is Dean Whitworth, and he's done tons of stuff around here. He was an original Tarradiddle Player, and is a very fine actor. He does mostly film stuff now.

What did you think when the part was offered to you?

I thought, "Well, sure. That's a challenge."

Where you daunted at all?

Of course. I was scared to death.

Was David Mowers involved in the auditions?

I auditioned here, and I guess they liked what they saw, so they put me on tape and sent it up to New York where Dave was doing auditions. I guess he liked what he saw. Dave and Michael talked, and Dave came down to meet face to face. After the audition, they offered me the part right there.

Right on the spot?

Yes. That was gratifying.

Have you done a solo piece before?

Not since college. That was a shorter piece, called The Madness of Lady Brice.

In that one, did you portray just one character?


Didn't David Mowers write the book for a musical monologue?

In his other life, he is a solo performer. So yes, he has written a couple of pieces that he's done.

He was able, then, to give you some specific guidance about that.

Yes, he was a tremendous help. It was a great collaboration. I brought some stuff to the table and he was able to help to shape it into the telling of the story. That's what we wanted to do more than anything else: to get the story across. It's a really fun, interesting story.

When you began to develop all these distinct characters, it seems as though you made some decisions based on contrast. Did you model some of the characterizations on people you really know?

I can neither confirm nor deny that.

Sometime in your life, you might've known someone like Chef.

Oh, sure. Chef is an amalgamation of several different people. As it turns out, Chef's just a big old softy. He's also a world-class narcissist, and that's his downfall. He wants what he wants when he wants it.

Did you develop the characters in order of appearance or in order of importance?

Some characters were easier to peg than others. Some were difficult, and that's when Dave and I got together, and said, "Well, who do you think this person is? What do they want, and where are they coming from?" That's a cool exercise that Dave would do with me. He'd say, "What sort of clothes does this person wear?" "How much money do they make?" "Where do they work, and what do they do?" Very specific questions that made it easier for the character to fall into place.

Did you do that for Sam as well? Did you create a whole life outside the basement?

To some degree, yes. He's a guy that really wants to be an actor, and he doesn't make a whole lot of money. I think we decided that he makes $11.50 an hour.

How good an actor is Sam?

I think he's a fine actor.

Do you think he's going to be successful?

Of course.

Which other character is your favorite?

I get asked that question a lot, and I just don't know the answer to that. I like Jean-Claude a lot. I like Chef a lot. I like playing those guys. Carolann Fishburn is fun to do. There are several that are all there. I like playing Sam, toward the end.

You have to be very well coordinated with Lynn Terry, your stage manager.

Oh yes, he's my scene partner.


Without a doubt. The way the phone rings, the way the buzzer rings, the way the Chef phone rings... the timing on that is crucial to telling the story, and sometimes drives the rhythm of the piece. It changes from night to night, because he's having to gauge audience reaction as well.

Has your relationship with the telephone in your real life changed?

I've always hated being on the phone. If I can, I avoid answering it. I let it go to voice mail.

Is there a project that you've always wanted to do?

For a long time, I've wanted to do Betrayal, the Pinter play. It's three people: the husband, the wife, and the lover. The husband and the lover are best friends. The story is told backwards. You see the end of relationships at the beginning of the play.

Would you play the husband or the lover?

I don't know. It's such a good play, I don't know which role I'd prefer.

What are you going to work on next?

I have no idea. I'm heading back to my day job. I took a five-week leave of absence to do this show. I've had a wonderful time doing this play.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

~ Lydia Arnold
November 15, 2002

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