You’re going to grow accustomed to his face.
Harry Hadden-Paton has starred in some critically acclaimed television series, including “Downton Abbey” and “The Crown.”
And now the 37-year-old British actor is starring in the high-profile revival of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” starring Lauren Ambrose and Norbert Leo Butz.
It is both his Broadway debut and his first musical, and for this, he’s been nominated for a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and a Drama League Award. No big deal.
“I really share all these nominations with everyone who is part of this collaborative process,” Hadden-Paton says. “I feel very lucky and excited about it all, but mainly thankful.”
amNewYork spoke with the actor about the show.
What’s your take on Mr. Higgins?
I did quite a lot of research right at the beginning on the people that Bernard Shaw has based [the character] on. There’s a guy called Henry Sweet. . . . It was this Sweet character that was — allegedly — that it was the most based on. So I unearthed as much as I could about him. . . . He seemed very self-important and passionate about the work and sort of completely sure of himself and of his beliefs and opinions. And I thought that would be a usual starting point. But then I read that Bernard Shaw had said that Higgins wasn’t based entirely on him. And I think the quote was something like, “If Sweet had had Higgins physique and temperament [he] could have set the Thames on fire.” So that’s what I’ve gone for.
How did that translate to the stage?
I wanted him to be physical and athletic and I bounce around the set, but with his passion for language and a sort of stubbornness. Stubbornness so that he doesn’t see any other way of thinking. There’s another side to him as well, where I don’t think he can talk about emotion. I don’t think he understands emotion terribly well and when people are trying to tell him how they make him feel he doesn’t really have a way of communicating that. He’s a complicated character. At his most simple: he’s passionate about language and that’s it. And then this girl comes along and confronts him and makes him think about other things that he doesn’t like. And I sense that there’s been a past encounter with a woman that took to him to a place he didn’t feel very comfortable.
Did you have to make many adjustments to the way you speak?
Not many. Not many. Not as much as Lauren or Norbert or anyone else in the production. . . . There are a few vowel sounds — really small things. . . . And it’s from a different period as well. . . . Thankfully we had this amazing dialect coach called Liz Smith, who’s been doing this for a very long time and is a Brit living in America. And she was amazing and was able to give me notes, which was helpful.
So what’s your favorite song to sing on the show?
For my own songs, I love my final one. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” It’s where I really get to try and solve the problem of what’s happening to him and it’s a guy who doesn’t deal with emotions desperately trying to work out what’s going on and it’s just — it’s like a schizophrenic monologue. It’s really quite Shakespearean in that way and I love it. As daunting and as depressing as it is to do.
Where do you go in New York when you’re home sick?
Well, to be honest I’ve got two young children — and it’s been one thing after another, rehearsals and previews and tech. And now the sort of award season leaves us with very little spare time at the moment. But I’m looking forward to — firstly, I love New York and everyone has been very welcoming and the theater put us up in an apartment around the corner so it’s nice and easy to get to work. But I’m looking forward to exploring the five boroughs and getting out of Manhattan and seeing the countryside. I do miss the green.
You have a park right there!
We have a park and I know every inch of the park already. But I’m really looking forward to getting out and just exploring.
Are you looking forward to the wedding?
Which one? My sister is getting married. Do you mean the royal wedding?
I meant the royal wedding. I didn’t know about your sister’s wedding. Congrats!
Yeah, yeah, thank you. I’m very excited about my sister’s wedding. I’m more excited about that than the royal one. It’s hard not to be excited. I think Americans are possibly more excited than the Brits. Yeah, and there are people in the theater who already have their bunting. So I will certainly be watching it. I’m moderately excited. I wish them well.
‘My Fair Lady’ plays an open at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center Theater. 150 W. 65th St., lct.org