Stage and screen actor LeRoy McClain on The Happy Sad, his Broadway debut, and the future of theatre

LeRoy McClain

LeRoy McClain

LeRoy McClain intended on becoming a baker or a DJ when he grew up. Nowadays, he dreams of playing Richard II.

He truly is enjoying the best of both worlds. After appearing in the Broadway productions of The History Boys and Cymbeline, LeRoy, a Yale School of Drama graduate, has made a smooth and successful transition from stage to screen. His new film The Happy Sad premiered in New York City and Los Angeles on Aug. 16. with plans to appear in more cities.

The Happy Sad focuses on two couples, one of which is heterosexual and Caucasian (Annie and Stan) while the other is homosexual and black (Marcus and Aaron.) Marcus and Aaron have been together happily for six years and begin to test their boundaries by exploring the notion of an open relationship. Meanwhile, Annie and Stan take a break from their relationship, and Stan’s path crosses with Marcus’. As their lives and romances intertwine, other peripheral characters come into play and the result is this contemporary look at a relationships in this day and age.

“I honestly think, first and foremost, what has been written and these characters that have been created, are human beings. That may sound trite but I think it is absolutely appropriate to this film,” LeRoy said. “They are human beings that are acting in a very honest way and are exploring elements of themselves and their own desires in a very true and complex way. I would urge to people to let that draw them to seeing the film, that honest exploration of humanity on the screen.”

LeRoy said, as the title promises, the film has both humorous and darker moments and strives to challenge conventional thinking.

“When I initially read the script, although I was really drawn to how human and complex the characters were, the notion of open relationships was one that I had no previous relationship with,” he said. “I could not believe that people could be completely in love with somebody but also engage in an open relationship. It was something I had never experienced in my life, so I came into it with my own preconceived ideas about what being in an open relationship meant and what that would entail.”

“Through exploring the characters, through the rehearsal process, and through talking to the other cast members, I got to understand that there’s a truth to that. There’s a desire to explore outside the confines of one’s relationship, it’s a natural human emotion. And so it taught me to not necessarily prejudge things or judge people that choose to explore their relations. I see it as a human process of striving for happiness and completion in one’s life.”

The Happy Sad, based on the play written by Ken Urban, includes a cast of New York actors with roots in theatre. Although he has enjoyed working in television and film, LeRoy considers himself “once a theatre lover, always a theatre lover,” and can still distinctly remember the magic of his Broadway debut in The History Boys.

“There is nothing like [a Broadway debut]. You’ve always dreamed about what it would be like and what it would feel like, but I felt all of this electricity coming out of me. It was an out-of-body experience. It was surreal, completely surreal,” he recalled. “Afterwards, I remember that I walked offstage after the curtain call like, ‘Did that just happen?’ It was a complete out-of-body experience. It was one of those things where it was terrifying and exhilarating but once it was done, I was like, ‘I want to do it again.'”

The History Boys was a new kind of challenge for LeRoy, as he was placed in the company rather quickly.

“I remember that the show had just finished doing its world tour and Broadway was its final stop. What had happened was that there was an actor that somehow got held up in customs or by immigrations in the U.K. The director was like, ‘So, LeRoy, you have to go on now.’ I had to go on during the first preview. That was where the electric feeling came in because I was not ready for that. We had barely gotten used to the show. I literally had to perform from the first preview on,” he said with a laugh. “It was amazing and surreal, just to be able to cycle through those three characters. It doesn’t happen very often that you’re guaranteed to have big chunks of time performing each one. I got to experience the show from three different characters’ points of view, playing three of the different boys. That was magnificent.”

Other theatre credits of LeRoy’s include A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park, and Othello. He said that in his career, each character he has played has provided inspiration when entering a new project. He said, “I kind of carry, from project to project, pieces of previous characters or the processes with me as I move. When you do things back-to-back, it can’t help but inform what you’re doing next.”

As far as the future of theatre goes, LeRoy is openly excited about the direction it’s heading in.

“You have so many different types of voices being embraced by training institutions that come our raring and ready to go. There are lots of stories that need to be told and explored, so it’s great when you can walk down the street in the Theatre District and see such different things being presented, whether it be Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway or regionally.” he said.

A dedicated performer who has experience on stage and on-screen, the adventure of entering the entertainment industry has only just begun for LeRoy who speaks passionately about his dedication to his craft.

“I feel very fortunate to have had all of these experiences. It’s what you hope for. You have no idea how it’s going to go, when you get that diploma from school or you jump off the plane in New York or L.A. You think that you know how your career is going to go,” LeRoy said. “The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is that you don’t know, so you have to let those preconceived ideas go out the window. You have to navigate with integrity and hopefully good things will come. So far, they have. It’s been great so far.”

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