NEW YORK — Adam Driver was home alone doing the dishes when his agent called with the news that he’d just received a Tony Award nomination. But since his wife was out of town, there was no one to share the news. So he just finished the dishes.
Driver got the nod for his work in a new revival of Lanford Wilson’s play “Burn This.” It’s Driver’s first Tony nod and his third show on Broadway.
Over the past decade, Driver has amassed an impressive acting career, with accolades ranging from his work on the HBO series “Girls” to his more recent Oscar nomination for “BlacKkKlansman.” And coming up, it’s his last turn as Kylo Ren as the “Star Wars” saga comes to an end.
While the roles are diverse, the foundation for Driver’s success centres on his military service. Born in San Diego but raised in the small town of Mishawaka, Indiana, Driver joined the Marines shortly after the 9-11 terror attacks and credits his time in the service for providing him the courage he needed to become an actor.
“It didn’t seem like a realistic job where I was from, and there wasn’t really a lot of opportunities. But the military kind of stripped you away from — I think, even if it is an illusion — being scared of the civilian world,” Driver said.
His time in the service helped tear down some of the inhibitions he faced when pursuing an acting career, including relocating to New York. He told himself that if it didn’t work out, he’d be OK on the streets.
“You have that kind of like survival mentality in the military. It gives you a lot of confidence going back out into the world,” Driver said.
Not long after his kicking off his acting career, Driver took action to help his fellow military veterans with his charity, Arts in the Armed Forces . The organization is dedicated to providing arts programming for active duty service members, veterans, military support staff and their families.
Those are all segments of the population that are important to him and he hates any perception that military personnel won’t understand theatre.
“If anything, theatre in New York can get a little bit like recycled air. And it’s amazing how much you take it outside of New York, the language becomes a weapon in a way to different communities,” Driver said.
Theater, he added, “can help you articulate a feeling in a way that you didn’t have the language for before. And what better community to share that with than the military?”
As for his performance in “Burn This ,” tackling a Lanford Wilson play is no easy task, made more difficult with a limited rehearsal period. In the revival of the 1987 play about a group of friends and family coping with a tragedy, Driver stars opposite Keri Russell.
“We only had like three weeks, so to be patient and trust that it would come together eventually was really difficult,” Driver said.
He thrives on the play being so complex. “I love the potential that it could be a disaster at any minute,” Driver said.
And it’s that challenge that keeps him interested. “You have eight shows a week to try to keep exploring. I love that part of it,” Driver said.
He also loved being part of the “Star Wars” saga, but politely remained tight-lipped about any plot points: “That’s just the part where I’ll trail off and not answer,” Driver said before heading to the theatre for his matinee.
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John Carucci, The Associated Press