Geraldine Hughes is an award-winning film, television, and stage actress from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I met her in Los Angeles in 2001 and subsequently worked with her to produce and premiere her one-woman show, the multiple Obie-winning Belfast Blues. Geraldine made her Broadway debut in Translations in 2006 and her West End debut in Jerusalem in 2011. Her film credits include Rocky Balboa and Grand Torino. She is passionately committed to her community in NYC and to her partner Conor and their dog Abe, who are her touchstones.
Kim Terrell: Who is Geraldine Hughes?
Geraldine Hughes: Right now, a person who has spent quite a bit of time getting clear about what she wants. I work hard to live in the truth and don’t like wasting time beating around the bush. I want to get to the point of my life: What is the truth of my relationships, my work, my writing? As an actor, sometimes I get tired—because it is always a matter of finding work. But life has become easier for me now because I have a family, and with that support I can relax just a bit and know that work will come again. Knowing that I am not alone in this makes me really glad.
Kim Terrell: What have you become clear about?
Geraldine Hughes: I have become clear about what I don’t want. For instance, I don’t want the sort of fame I thought I wanted. I don’t want to be a film star anymore and have become very clear about my love of being on the stage. On stage I’m confident and alive; given the choice, I’d choose working in the theater for the rest of my life—that’s where I want to be. That’s not to say that I would turn down other work.
Kim Terrell: Why the theater?
Geraldine Hughes: For me, it’s about the opportunity to be brand new every single time I go on stage. Everything that happens to me during the day influences each and every performance. And having a live audience and not knowing how they are going to respond or what sort of mood they are in is always exciting—audiences have personalities, and every night a different personality emerges. As an actor, I respond to those differences.
Kim Terrell: Who have you been influenced by?
Geraldine Hughes: Many people along the way—most recently Mark Rylance and Ian Rickson. They changed everything for me. They taught me that everyone is important and every question is important. They taught me patience and understanding and respect for the people that are part of a show. That can’t happen with shows that are short stints, but the longer productions give the people working on them the opportunity to really work as a team.
Mark is interested in everything and is so truthful about everything. He breaks my heart, because he is so beautiful and inspiring. Recently, I saw a double-page portrait of Mark as Olivia in Twelfth Night—that picture had so much going on in a single frame. Mark can do that, and it’s what I aspire to: real truth and humility.
Kim Terrell: How else have things changed for you in the last few years?
Geraldine Hughes: Well… I have begun working on things day by day… every day. I now define myself from the inside out rather than the outside in. I find that focusing and getting clear on the inside starts changing everything. I am better at knowing the truth of my work on stage and at auditions, which makes me a lot more comfortable walking into a room and auditioning for people who have the power to hire me. But the real joy is walking onto a Broadway stage or a stage in London’s West End or a black box off-Broadway.
Acting is a tricky profession and keeping one’s spirits up when the dry spells come can be really difficult; it’s hard not to lose hope. I haven’t worked since Christmas, and I barely worked last year. I changed management and agents and am hoping that they will help to change things for me. They are communicative and kind, and we are all on the same page about who I am and what I can do as an actor. It’s an exciting change. The most important thing for me is to keep doing things as they come along and to remember that I am doing a lot, even if I’m not acting at the moment.
Kim Terrell: What are you doing at the moment?
Geraldine Hughes: Writing. I’ve had this movie in development for four years with Northern Ireland Screen who have been so supportive, and now the Irish Film Board is also involved. Going through this process has taught me not to give my power away and to stick with things that matter to me. For example, when I first started writing a play I was in a class and this guy says, “Who would want to see a play about old women?” And I began to question the whole idea and actually abandoned it for a while.
Kim Terrell: And now?
Geraldine Hughes: Now I’m back working on Four Women and a Boat and enjoying it. I’m doing readings at the Irish Community Center in Long Island City with women who are first-generation Irish immigrants. They are not actresses, but they are the essence of the women in the play. It’s a challenge on the one hand because they are not actresses, but it’s also informative because I get to hear the piece and talk with them about their thoughts and insights.
Kim Terrell: Has the business changed since you started?
Geraldine Hughes: Yes, the business has changed so much in the last few years. Even Broadway has changed—becoming more and more like television and less and less like theater. Big names have begun to take over casting choices on many of the plays, and so much now is remakes and revivals. Fewer and fewer new plays with lesser-known actors make it onto the stage. That said, I went to see the opening of Hand to God by Robert Askins and thought, “This is wonderful.” My next thought was, “Wow, this can still happen.”
Kim Terrell: What do you mean by “this”?
Geraldine Hughes: That a new play with actors who are not household names can open on Broadway. Hand to God started in the Youngblood Ensemble Studio Theatre and was developed through them. It’s about God, relationships, and death, and the whole experience filled me with hope, joy, and celebration.
Kim Terrell: When we first met, you were living in Los Angeles. How do you like living in New York?
Geraldine Hughes: I love New York. I’m happy here. My life is here. I surround myself with people that I love, and a lot of them are right here in New York—when they are not working elsewhere.
Kim Terrell: What’s coming up next for you?
Geraldine Hughes: I’ll be directing my first off-Broadway show in January and February of 2016 and am very much looking forward to doing so.
Kim Terrell: And in the meantime?
Geraldine Hughes: In the meantime, I’ll keep auditioning, writing, and working each and every day.