Gregory Itzin, slimy villain of '24,' plays noble good guy in Antaeus Co.'s 'King Lear'
As a stage actor, Gregory Itzin is accomplished enough to have drawn a bead on the title role in the Antaeus Company's current production of "King Lear" -- quite a different take on being a head of state than the TV role he's famous for, as the scheming, double-dealing President Charles Logan of "24" (pictured).
Itzin was prepping last year to alternate in the role with Dakin Matthews in the Antaeus Company's "Lear," which opened Thursday. Then events intervened, and Itzin found himself whisked away from playing the king more sinned against than sinning, and into a juicy Broadway role as Enron founder Kenneth Lay. But events intervened again: "Enron" closed May 9 after just 16 performances. Re-enter Itzin, too late to play Lear, but in time to fill a supporting role as one of Shakespeare's most admirable heroes, the loyal and straight-shooting Earl of Kent, who'll do anything for the king despite having been grievously wronged by him.
In other words, it's a chance to see Itzin as the opposite of Charles Logan, starting Friday opposite three-time Tony Award nominee Harry Groener (pictured with director Bart DeLorenzo, center, and Matthews, right). Groener ascended to the throne during what Itzin had hoped and expected would be a long lay-over on Broadway.
Itzin says he owes his acting career to Shakespeare: "I took a Shakespeare course in college [at the University of Wisconsin at Madison] and saw my path."
Post-Logan, he says, he has to be wary of being typecast as a heavy, so Kent comes as a nice counterpoint. "He is diligence personified, trying to get the king out of the rain and back on the throne."
However, Itzin adds, the change of pace is not the motivation for performing on Antaeus' home stage, the 49-seat Deaf West Theatre in North Hollywood. " 'Come and see Greg be a nice guy,' that's not why I'm doing this. I'm telling people to come and see some good Shakespeare, and hopefully that will be a part of it," he said. "I want to be a support to my company, and I can do that by being a good support to my king."
Those who enjoy watching Itzin be underhanded need not fear: He is cast in the upcoming USA Network series, "Covert Affairs," as a former CIA director known to others in the intelligence community as "The Prince of Darkness."
For the full Arts & Books section story on the Antaeus Company's "King Lear" and its longtime method of alternating two actors in each role to accommodate conflicts with better-paying film and television gigs, click here.
-- Mike Boehm
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Photos: Gregory Itzin as President Charles Logan on "24"; Harry Groener, from left, director Bart DeLorenzo and Dakin Matthews of Antaeus Company's "King Lear." Credits: Kelsey McNeal / Associated Press (Itzin); Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times (Lear stars and director).