Interview With Harry Hadden-Paton (The 7th Marquess Of Hexham In Downton Abbey) About His Broadway Play, Flying Over Sunset

Why did you want to get into acting?

Because I loved it and I loved the other people doing it. I had a strong sense that life was too short to spend it doing something you didn’t love so I feel very fortunate – in this tricky profession where you’re reliant on others to employ you- that I’ve been able to make a living out of it.

Exactly how did you first get into acting?

At nursery school I guess. Each of those early school plays seemed to be musicals- presumably to keep the parents entertained in the audience- and I could sing a bit so I was always given a decent role. It wasn’t un;l i was about 18 that someone wanted me to do a straight play; I was asked if I’d do Hamlet, and geLng to work on that text opened up a whole other world for me. My parents insisted that I got a degree as a back-up so aNer four years studying French and Spanish (which I spent mainly doing plays) I went to LAMDA drama school in London and that provided a springboard into the profession.

Tell us about the play Flying Over Sunset.

Well it’s beau;ful; a new musical wriVen and directed by James Lapine (Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George) that seeps into your soul and whisks you off to another place for three hours… That place is mainly Malibu, in the 1950s, and the story follows four well-known characters as they nego;ate big changes in their lives and dabble with a new hallucinogenic drug called LSD… It’s funny, weird, moving and hugely entertaining to see the likes of Aldous Huxley and Cary Grant hallucinate on the Vivian Beaumont stage, and the original music by Tom KiV, with lyrics by Michael Korie, and Beowulf BoriV’s design, further heighten the experience so that the audience may well feel like they’ve been on a trip themselves!

And it feels so good to be back on stage. It’s taken us two years to open this show (and James Lapine 10!) but to be back in the same theatre where I recently did My Fair Lady, with full-capacity audiences, and doing an en;rely new and original musical is an honour and a dream come true.

Are you a fan of art? And if you could have (literally any) piece on your wall at home, what would it be?

I am. My wife (Rebecca Night) and I recently did the US premiere of the play of ‘The King’s Speech’ in Chicago and whilst at the Art Ins;tute there I fell in love with John Singer Sargent’s The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frasca2, Italy, 1907. It seems to exude perfect relaxa;on and companionship… a beau;ful, comfortable moment between friends, which aNer the year we’ve just had makes me want to dive in and join them…

What book are you currently reading? And what is your favourite book?

I’ve always got a few books on the go, and in the last year audiobooks have become a big part of my life too. I just finished the Midnight Library by MaV Haig and I’m currently on Stephen King’s latest Billy Summers, whilst listening to Hail Mary by Andy Weir. My Secret Santa at the theater just gave me The Island at the Center of The World by Russell Shorto

and I’m really looking forward to educa;ng myself on early America. My favourite book of recent years was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in New York?

I have many but I par;cularly love what Dan Barber’s doing at Blue Hill Farm… Whether it’s celebra;ng a special occasion in the main dining-room or exploring the farm and grabbing a casual lunch in the cafeteria, you can taste the effort that goes into growing their own vegetables and breeding their own animals. Exquisite.

What are your top three favourite films of all 0me?

Three? That’s difficult. I found the experience of watching the new Bond in a cinema aNer months away from the big screen incredibly moving. It felt like a love-leVer to cinema and I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed being in that dark room. My most-watched films growing up were probably Ace Ventura and The Lion King so they hold a par;cular significance for me. I could recite every line!

What would be your favourite theatre play?

Someone to Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness. It’s a beau;ful play about three strangers stuck in a cell together in the Lebanon. It’s on my bucket list but I need to wait un;l i’m a liVle older.

Where do you see yourself in five years – 0me?

Well the dream is to be alterna;ng between movies and theater. But if I’ve learnt anything over the last two years it’s to enjoy the ‘now’ and focus on being present.

Do, or did you have any business or poli0cal role models?

My Dad. He has his eccentrici;es, and it’s taken ;me for him to succeed, but he’s always been primarily generous and kind.

What do you get up to in your spare 0me?

Paren;ng mainly. But I love to cook, to jog around Central Park, and singing along to my own clumsy piano-playing with my kids.

Who is your favourite clothing designer and why?

Well now that the temperature has dropped my family are all kiVed out in Patagonia for the winter. I love that they only use organic coVon and renewable energy in the produc;on process. I would like to see more ethical and environmentally-friendly clothes brands for men but for now I try to make my clothes all last for a long ;me.