James Hayden portrayal of a jittery,
childlike junkie in Broadway's "American Buffalo" is partially based on sad
memories. "I was a paramedic with the Army during the Vietnam war", Hayden
said the over day. "I saw a lot of soldiers come back home with bad drug
problems. I've always believed that the real casualty of the war was
increased drug abuse here".
Hayden relived those war memories in preparation for his role. He attended
Narcotic Anonymous meeting, talking with addict and learning how they became
dependent on drugs. And he strolled the street of Alphabetland. The lower
East Side neighborhood (Ave. A, Ave. B) known for its wide-open drugs sales.
His research paid of well. He bobs and weaves on stage, handling the
fast-moving of play wring David Mamet with the ease of a seasoned veteran.
But that does not stop him from continuing to rehearse and refine the image
of Bobby, a part he began playing last year when "American Buffalo" was Off
"The role has changed because I've changed," he said. "I've grown, I've had
new experience. I try to absorb that".
Hayden spends at least an hour before curtain time getting into his role.
"That way I feel comfortable the moment I'm on stage," he said. "I'm not hit
with a sudden change, I become the character."
His co-starts, Al Pacino and J.J. Johnstone, discuss the play every day.
"We're like family," Hayden said. "We prepare together talk about how the
play went the night before. We criticize each other. It's all for the play.
The play comes first."
Hayden, 29, grew up in Bay Ridge. Brooklyn, and now lives on Manhattan's
upper West Side. He walked into the acting profession 10 years ago when he
auditioned for a spot with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He passed
the test with an impromptu reading from "The Glass Menagerie".
"I had been living in Texas after I got out to the Army and I suppose I
might have picked up a Southern accent," he said. "That might have helped me
with the audition."
It was at the academy that he developed an interest makeup. He eventually
became an expert lending his talent to the Police Department. "I taught then
how to look like elderly people," he said. "But, most important, I taught
them how to teach other cops to disguise themselves, so that they would be
able to do their own makeup".
Hayden has also instructed children in the art of acting at the Hudson Guild.
"It's thought to get their attention", he said. "I have to make a fool of
myself first to show them they can't be self conscious. After they learn
that they become more involved, even writing their own plays".
Beside "American Buffalo", Hayden has appeared on Broadway in Arthur
Miller's "A View From the Bridge". His movie appearances include "The first
Deadly Sin" and an upcoming Sergio Leone film, "Once Upon a Time in America".
Hayden likes the challenge of performing "Buffalo" in a bigger theatre. "You
have to reach out a little more to the audience", he said. "When we were
downtown, it was a more intimate situation. The audience was all around as.
Now we work to keep that intimacy alive on a lager