It’s my first time ever interviewing the real-live version of a character I’m playing and I am going over my questions just taking the first sip from my hot chocolate (whipped cream, of course) when Henry Stafford-Duke of Buckingham-walks into the Camellia Lounge in the back room of the Tea Zone in the Pearl. He is as advertised-dressed in a black suit with a black shirt and black tie (which-upon closer inspection-all look like they were purchased at Burlington Coat Factory), the young conservative Duke appears sleek and slick and sly.
He smiles at me (I’m the only one back there) like he knows me well (we’ve never met) and it is at once a turn-off and a turn-on. Don’t get me wrong-I don’t go for guys, and also don’t find anything particularly attractive about this one-except for the way he’s looking at me, the way his green-and-brown eyes seem to see into me and tell me that it’s okay to tell him anything. I distrust him immediately. “Good time of day unto your patient grace.”, he says. I say something like, “Hello, Mr. Buckingham, or what should I call you?” His answer is long, and I have a hard time following it (especially since I’m mesmerized by those eyes, which dance around the room like some organic robot, gathering data), and I can’t tell you any of what he says, but by the end of it I determine that I can either call him whatever I like because he doesn’t care, or that he definitely wants me to call him “Buckingham”. It doesn’t really matter what I intend to call him, though, because I don’t think I speak at all the rest of the interview. He calls for the barista, orders a coffee with rum (it’s 9am), and takes over.
Speaking with just a hint of an (New York?) accent, the Duke speaks without pause for the next fifteen minutes-which is the duration of the interview. He goes on at length about the weather for the first minute, and then… He spends the rest of the time talking about me. Or rather, Portland theatre, and then how much he’s heard about me and my work. He tells me how much he enjoyed my work on Portlandia and Leverage, and tells me how he has plans to get some of his “Friends with means-and, trust me, I have many..” to contribute to some of the smaller theatres in town like Theatre Vertigo and Northwest Classical Theatre company. He somehow knows that I’m a San Diego Chargers fan and he tells me that, “Philip Rivers seems back to his old self. He’s quarterbacking my fantasy team.” He consoles me about the recent passing of my father, complements my outfit and congratulates me on, “…Your Tiffany! I hope you treat her well!”
Then his cell phone rings. He politely excuses himself and exits with a flourish. I sit and wait and feel ridiculously flattered and totally creeped out. I go over my questions again. After 15 minutes, I go out to the street and the Duke is nowhere to be found. I ask the barista about him and she tells me that he came out on his cell phone and met a very pretty, very young girl in front of the Tea Zone, then a car pulled up and they got in and drove away.
I don’t get to ask him about anything-his relationship with Richard of Gloucester, the princes in the tower, or his role in the deaths of many members of the royal family. But he made a quick and strong impression on me, and I get enough, just from watching him move and listening to him talk, to base my character on, I think. And Shakespeare wrote words for the rest, didn’t he?
I’m very different from Buckingham, and I don’t think I’d ever be close friends with someone like him. I’m goofier, looser, more of a free spirit. I see through his casually classy demeanor and flattering words to the crazed, cunning ambition that lies beneath. Because of his eyes. Those wild, penetrating, calculating eyes tell the true story of the tumult within his soul. Henry Stafford is a man to steer clear of, in my opinion, at all costs. Lest ye be fooled, with perilous consequence.
-John San Nicolas, the Duke of Buckingham