WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Tyne Daly is the consummate professional actress, on the stage, at the photo op, and in the interview seat.
That not only means she is now fully immersed in her roll as Lady Bracknell in the just-opening Williamstown Theatre Festival's 1930s version of "The Importance of Being Earnest," directed by David Hyde Pierce. It means she smiles intently and focuses on one photographer after another after another during an uncomfortable photo shoot at a WTF media event last week.
Being the consummate professional, though, also means Ms. Daly is quick to point out less than insightful questions from "critics" and reporters.
When asked about the influence of Pierce, best known for his role on the television comedy "Frasier," on her comedic timing, she says simply that acting, in comedy or drama, is "all the same thing."
"I think those categories are made up by critics -- you should forgive me. I think they are false categories," she said. "It comes from your guts and your heart, and the spin on it has to do with the playwright and the playwright's (comedic) rhythms."
She said that when she was in London, acting in "Master Class," she taught a master class and was asked if it required the same skills acting in drama as in comedy: "I said it does. Of course it does. ... Unless they are real people, unless you believe them, it can't be either funny or tragic. First you must believe them, then the audience will believe them." Separating acting styles into dramatic and comedy categories "is a mug's game."
"What you are trying to do is imagine yourself into another person's experience," she said. "There is all these arguments about whether you work from the inside out or from the outside in; there are actors who love to find the ‘look' of it first. Everybody develops their own method. I think you work from the ‘inside out' and the ‘outside in' simultaneously, and somewhere in the middle, hopefully, they integrate."
When the questions turn to her role in "... Being Earnest" or her life on the American stage and screens large and small, however, Daly settles in and talks with the ease and grace of an actress of her career longevity and stature.
Daly, now 66, is widely known for her work as Detective Mary Beth Lacey in the television series "Cagney & Lacey" and as Maxine Gray in the television series "Judging Amy." But her acting honors and television successes runs deep. She won six Emmy Awards for her television work and the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical in "Gypsy: A Musical Fable," in 1989.
Her younger brother, actor Tim Daly, is no stranger to the WTF, but this is Tyne Daly's first time on the stage in Williamstown.
According to Internet sources, Daly started her career by performing in summer stock with her family and she earned her Actors Equity Card at age 15. She studied at Brandeis University and The American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
She was married to actor and director Georg Stanford Brown from 1966 to 1990. She has a Vermont connection: Her son has a house near Rutland and her granddaughter recently graduated from The Buxton School in Williamstown.
Many critics consider her work on "Cagney & Lacey," which ran 1982 to 1988, as a milestone for lead women in dramatic television series. And her roll as a social worker on "Judging Amy," which ran from 1999 to 2005, was widely praised for its accurate portrayal of the social ills of the nation.
On the big screen, she maybe most known as Clint Eastwood's first female partner in the 1976 "Dirty Harry" film "The Enforcer," but she continues to act in films for the big screen and small screen. In 2009 she had a fine supporting roll in the equally fine Lifetime made for television movie "Georgia O'Keeffe."
In addition to her acclaimed role in "Gypsy," she has appeared numerous times on and off Broadway, most recently in 2011, in "Master Class."
Clearly acting is her art, craft and her life.
"I trained for the stage," Daly said. "There is now training for the films or television, they say, but I think it all about training your whole mechanism to be responsive. I am an actress kid. My parents were both actors, I went into the family business. ... I always wanted to do everything. I am very, very greedy. I wanted to do any game you have to play. I want to play it. Just now, the last few years, that I have began to approach the classics. ... ‘The Importance of Being Earnest' is definitely a classic."
And, of course, she is getting into the role.
In "... Being Earnest" she will play in costume, just not the normal Victorian England costume most productions use. "The hats and the gloves and fans and little purses and stuff ... I start very early having facility with those things, living with those things," she said. "We are doing 1932, or ‘33, and nice ladies did not go out without their hats or their gloves. All of those exterior pieces integrate with what is going on, with the interior, with luck."
You have to think, though, that with such professional actresses, nothing is left to luck.
Contact K.D. Norris at email@example.com. "The Importance of Being Earnest" opens on the Main Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival tonight, Thursday, June 28, and runs to July 14. For tickets and information call 413-597-3400, visit wtfestival.org, or in person at the box office.