‘Succession’ actor Eric Bogosian speaks on living in world of fantasy
The actor, playwright, author, and historian discussed his lengthy and varied career.
On Feb. 9, actor and author Eric Bogosian spoke with Prof. David Sherman (ENG) at the Wasserman Cinematheque for a Meet the Actor night hosted by the Film, Television and Interactive Media Program. Bogosian discussed his upbringing, career, and most recent works. He then proceeded to take questions from the audience.
Although most notable for his film and television work in “Law & Order,” “Succession,” “Uncut Gems,” “Billions,” and more, Bogosian is also the author of the book “Operation Nemesis,” which provides a historical account of the Armenian death squad based in his hometown, Watertown, Massachusetts. As a person of Armenian heritage, Bogosian decided to investigate this highly “existential” and widely misunderstood story within the post-Armenian genocide history.
Bogosian grew up the grandchild of Armenian immigrants and survivors of the genocide. After moving from Watertown, a largely Armenian community, to Woburn, Massachusetts, he began to feel a cultural disconnect from his peers. In addition to the ethnic differences he was noticing between himself and his peers, Bogosian also came from one of the only Apostolic families in a predominantly Catholic area. These factors culminated within him the sense that he was an outsider. However, he was able to find solace living in a world of fantasy — a tendency that translated well to acting. When Bogosian started acting in a school production of “Romeo and Juliet,” it was “like someone took a fish and dropped it into water and it started swimming.”
“To this day, for me, acting is about pretending to be someone else,” Bogosian said. When Bogosian started acting in the series “Interview With The Vampire” — based on the novel by Anne Rice — this approach to acting was challenged as he found a great deal of himself in his character Daniel Molloy, a veteran journalist. Part of the reason why he was drawn to playing this character was that he had also always wanted to play a vampire, apparently having petitioned director Francis Ford Coppola to play Dracula in his “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), the part for which was eventually given to actor Gary Oldman.
Another factor that drew Bogosian to the show was coming across the works of author Anne Rice. He explained that when he was staying in an apartment near where his wife was directing a play, there were 14 Anne Rice books. They later found out that Eleanor Burgess, who wrote the play that Bogosian’s wife was directing, was a writer for “Interview With The Vampire.” Both the offer for the role as well as these unlikely coincidences occurred at a time in Bogosian’s life when he was looking to meditate on the idea of mortality. On the subject he noted, “Art is the ultimate transcendental thing.”
Bogosian also reflected on the countercultural scenes he witnessed during his days living in downtown New York in the 70s and 80s and how much he enjoyed them. He spoke about how the artistic community he belonged to in New York was special to him because of its immersive and collective nature. The art was created and presented for the other members of the community rather than with any ambitions of commercialization or critical acclaim in mind. When asked why it was so fun, Bogosian replied succinctly: “We were high all the time.”
He recalled how the scene changed in the 80s. At the turn of the decade, the birth control pill had been invented, the Stonewall Riots had paved the way for a more liberated gay community, and everyone was enjoying a new kind of freedom — until the AIDS epidemic happened. Bogosian spoke about how the government seemed to do nothing about the crisis. This era of disillusionment happened to coincide with the point in his life where he was broke, on drugs, and, as he soon came to realize, “just another poor person in New York.” Luckily, Bogosian was able to get sober and begin working towards the career he has today.
Bogosian's journey to becoming an accomplished actor, author, playwright, and historian serves as an inspiring example of how following the direction of your creative inclinations can lead to great accomplishments and success, no matter the path you take. His advice to anyone interested in a career in entertainment, or any vocation for that matter, was to “keep sluggin’ it.”