‘Once the play starts, stand back’: Jerusalem hits Toronto

"I was kind of scared out of my mind." The successful film and television actor Kim Coates is talking about his return to the stage, after more than a quarter-century off the boards.

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Actors Nicholas Campbell, left, and Kim Coates are seen during a rehearsal for Jerusalem at Elgin Theatre on Jan. 22, 2018.

“I was kind of scared out of my mind.”

The successful film and television actor Kim Coates is talking about his return to the stage, after more than a quarter-century off the boards. The former Sons of Anarchy star is set to play an aging eccentric, Johnny (Rooster) Byron, in an Outside the March and A Company Theatre co-production of Jez Butterworth’s 2009 transatlantic hit play Jerusalem in Toronto. The role is a demanding one – Coates has journeyed to England and worked with a dialect coach to help nail the tricky Wiltshire accent required – and initially the 59-year-old wondered if he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

Mind you, the Saskatoon native was the youngest actor ever to play Macbeth at the Stratford Festival and his filmography is impressive. He can chew just fine, thank you. Still, after he accepted the lead in Jerusalem, he contacted Mark Rylance, the great English actor who originated the Byron role in the West End.

Sitting in a small dressing room with fellow Canadian actor Nicholas Campbell during a break from a script reading, Coates says he was “beyond blown away” that Rylance would take the time to meet with him. “He’s his generation’s Brando on stage,” says Coates, working on a Diet Coke and chicken salad.

When Coates told him how intimidated he was by the role, Rylance talked him off the ledge, telling Coates that during the five-month break between Jerusalem‘s West End and Broadway productions, he didn’t sleep one night.

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