Interview with a cast member from To Kill a Mockingbird

Preparation for Catalina’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird is in full swing this winter. Cast and crew members alike are hard at work to render this show as powerful as it should be. This month, we sat down with Molly Gilbert ’19, who plays the role of Bob Ewell, the show’s main antagonist. We hope to see all of you at the production, which confronts racism and prejudice in the Deep South, and examines the values of honesty and integrity.

Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird before? Do you think the script we have is a good representation of the novel and its themes?

Yes, I have read To Kill a Mockingbird ! Granted, it was several years ago when I was in middle school, but I remember it like it was yesterday. There are many theater adaptations of the novel, but this is by far the most accurate one I have seen so far–it seems to include most of the impact quotes, which is critical to conveying the central message of the work as a whole.

You are playing Bob Ewell, who essentially personifies racism. What is your process for creating this character?

I will admit that I was a bit distraught at first. I do love to play antagonists, but this is not the kind of character who is a “Disney villain” (AKA, evil just for the sake of being evil). It was hard to come to terms with the fact that there were many people like Bob Ewell, who actually believed that the horrific acts that they were committing were for the greater good. And these kind of people, tragically, still exist today. These facts were hard to accept at first, but by constantly practicing as well as researching more about people like Ewell, I hope that I will be able to “step into his shoes,” as Atticus himself would say.

What should we know before we come see the show?

This is not, by any means, a “light” show. While some of its primary characters are children, the themes that it conveys are heavy and very real – scarily so. These themes of racism and segregation are just as prevalent today as they were a hundred years ago, and the message needs to be shared. Offensive language is used onstage (more than once, and by multiple people)–Mrs. Devlin said that it was still included in order to further drive the importance of these issues home. It is hard to say these hateful things in front of my friends and people I trust, but I understand why it is necessary for conveying such messages.

Have you learned new lessons from the rehearsal process for this show?

I’ve only been in two other “speaking-only” productions – Macbeth and You Can’t Take it With You. Both are highly dramatic. This is the first play that I have participated in that explores more realistic ideas, and features vastly more believable characters–I have learned (and still have a lot more to learn) a little about “real-world” acting. You have to be just as empathetic with characters like Bob Ewell as characters like Atticus or Scout – while we may not agree with their motives or beliefs, we must try to understand the reasoning behind why they do what they do.

What lessons can the community learn from the play’s story?

Observe the innocence of Scout, and how that affects the rest of the characters. Pay attention to how important it is to be an individual–to break away from the mindless mob–to be a human being. Make the best effort you can to know a person before judging them. Just because another’s opinions, appearance, religion, or culture might differ from yours does not mean that the other person is different from you in every other aspect. Honestly, the “Golden Rule” stands in every aspect of this play–do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In your opinion, what is the greatest value that is conveyed through the play?

During one of our rehearsals, we had the pleasure of having Dr. Murphy come and speak to us about the true character of Atticus. He said that if he had to describe Atticus using a single word, it would be “integrity.”

Morals are everything. Having a good sense of integrity — morality — as well as sticking to it, is something that is vital to achieve something close to happiness. Standing up for what you believe to be the right thing, even if is against everyone else in the crowd, is what defines a good person. If you take nothing else away from this production, know that being true to yourself and having a sense of empathy are two things that have the power to change the world. It might be a small change, something that affects even only a single person, but it is a change nonetheless.