Scott Foley has played a string of TV heartthrobs — resident advisor Noel Crane on "Felicity" and, most recently, Olivia Pope's love interest, Jake Ballard, on ABC's "Scandal." Soon he appears alongside Blythe Danner in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies' newest work, "The Country House," about the shifting dynamics within a family of actors residing in the Berkshire Mountains during the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The play, which explores the roles we play on- and offstage, has its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse on Wednesday.
"The Country House" has been described as a Chekhovian comedy. Can you tell us about it?
It's a riff-off, not a rip-off, of an amalgamation of Chekhov and all his works. It's about an artistic family of actors — Blythe Danner plays the matriarch — who has come up to spend time together on the one-year anniversary of her daughter's death. I play a famous television actor up there absolving himself of all his sins on television by doing a play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
It's very Chekhovian in that they're dealing with issues as a family and the group of people that surrounds the family. It's very contained, like [Chekhov's] "The Cherry Orchard," and it's a comedy with really heavy undertones — the loss of a child and questions about future and professions.
You also come from a family of actors. You were married to Jennifer Garner, and your current wife, Marika Dominczyk, is an actress, as is her sister and your brother. Were there any parallels?
There are some very familiar themes between the play, the story there, and my life. I play a character who's just wrapped his third season on a hit television show. Just being an observer of life, I can see within my family when someone gets a job, we're all extremely happy for them, but then you think: "Wow, I want a job like that." In the play, that happens. The great thing about this play, though, is that it mirrors jealousy and envy as well as pride and sadness. I think the play is just very relatable.
You live-tweet when "Scandal" airs, and the Jake-versus-Fitz rivalry on the show really blew up on Twitter. There was a backlash among some viewers. Is Twitter working for or against you?
Twitter is such a fantastic thing. When I was growing up, you couldn't talk to the people you watched on television, and these people, they have a direct line to me. The problem is: People have a direct line to me. I love the fact that people are so addicted to the show and believe wholeheartedly, 'Is it Fitz or Jake?' The problem becomes when they have the inability to separate the character from the actor. In the beginning, Scott Foley was feeling a substantial amount of hatred not necessarily directed at Jake, but at the actor playing Jake. But Twitter has also done such wonderful things for the show. I have to assume that pretty soon all these television networks are gonna make it a contractual obligation that the cast has to live-tweet with the audience because it's been such a draw.
In the season finale, your Jake flew off into the sunset with Olivia. Does Fitz even stand a chance?
I think Fitz always has a chance — it's hard to take a chance away from the president of the United States. There's a bond between the two of them, whatever it is, true love, destiny. That being said, I believe in Jake, I believe in his cause, I believe that he truly has feelings for Olivia and is willing to give up everything that makes him a questionable alternative.
You moved to Los Angeles from the Midwest, alone, at 19 and never even took the SAT or applied to college. You were that sure of your career path. What inspired such a bold move?
Lack of options probably inspired my move. It was either that or stay home in St. Louis and do nothing. I've always done theater, did it in high school. I was never a great student. I think I liked to socialize back in high school more than the academic aspect. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
You were born in Kansas, but as a young child your family lived in Tokyo and in Sydney, Australia. Did that experience inform your somewhat fearless approach to the business?
The moving around definitely helped me. It helps you go from set to set and job to job. This is an unsteady way to make a living, and the ability to get along with people quickly and make friends and become comfortable in a new situation is a big plus. I think because we moved [internationally] there was, for me, never a fear of picking up and going to L.A.
You just completed a feature film, "Let's Kill Ward's Wife." In addition to starring, you also wrote and directed it. Is this the start of a new career?
It's the continuation of a career. We all live episodic lives, and this is just part of a career underway.
It's a dark comedy about love and marriage and children and family. I always use this analogy to describe the tone of the film: "I lost a friend not long ago and I don't know where he went, but I know he got his finger caught in a wedding band." A lot of things happen when you get married — people fall by the wayside, you lose friends, you get busy and don't see each other as much. And this is about a group of friends who've come together to get one of theirs back. We just sold the film, and hopefully it will be out in theaters around Thanksgiving. I'm very excited.