Michael Canavan is making his Goodman debut in The Little Foxes as William Marshall, a Chicago industrialist looking to strike a business deal with the southern Hubbard family. The production is somewhat of a family affair for Canavan himself as he is married to The Little Foxes' leading lady Shannon Cochran (who plays Regina Giddens). Canavan recently took time to chat about his favorite local haunts, acting with his wife on stage and what excites him about Lillian Hellman's classic play.
Place of birth and/or hometown?
I was born in Portsmouth, VA because my father was stationed there as a Marine. My parents were from Pittsburgh though and that's where I grew up.
What are some of your current obsessions (music, TV show, books, etc.)?
The New Yorker: Fiction podcast is like a narcotic for a fan of short fiction. Editor Deborah Treisman invites writers who have been published in the magazine to choose a story from the archives other than their own to read and discuss. The writers put in the hard work necessary to make the readings land; the discussions are always terrific and sometimes almost as moving as the stories. Tobias Wolff reads Denis Johnson! Joyce Carol Oates reads Eudora Welty! Roger Angell reads John Cheever! And on and on.
I'm also fascinated by the end of Mad Men. I was hooked on the show from the first episode. It's one of the few shows I've felt that way about that I subsequently got to appear on, so I'm doubly invested.
Do you have a favorite Chicago spot (newly discovered or old favorite)?
It's a tough call because I love sports, the lake and architecture, but I'd have to say the top two are my oldest discoveries here. Shannon and I are unabashed foodies, so we always make time for a lunch at Shaw's Crab House as soon as we hit town. The fresh bar fits us like a glove: ice cold martinis, oysters and clam chowder being the best cure for jet lag. And I can't walk past Posh on State Street without stopping in to buy a vintage French hotel ashtray or a set of Italian military-issue linen napkins. I stumbled upon it at their old location up on Southport and have bought dozens of opening night gifts there over the years. Both are a short walk from the Goodman, which is hard on my wallet.
What’s your dream acting role?
Like most actors, my dream role is the next one. And my first response is always that I've been terribly miscast.
What drew you to The Little Foxes?
It's a great play in an underappreciated, very brawny, American style. It's smart, viciously funny, honest and has a huge, brave heart at the core. It's a perfect fit for the Goodman and Chicago. Also, I very much wanted to work with [director] Henry Wishcamper. My wife had just done a play with him and I could not find fault, which I found very suspicious.
How did you meet your wife and what’s it like to work together on stage?
Shannon and I met on the set of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We played aliens who wore odd clothes, but had human faces, so I got to see how pretty she was for the whole week. Maybe I'm revealing too much about my own shallowness, or that of men in general, but had we played Klingons, I might not be here now to answer your questions.
Many directors refuse to work with couples, married or otherwise, and with good reason. We, in turn, refuse to work with those directors. Shannon and I, though her process is completely antithetical to mine, still find a way of working together that only alienates, on average, about two thirds of our co-workers. We can live with that. She is my best friend so I try to take her notes in the most positive light.