An Interview With Death House Actor Sam Anderson

The Road Theatre on Lankershim is proud to present the world premiere of Death House by Jason Karasev that first bowed as a staged reading in August of 2017 at the Road’s Summer Playwrights Festival. It’s a scintillating look at prisons and the death sentence as told through the struggles of an inmate on death row, the prison chaplain attending to her, and the new pastor set to take his place. Each week through March 10th we will spotlight a member of the cast or creative team. This week we shine the light on The Road’s co-artistic director/veteran award-winning actor Sam Anderson.

Q: What character do you play in Death House? 

A: In Death House, I play George, a longtime prison chaplain on Death Row, coming to his last day on a job that has taken an enormous toll on his life and psychological well being. In this final day, he trains his young, eager replacement whose agenda is the polar opposite of mine. The argument, the violence and the catharsis between us, inspired by our encounter with an unusual prisoner, forms the central themes and action of the play.

Q: What is challenging you as an actor? 

A: What’s challenging about this role, and the reason I took it, is what challenges all actors dealing with the human condition: the duality of the dark and the light, the stances we take on the surface fighting the wellspring of profound and complicated emotions buried deep. This playwright gives no easy answers, but he challenges us to get through the hell of ourselves into a moment or two of genuine grace. It’s an e-ticket ride, requiring truth in every moment. Those roles scare me and I go after them every single time.

Q: Tell us about your cast and director. 

A: It is an honor to work with both Verity (Branco) and Chase (Cargill). I have utmost respect for them and I trust them through some dangerous work. All this was guided by our director Michael Peretzian, challenging us to not take obvious choices, but to go for the truth, and this came hand in hand with generous conversations with playwright Jason Karasev, who is also an actor and understands from the inside out.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away? 

A: We have met some stunning reactions to the show, with audiences saying they’re taken on a frightening, complicated and ultimately moving and human ride … my favorite kind of theatre, and what the Road looks for in choosing our seasons. This one is very very special to me, both professionally and personally.

Death House plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through March 10th at the historic Lankershim Arts Center at 5108 Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. Arrive early to ensure street parking.