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Denise Gough Is Living Her Broadway Dream in ‘Angels in America’

April 2, 2018 by Suzy Evans
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Photographed by Nathan Johnson

 

When Denise Gough made her Broadway debut as Harper Pitt in the revival of “Angels in America,” which is playing at the Neil Simon Theatre, she felt like a rock star. While she had performed the role in the same production at the National Theatre last year, she says the play resonates much deeper in New York, as it centers on the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

“I felt like Sally Field getting an Oscar. ‘They like me! They really, really like me!’” Gough says of when she made her first Broadway entrance.

Gough did a production of “Angels” in drama school, and she played Hannah, Harper’s mother-in-law. “I was always so jealous of the actress playing Harper,” she says. “But now it’s like the universe was holding out for me because it wanted me to do it.”

Coming to New York was always the goal for Gough, who grew up in Ireland and has worked primarily in London, but her initial aim was just to do a play off Broadway. She achieved that in the fall when she played Emma, a woman in recovery for addiction, in “People, Places & Things” at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

It’s easy to lump Emma and Harper in the same category, as they’re both addicts, but Gough says Emma’s journey is about taking off her armor, while Harper is trying to shield herself from what she does know.

“The thing about Harper is she’s like telepathic. Like so many women in our instincts, she knows so much that’s going on, and she doesn’t want to know it so she tries to stop herself from knowing it,” Gough says. She adds that performing the seven-hour, two-part epic is a taxing, though rewarding, endeavor.  “Honestly, I am not method in any way, shape, or form, but ‘Angels in America’ undoes you as an actress. It really does,” she says.

Despite the exhaustion, Gough is just thankful to be doing what she loves, and she wants to be conscious of the way she presents herself to the world.

“I’m a tradesperson, and it just so happens that I’m now at this level where everybody is super super nice to me. So don’t be a dick. You can’t,” Gough says. “A sense of entitlement is not what any of us should be aiming for. Gratitude is the answer to everything.”

Styled by Julianna Alabado
Hair and makeup by Austin Thornton

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