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5 minutes with a Tony nominee: ‘Uncle Vanya’’s William Jackson Harper

The “Good Place” star earns his first Tony Award nomination with this Chekhov revival.

William Jackson Harper as Astrov in “Uncle Vanya” on Broadway, 2024 (Credit: Marc J. Franklin)

The name William Jackson Harper became a household one, thanks to an Emmy-nominated turn as anxious philosopher Chidi Anagonye in television’s “The Good Place.” But first and foremost, Harper is a creature of the theater. In particular, he’s worked steadily Off-Broadway since the mid-aughts.

Harper racked up credits at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, the Public Theater, Rattlestick Theatre Company and Second Stage. He won an Obie Award for his star performance in Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2023 production of future Pulitzer Prize winner “Primary Trust.”

Between all of this Off-Broadway work (as well as regional appearances and his own playwriting), Harper made his Broadway debut in 2014 as Stokely Carmichael in “All the Way,” the Tony Award-winning Best Play about former President Lyndon B. Johnson. This spring, Harper returned to Broadway as Astrov for the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” in a new adaptation by Heidi Schreck.

Here, Harper shares what attracted him to this “Uncle Vanya,” how he better understands Chekhov and why he thinks the Russian dramatist makes more sense with age. 

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