After performing in the TimeLine productions This Happy Breed and Pravda, he packed up and moved to London. For the first time, he took a step away from his hometown of Chicago to experience something different. In London, he explored another lifestyle — watching theater instead of performing it. After a year of distance, he came back to Chicago, but didn’t return to the acting business. Time passed and one day he bumped into director Nick Bowling at a bar where they caught up with each other’s lives. Deep into the conservation, Nick asked if he would ever come back to acting. “Only if the right opportunity comes up,” he answered.
They continued talking and TimeLine was brought into the conversation. He told Nick that he had heard that TimeLine was going to be producing The History Boys.
“I love the play. That is something that I would audition for,” he said.
“I will keep that in mind,” Nick replied.
“Why? Are you directing it?” he wondered.
“Yes,” answered Nick.
“Oh.” He had had no idea that Nick was directing the play.
Within a few weeks, Andrew Carter was called to audition, and sure enough he was cast as Irwin in The History Boys. After his four-year break, Andrew was back into the acting business. And what a re-entrance it was. “It’s more than I ever expected. It seemed like the right opportunity to come back. It’s been a really exciting challenge, and I feel refreshed,” explained Andrew.
Character development was one of Andrew’s biggest challenges. Unlike the boys and the teachers in the play, his character, Irwin, doesn’t really have a group to which he belongs. There is always a line drawn between students and teachers, just like there is a line drawn between people who don’t agree, like Irwin doesn’t agree with the other teachers. Irwin is stuck in the middle. “It was an unusual process for me because I am right in the middle between the boys and the teachers. Bennett wrote Irwin into this little corner,” Andrew said.
In order to overcome this challenge, Andrew approached the rehearsal process differently in order to understand his character Irwin. “I didn’t interacting with the boys a whole lot in the beginning, which I felt was necessary in order to figure out each of their personalities on stage and how Irwin would react to each of them.” Some teachers get to know their students more from observing them in class and in social interactions with other students. Andrew used that technique.
Andrew also explained that developing his character was more of a “forward-working process.” Usually when actors develop their characters, they create the character’s past (a working-back process). For Andrew, Irwin was different. “The interesting thing about Irwin is that he has no history, no back story. We don’t know where he comes from, we don’t know his first name, who his parents are, nothing. So I really concentrated on what was happening in the present and also what happens to him in the future. The two scenes in the show where we get to see him five years and then ten years later helped me develop my character,” explained Andrew.
The character Irwin was who Andrew wanted to play. “I remember reading the play and thinking to myself which history boy could I be. And then I discover this other character. And Irwin absolutely stood right out to me and just leapt off the page. So when I had that conversation with Nick at the bar he asked, ‘Are you thinking about Irwin?’ And I said yes.”
It was been an incredible experience for Andrew to come back to TimeLine and the acting business. “I thank everyone, both Nick and PJ, for taking a chance on me even after my four year break. And I said it from day one, if it wasn’t TimeLine and if it wasn’t Nick Bowling and if it wasn’t The History Boys and if it wasn’t this role, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. All the pieces were there. I love this company because the people who work here just bust their butts every single day. They built a reputation and they let the reputation shine through.”
One thing that Andrew has learned from this whole experience was that “opportunities come and go and the best opportunities are the ones that sink right in, the ones that you don’t second guess.” Andrew continued, “And I think this production was one of those opportunities.”
If my count is correct, I have seen the play five times. Andrew Carter as Irwin advocating turning a question on its head by arguing the opposite point of view was more convincing each time I saw the play. And, his pausing, especially, in what I call let’s have a drink scene with Dakin was so effective. I hope to see him again and very soon on a Chicago stage