The latest Broadway incarnation to kill a robin Is touring the country and now features a familiar face from old black and white movies in the cast.
“Isn’t that amazing?” Mary Badham, 69, paused in the lobby of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., marveling at the show’s first stop. (As it happens, John F. Kennedy was president in 1962 when Badham was nominated for an Oscar at the age of 10 for his role in Atticus Finch’s Daughter, a white lawyer in a small southern town defending a black man accused of rape.)
Child stars were her family’s last hope for Badham when Hollywood talent agents came to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, looking for children to play Boy Scouts and her older brother Jem.
“They want kids with real southern accents. You can’t teach kids in Los Angeles,” Badham said. She said she got the role of a lifetime because she was so similar to Scooter.
“I’m a tomboy and I’m very talkative. I’m an outdoor kid,” she told NPR. “I’d rather wear jeans and a T-shirt than wear a skirt and get dirty.”
Following the success of the film, Badham landed a few small roles, but ended up living a relatively normal off-screen life. She became a certified nursing assistant, sold makeup and learned the art of restoration. She is married and has two children, one of whom is an adoptive from India. Now, she lives on a farm in Virginia, and her long flowing hair creates a relaxed coastal grandmother vibe. She said it was amazing to get a call inviting her to New York City to see Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation — and read a table.
“I guess it’s an audition,” she laughs, shrugging her shoulders like a Boy Scout.
This spring, Badham went on a national tour, playing a small role that was the exact opposite of Scout Finch. Mrs. Henry Dubose, a racist, morphine-addicted neighbor, was rumored to have hidden a Confederate pistol under her shawl and mercilessly tormented the Finch children.
“Don’t say hello to me, you ugly girl!” she screamed on the show. “Jeremy and Jean Louise Finch, you are the most savage, dumbest idiots I’ve ever passed!”
“She’s evil, God,” Badham sighed. The actress, who has never acted on stage, said she has never been possessive of her role on screen. After all, she has spent decades attending countless schools and local productions to promote the message of Harper Lee’s novel.
“I’ve seen so many little Boy Scouts, and it’s great to see these characters come alive in another body,” Badham said. “very beautiful.”
Badham said Scout Finch’s character can tell us something about America today.
“I think the Boy Scouts told us not to give up,” she said. “We have to persevere. This is not a God-given right. If we want this country to survive, we have to work.”
Badham added that it’s a job she’s been in since she was a child.Keep to kill a robinThe story of progress, equality, and democracy is alive and well.
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