Actor Brad Leland takes on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dallas Theater Center's annual holiday production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Actor Brad Leland takes on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dallas Theater Center's annual holiday production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Sergio Garcia

Brad Leland of Friday Night Lights Uses a Football Analogy to Explain His Decision to Play Scrooge

It's been a while since film and TV actor Brad Leland has performed on a stage, but he decided to take a chance and return to it when Dallas Theater Center director Lee Trull asked him to play Ebenezer Scrooge in his latest production of A Christmas Carol.

"He said, 'Well, yeah, we think you'd be a great Scrooge,'" Leland says. "I said, 'I know, my nose is long and hooked.' So anyway, we laughed and he said, 'I'm serious and think about it.' And even though I hadn't been onstage, I thought about it, and I thought this is exactly what I'm supposed to do: go back to the magic and the thing that brought me here."

Leland, a Lubbock native who first worked in the Dallas theater scene before scoring the role of boisterous football booster Buddy Garrity in both the 2004 film and the NBC dramatic series Friday Night Lights, says he was filming a movie in Silverton, Colorado, when Trull offered him the role. He can't resist using a football analogy when asked why he decided to play Charles Dickens' famous miser.

"At my age, to use a football analogy — which I probably shouldn't do, but I'm going to — it's the fourth quarter of my life," he says. "I'm 63 years old, and I'm going to live 20 or 30 more years unless they invent new body parts or something. I'm going to try to just grow, and it was one of those things where it's a challenge, and getting back onstage in an iconic role like this where they just offer it to me, I'm just gonna take a shot."

The DTC's annual Christmas Carol show, which opened Wednesday and runs until Dec. 28, tells Dickens' classic story of holiday redemption as a trio of ghosts show the error of Scrooge's ways and help him turn his life toward charity.

Every year, DTC strives to tell the story in a new way. This year's production posed some unique acting challenges to Leland. For one, he plays Scrooge in various stages of the character's life, from childhood to his present age, during the Ghost of Christmas Past scenes.

"At first, I asked [Trull], 'What the heck are you talking about?'" Leland recalls. "'Am I gonna have to do a little kid voice, a teenage voice and a young man voice?' He said, 'No, we're going to approach it in another way.'"

Leland says playing multiple ages within the same role brings depth to the character and gives audiences a chance to empathize with Scrooge and his transformation into a Christmas-hating curmudgeon.

"There is a similar transformation in Buddy [from Friday Night Lights] and there's a transformation in Scrooge, and there's that second chance that they were both given," he says. "They understand their weaknesses and understand their faults. They overcome whatever caused them to be that way and are redeemed and are changed.

"So in the play, in an hour and a half, the character definitely has to change, and it can't be me showing you that change. I literally have to go through that change, and probably the hardest thing to do is to let the audience see me find that change and find that thing that's real, so you go, 'Oh, he understands that and because he understands it, we understand it.'"

Leland says he accepted the lead role in the Dallas Theater Center's A Christmas Carol so he could experience acting in a live theater show for the first time in a long while.EXPAND
Leland says he accepted the lead role in the Dallas Theater Center's A Christmas Carol so he could experience acting in a live theater show for the first time in a long while.
Karen Almond

Leland says he relished working in a theater environment after spending time on the sets of movies such as 2016's Deepwater Horizon and TV shows such as HBO's Veep and ABC's sitcom Last Man Standing.

"Theater mode is a different muscle," Leland says. "It's sort of the same acting muscle, but it's extended. Instead of a sprint with movies and television, it's a marathon. So in that respect, it's a different muscle and you have to keep it engaged — especially with a role like this."

Returning to the theater after a long career in film and television that dates to the original version of TV's Dallas can be quite a lovely gift to receive at Christmas or at any time of the year, Leland says.

"Television, when you're on the show, it becomes a big, happy family," he says. "Film, you're kind of there with some people for two or three months or so unless it's a really huge picture and then you go away, so you don't get quite as close to the people. In the theater, you get very close with everyone and you have to because you're with each other all the time. I respect it. It's a challenge, but it's very worth the hard work."

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