It’s hard to envision the nine Supreme Court justices at work: Cameras aren’t allowed into oral arguments, and they’re not exactly giving out all-access passes to the justice’s chambers.
But a D.C.-based playwright pulls back the veil in a new play about the current longest-serving justice, Antonin Scalia, during his deliberation on the 2012 U.S. v Windsor case.
John Strand, screenwriter of “The Originalist,” now playing at Arena Stage in Washington D.C., said on NBC’s PRESS Pass with Chuck Todd that he attended oral arguments multiple times – and spoke to many of Scalia’s former clerks – to get a feel for his character.
“I think it would be a waste of everyone’s time if the idea was to set up Justice Scalia so that we could mock him or cut him at the knees,” Strand said. “Childish. That’s not what we’re doing.”
Both liberals and conservatives have raved about the performance, he said.
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“The Originalist” is a three-person play including Scalia and two of his law clerks. Despite his hardline political conservatism, one of the clerks in the play is liberal – a real-life setup that Scalia and other justices use to provide a counterpoint to their own philosophy and hone their arguments.
“We’ve had multiple questions from audience members, saying ‘Did you invent this completely? Is this entirely fictional? Could Justice Scalia actually allow a liberal this close to him?’ Strand said. “Yeah, it certainly happens.”
Edward Gero, an award-winning actor who plays Scalia in the production, told Todd that despite his gruff, aggressive demeanor, Scalia is actually quite friendly.
“He’s very warm, he takes care of his clerks – he’s a great host,” Gero said.
On PRESS Pass, Todd noted that one of Scalia’s closest friends on the Court is his political opposite, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“Everyone assumes they hang out with their ideological soul mates,” he said. “That isn’t the case.”
Gero, who also played the GOP Senate Whip in season two of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” said he had lunch with Scalia in his chambers. But has the notorious justice himself seen the play?
“No, he’s been invited” Gero said. “He sent me a written dissent.”