Jeremy Strong read the Ibsen play An Enemy of the People for the first time earlier this year, not long after completing work on the HBO series Succession. “It really struck me like a bolt of lightning,” he said, speaking at a recent press event for the production, alongside its adapter Amy Herzog, director Sam Gold and co-star Michael Imperioli, best known for his role on HBO’s The Sopranos.
In An Enemy of the People, Strong’s first post-Succession project, he plays Thomas Stockmann, a doctor in a 19th-century Norwegian spa town who wants to raise the alarm that the town’s wellsprings are poisoned. Imperioli plays his brother.
Strong was struck by how the play “ricocheted across every single thing that we’re living through and confronting—from the court of public opinion to the climate crisis.” At the center of it, though, was the torment and tragedy of Stockmann’s position. “I’ve heard it described as a man confronting the necessity of action at the same time as the impossibility of action. And I thought that that was an incredible dilemma and engine for a play.” Expressing that predicament, Strong off-handedly quoted Hamlet: “‘O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right…’ It feels more like that.”
As an actor, Strong has earned a reputation for giving himself over to a character; “temporary insanity” is part of his process, he noted. He’s terrified of the particular insanity that An Enemy of the People will require—but that terror is precisely what he’s drawn to. “I think that’s how we all grow as artists,” he said. “You move toward the danger.”