john grisham & cast

Best-selling author John Grisham, Playwright Rupert Holmes and Director Ethan McSweeney are pictured with critically-acclaimed cast of “A Time to Kill” backstage at Opening Night. (Photo courtesy Bruce Glikas/

*John Grisham’s provocative courtroom drama A Time to Kill opened on Broadway on Sunday, October 20. 2013 at the John Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street, NYC) followed by a spectacular after party at Bryant Park.

Based on the best-selling Grisham novel and the Joel Shumacher movie, ironically, this thrilling courtroom drama remains as grippingly relevant today as it was when Grisham’s story was first published in 1989.  This is a must see — you’re engaged from the moment the curtain goes up!

Directed by Ethan McSweeny, A Time to Kill is the first-ever Grisham property to be adapted for the stage by Tony Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes.  What is so remarkable about the casting is the resemblance of the young white lawyer from Ford County, Mississippi played by Sebastian Arcelus to Matthew McConaughey who played that part on film.  The acting is equally excellent.

“For almost a quarter of a century, A Time to Kill has captivated readers with its raw exploration of race, retribution and justice,” said John Grisham in a statement. “It was my first book and the first that I have allowed to be adapted for the theatre. Rupert Holmes did an excellent job of translating it from the page to the stage, and I am happy that not only my loyal readers, but a whole new audience will be able to experience this story in live theatre. I am looking forward to opening night on Broadway!”

Set in Ford County, Mississippi, A Time to Kill tells the emotional story of a young, idealistic lawyer Jake Brigance (Sebastian Arcelus) who defends a Black man, Carl Lee Hailey (brilliantly performed by John Douglas Thompson), for taking the law into his own hands following an unspeakable crime committed against his young daughter.  The small town is thrown into upheaval as Jake finds himself arguing against the formidable district attorney, Rufus Buckley (awesomely played by Patrick Page), and goes under attack from both sides of a racially divided city.

The killer cast is composed of Sebastian Arcelus as Jake Brigance; John Douglas Thompson as Carl Lee Hailey; Ashley Williams as Ellen Roark; Tom Skerritt as Lucien Wilbanks; Tonya Pinkins as Gwen Hailey; Chike Johnson as Ozzie Walls; and Patrick Page as Rufus Buckley.  Also featured are Jeffrey M. Bender as Deputy Looney; Dashiell Eaves as Pete Willard/DR Musgrove; J.R. Horne as Mr. Pate; John Procaccino as Drew Tyndale/WT Bass; Tijuana Ricks as Court Reporter; Lee Sellars as Cobb/Rhodeheaver/Grist; and Fred Dalton Thompson as Judge Noose.

The amazingly talented design team for A Time to Kill features scenic design by James Noone, costume design by Tony Award nominee David C. Woolard, lighting design by Tony Award winner Jeff Croiter, original music and sound design by Lindsay Jones, and projection design by Jeff Sugg.

A Time to Kill is produced by Tony Award winner Daryl Roth and Eva Price in association with Jonathan Mann, Martian Entertainment, Peter May, Square 1 Theatrics, Judith Ann Abrams/Jayne Sherman, David Bryant/Rock Candy Productions, Bryan K.L. Byrd III/The Storyline Project, Mary Beth Dale/Avram Freedberg, Elliott Masie/Sara Beth Zivitz, Philip Meissner/Slosberg Production.

For tickets and info, visit


roth mc sweeney price

“A Time to Kill” Director Ethan McSweeney is pictured with the show’s producers (left) Daryl Roth and (right) Eva Price. (Photo courtesy Bruce Glikas/

More about principal players:

John Grisham is one of the best-selling authors of all time, having written some of the most popular legal thrillers in the history of publishing, beginning in 1988 with A Time to Kill. Since then, he has written a novel a year, amassing 275 million books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel. Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

The multihyphenate Rupert Holmes has made his mark across various mediums, as playwright, composer, orchestrator, songwriter, mystery writer, and television writer. He won the 1986 Tony® Awards for Best Book and Best Score for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which in 2013 received an acclaimed, Tony-nominated revival at the Roundabout. Drood also represents one of two prestigious Edgar Awards for Holmes, who also won this foremost honor for mystery writing for his Broadway play Accomplice. He also received Tony nominations for 2003 Best Play for Say Goodnight Gracie and 2007 Best Book of a Musical and Best Score for Kander & Ebb’s Curtains. An accomplished mystery writer, his first novel Where the Truth Lies (Nero Wolfe nominee, Best American Mystery Novel) was adapted for the cinema by renowned filmmaker Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), and stars Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth. He has also written the best-selling mystery Swing and the upcoming crime series for Simon & Schuster, The McMasters Guide to Homicide. His other stage credits include Broadway’s Solitary Confinement; the Washington, D.C. staging of A Time to Kill at Arena Stage; The Nutty Professor at TPAC; Robin and the 7 Hoods at The Old Globe; and Marty at Huntington. For television, he created, wrote and scored AMC’s original series “Remember WENN.”

Director Ethan McSweeny made his mark on New York with his breakout 1998 production of John Logan’s Never the Sinner, which won Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, followed by his Broadway debut with the revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, which received a 2001 Tony Award® nomination for Best Revival of a Play. His other notable New York credits include the premieres of Kate Fodor’s Rx (Primary Stages) and 100 Saints You Should Know (Playwrights Horizons), and Jason Grote’s 1001 (P73). His career has spanned a remarkably diverse body of work that includes more than 60 productions, from world premieres (1001, 100 Saints, and Trinity River Plays among others), to noted productions of classics (from Aeschylus’ The Persians to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice), to revivals from the American canon (including Miller’s A View from the Bridge, Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Williams’ The Glass Menagerie) to musicals both new and old (Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days, and the upcoming Pirates of Penzance). Mr. McSweeny directed an earlier version of A Time to Kill at Arena Stage. He has directed on many of the nation’s most prestigious stages including the Guthrie, the Goodman, the Old Globe, the Shakespeare Theatre, the Denver Center, the Alley, Dallas Theater Center, South Coast Rep, CenterStage, Pittsburgh Public, George Street Playhouse, San Jose Rep, Westport Playhouse, the Wilma, Primary Stages, Playwrights Horizons, and the National Actors Theatre, among others.

Sebastian Arcelus (Jake Brigance) can currently be seen as Lucas Goodwin on the Netflix original series “House of Cards,” which just received 9 Emmy Award® nominations including Outstanding Drama Series. He has starred on Broadway in Elf (Buddy), Jersey Boys (Bob Gaudio), Wicked (Fiyero), Rent (Roger Davis), and Good Vibrations. Off-Broadway credits include Happiness (Lincoln Center Theater), The Blue Flower (Second Stage), and Where’s Charley? (Encores! at City Center). He has also appeared in numerous regional and international productions, including world premiere of William Finn’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (Williamstown). Other film and TV credits include the independent feature The Last Day of August (for which he also served as producer) and “Person of Interest” (CBS). His voice can also be heard on countless television commercials and animated programs. While rehearsing and performing in A Time to Kill, Sebastian will continue his commitment as a series regular on “House Of Cards.”

Chiké Johnson (Ozzie Walls) most recently appeared in The Goodman Theatre’s production of Meet Vera Stark and Milwaukee Rep’s production of Raisin in the Sun. His New York credits include; Manhattan Theatre Club’s Wit on Broadway and Off Broadway’s Lost In The Stars in New York City Center’s Encores! He also appeared in the Off Broadway production of Ruined co produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club and The Goodman Theatre. Some of his other Chicago credits include: Sizwe Banzi is Dead at the Court Theatre and The Crucible, The Unmentionables and Huck Finn at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Regional credits include a revival of The Unmentionables at Yale Repertory Theatre; Lincoln in Topdog/Underdog at Renaissance Theaterworks; Duke of Cornwall in King Lear at Milwaukee Repertory Theater; Cephus Miles in Home at In Tandem Theatre; Willie in Master Harold and the boys at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre; and Martin Luther King, Jr. in Smoldering Fires at First Stage Children’s Theater. Some of Mr. Johnson’s film credits include Friends with Benefits, Sleep walk with Me, The Machinist and his television credits include “Law & Order,” “Girls,” “Veep,” and “Prison Break.”

Tonya Pinkins (Gwen Hailey) performs her cabaret shows Unplugged, Bring On The Men and Hurricane Ethel around the country. In 2012 Tonya won the Lucille Lortel award for best supporting actress for her performance as a chain smoking mom in Milk Like Sugar. 2011-2012, she played a wide range of roles from the Countess in All’s Well That Ends Well-NYSF, Mistress Overdone in Measure for Measure-NYSF, a feisty great grandmother in Katori Hall’s Hurt Village-Signature Theater and a Bronx Latina in John Patrick Shanley’s end to the Doubt trilogy: Storefront Church– Atlantic Theater. Tonya won the Obie, Lortel, Garland, NAACP Theater and LA Drama Critics awards and was nominated for the Olivier, Tony, Drama League, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for her performance as the title character in Caroline or Change. She won the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Monarch and Clarence Derwent Awards for the role of Sweet Anita in Jelly’s Last Jam opposite Gregory Hines. Other Broadway appearances include Play One (Tony nomination), The Wild Party, Radio Golf, Chronicle of a Death Foretold and the original Broadway cast of Merrily We Roll Along. Her regional theater performances have been nominated for the Noel, Helen Hayes, Ovation and Joseph Jefferson awards. She portrayed Livia on “All My Children” and Heather Dalton on “As the World Turns.” In upcoming films Tonya appears opposite Woody Allen in John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo, Shaka King’s Newlyweeds, and Jono Oliver’s Home. Tonya has appeared in Disney’s Enchanted, Above the Rim, Noah’s Arc, Jumping the Broom, “Army Wives,” “24,” and “Criminal Minds” among others. She is the author of Get Over Yourself: How to Drop the Drama and Claim the Life You Deserve (Hyperion Books); she is also the creator of The Actorpreneur Attitude TM. She teaches a performance workshop OutActing Singers monthly. Visit her @TonyaPinkins Twitter and

Tijuana Ricks (Court Reporter) makes her Broadway debut with A Time to Kill. Regional Theater: THIS at Hartford TheaterWorks, Death of a Salesman at the Yale Repertory Theatre, Stick Fly and The Overwhelming at The Contemporary American Theatre Festival, The Women of Brewster Place the Musical at Arena Stage and The Alliance Theatre. Television: The Carrie Diaries, Deception, 666 Park Avenue, Blue Bloods, Law and Order, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, 30 Rock, Royal Pains, Law and Order: CI, Guiding Light, Conviction, Gossip Girl, Six Degrees. Film: Beware the Night, The Girl in the Park, The Savages, The Architect. Tijuana is Louisiana born and raised and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

John Douglas Thompson (Carl Lee Hailey) can currently be seen in Mother Courage with Olympia Dukakis at Shakespeare & Co. John was the subject of an extensive profile piece in The New Yorker. He recently appeared on stage as Herald Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone directed by Phylicia Rashad at The Mark Taper Forum. Other theatre credits include Satchmo at the Waldorf (Connecticut Critics Association Award), The Iceman Cometh with Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane at The Goodman Theatre, Richard III, Othello (Drama League nomination, Obie Award, Lucille Lortel Award and Joe A. Callaway Award), The Emperor Jones (Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk Nominations; Joe A. Calloway Award), The Forest with Dianne Weist, Cyrano de Bergerac with Kevin Kline, Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington, Henvy IV at The RSC, Antony and Cleopatra with Kate Mulgrew, Hedda Gabler, King Lear with Sam Waterston, Jesus Hopped the A Train (Barrymore Award). His feature film credits include The Bourne Legacy, Malcolm X and Michael Clayton.

Daryl Roth (Producer) just received the 2013 Tony® Award for Best Musical for her hit production of Kinky Boots. She holds the singular distinction of producing seven Pulitzer Prize-winning plays: August: Osage County (Tony Award), Proof (Tony Award), Wit, How I Learned to Drive, Anna in the Tropics, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, and Clybourne Park (Tony Award). Over 85 Award-winning productions including: Love, Loss, and What I Wore; The Baby Dance; Bea Arthur on Broadway; Camping with Henry and Tom; Caroline, or Change; A Catered Affair; Closer Than Ever; Curtains; De La Guarda; Defying Gravity; Die Mommie Die!; The Divine Sister; Driving Miss Daisy; Fela!; Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (Tony Award); Irena’s Vow; A Little Night Music; Manuscript; Medea; The Normal Heart (Tony Award); Old Wicked Songs; One Man, Two Guvnors; Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby; Salome; Snakebit; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; The Temperamentals; Thom Pain…; Through the Night; Thurgood; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; Vigil; War Horse (Tony Award); Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; The Year of Magical Thinking; and the documentary film My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story.

Eva Price (Producer) was most recently represented on Broadway by Peter and the Starcatcher, which won 5 Tony Awards during its celebrated run and now continues Off-Broadway at New World Stages. Broadway: Annie (2013 Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Musical), Lewis Black, Franke Valli and the Four Seasons, Kathy Griffin Wants A Tony, Colin Quinn Long Story Short, The Merchant of Venice, The Addams Family, Wishful Drinking, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Selected Off-Broadway and Touring: Forever Dusty, Voca People, Ella, The Magic School Bus Live!, ‘S Wonderful. Eva was recently named to Crain’s New York “40 Under Forty” Rising Stars in Business and Blouin Art Info’s “Top 25 Under 35” Emerging Broadway Players

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler  of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.  Contact her via: [email protected]

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard