In F. Scott’s Shoes

Actor Sam Pearson on his life as an actor and playing Fitzgerald.
Pegeen Lamb and Sam Pearson as Zelda and Scott at last year’s Fitzgerald in Saint Paul gala.

For the past three years, actors Sam Pearson and Pegeen Lamb have played F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at the annual Fitzgerald in Saint Paul fundraiser at the Commodore Bar & Restaurant. We asked Pearson, who now lives in Chicago, to tell us about his career, his role as Fitzgerald and his favorite F. Scott novel. And who played Gatsby better—Robert Redford or Leonardo DiCaprio?

When did your acting career begin?

I started acting in plays at my elementary school and then in a few productions at Stages Theater in Hopkins. In fifth grade, I was lucky enough to be cast in A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie. Working on this show, and subsequent productions of it over the next four years, was when I really developed a love for acting and realized it was possible to make a living as a working actor. I attended the Guthrie BFA acting program at the University of Minnesota and graduated in 2013. During my time in the Twin Cities, I worked on two more plays at the Guthrie, and before moving to Chicago, performed with the History Theater, Frank Theatre and others.

What are you working on now?  

I was given the incredible opportunity to play the title role in Shakespeare’s Richard III in rep with A Comedy of Errors for the touring company Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. I worked on Charles III with Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) and am currently performing in their production of Romeo and Juliet which will  tour Chicago parks this summer. I also recently filmed an episode of Chicago P.D., and have been paying rent with voiceover work in commercials.

How did you start playing Fitzgerald?
A  friend and local director, Ashley Hanson, sent me an email in the fall of 2014 asking if I would be interested in playing Fitzgerald for a gala she was helping put together at the Commodore. I said I was more than interested and offered Pegeen’s contact info, knowing she would be perfect to play Zelda.

Favorite F. Scott novel?

The Great Gatsby. It’s an American classic for a reason. However, my favorite thing I’ve read is one of his short stories, An Alcoholic Case, something he wrote while an expatriate in Paris.

Redford or DiCaprio?
Redford, hands down. Neither film is perfect, and the Redford version has its problems (namely the painful shirt throwing scene). I prefer his more nuanced portrayal to the glitzier DiCaprio depiction.