The split and several recent deaths of people close to him sent Linklater, a 6-foot-3-inch slender man with nervous energy and a remarkably thick thatch of brown hair, into a dark period that fueled his first play.
"Death was around and I kept thinking, 'Gosh, it would be great to talk about this and I feel like nobody is talking about this correctly around me,'" he says. "I didn't know what the play was going to be and then it turned out that I really wanted to talk about death a lot."
Simpson, who directed the play, says Linklater's background as an actor helped him be sensitive to the needs of the performers and creative team. "I think all of us — the cast and myself included — were really in his thrall," says Simpson. "He knew exactly what he wanted and because of his work in the theater was very knowledgeable about what he was going for and how to get it."
Linklater says he writes without always knowing where the work is taking him, which he instantly mocks. "What's so nice to discover is that if I have to be a playwright, at least I'm a deeply pretentious playwright," he says, laughing.
He started "The Vandal" with the image of a sad woman at a bus stop and it evolved from there. He has a few more plays in the works, including a new one he just handed to Simpson.
"When there's something that feels intimate and taboo and transgressive and compulsory, then it sort of works its way out," he says. "And then I get to have a play out of it."
Though he remains deeply uncomfortable watching his work being performed, he is enjoying his life as a TV actor, stage veteran and now playwright.
"I'm living my ambition. This is the dream, right now. Lightning is going to strike me. I'm going to implode," he says. "It's the embarrassment of riches. I've never blushed so deeply red."
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