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Watch Actor Edward Gero Transform into Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

The veteran Washington actor plays Scalia in "The Originalist" at Arena Stage.

Watch Actor Edward Gero Transform into Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Edward Gero, just moments before stepping on stage. All photographs by Lauren Joseph.

The resemblance is incredible. Edward Gero, the award-winning actor who has spent more than 30 years with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, plays US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the play “The Originalist” at Arena Stage. To get into character, the actor studied Scalia very carefully. Gero met with Scalia twice for lunch and watched him twice more on the bench. He saw him speak at the National War College and Lisner Auditorium. He gradually took on the Justice’s mannerisms–the way he walks, talks, and boldly gestures with his right hand.

To complete the transformation, Gero mirrors the Justice’s look down to the tiniest detail. He darkens his eyebrows with makeup, applies a few hair pieces, and wears the same exact frames as Scalia. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek into how this remarkable transformation takes place.

Gero, fresh out of the shower, sits in his dressing room, surrounded by photographs of Scalia. The 61-year-old actor uses these images as inspiration as he prepares to act as the 79-year-old justice.

The veteran actor usually applies his own makeup for the stage. While he gets ready, he listens to classical music–Chopin nocturnes and Mozart serenades. Sometimes he shakes things up with tunes by Italian artist Franco Battiato or jazz duets by Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen.

Gero applies two hairpieces for the role of Scalia. He also puts on eyeliner and thickens his eyebrows.

He keeps fan mail in his dressing room as a source of inspiration. “My husband, Bob, and I were here for the Sunday matinee performance and want to tell you that we thought you were ‘masterful,'” a fan gushes in a hand-written note.

Throughout the course of the play, Gero changes costumes five times: four suit changes and one casual outfit. Here, he’s pictured in the suit he wears below the traditional black robe.

Gero wears the exact same frames Scalia wears. These Jaguar-brand glasses retail for about $200.

A colleague helps Gero slip into his robe.

Before going on stage, Gero does “centering breathing” exercises. He takes deep breaths and slowly exhales while saying the word “relax.”

“The Originalist”
Arena Stage
Runs through May 3