Stage actor, Michael Cox of ‘War Horse’ talks acting with puppets -Interview
Famed show and five time Tony Award Winning, ‘War Horse’ is making it’s way across the US thrilling theatre goers of all ages.
The stage play is currently playing in Seattle and then heading off to Portland, Oregon. Entire US schedule located at bottom of article.
The story is set in England during the early part of WWI and has been described by critics and fans as a life changing show with amazing music and stagecraft. The story centers on a horse named Joey (a life size puppet), who is loved by his owner Albert Narracott. The horse goes to war and his too young to fight owner embarks on a mission to bring his horse home. The journey takes horse and owner onto the tragic battle field where their courage and loyalty will be tested. Starring alongside the horse/puppet Joey, and his owner Albert, is the competing cousin, Billy, played by Michael Wyatt Cox.
Cox is a New York City based actor whose credits include Heist! and A Christmas Carol.
Allie Hanley: Even though the show has played in many prestigious theatres including London’s West End and on Broadway, many people are still only familiar with the movie that Steven Spielberg created in 2011. Can you tell me about your role in the stage production of ‘War Horse’?
Michael Wyatt Cox: Sure, I play Billy Norracott in the play ‘War Horse’. He’s the cousin of Albert, who is the main boy with Joey. Billy originally in the beginning of the play wants to buy Joey. His father, and Albert’s father have this big rivalry. Albert’s family ends up with Joey and my character, Billy, sort of spies on Joey throughout the play; And eventually gets inlisted in WWI at an early age and goes to fight. He ends up with Joey because they both go to war at the same time.
AH: How familiar were you with the stage show versus the movie?
MC: I was way more familar with the show. I had been living in New York and War Horse was a big deal there. I mean people were going crazy for it. Once I got the role, and started rehearsing for the play, that’s when I finally watched the movie. But the movie is so much different from the play, – I mean ya know Spielberg saw the play and loved it, and then made his version of it. My character Billy is not in the movie and actually many of the characters from the play aren’t in the movie either.
AH: Would someone who is familiar with movie, and not the show still like the stage version?
MC: Absolutely, I think the play is amazing in a large part because of the puppetry and stage craft, and the creations of Handspring Puppet Company. I think people will enjoy it even more because the play is so much more immersive and you get so much closer to the characters, and the time period. I really think people will enjoy it alot more.
AH: So talk about the process for an actor who is acting alongside an inanimate object that is such a large and important part of the story and production?
MC: It was really fun to do. There’s a lot more than just the puppet horse. There’s puppet humans, there’s a crow, and a goose. My character Billy has alot of interaction with the puppets. He gets chased by the goose. The designs are so amazing and lifelike. Especially the horses, that you really don’t have to do that much imagining. You can walk over there to the horse Joey, and you get totally sucked in. As my character Billy I get to ride <the puppet horse>, and personally in real life I have ridden a horse before, – and grew up around them. It’s not much more of a step to work with these puppets compared to real horses. The puppets are so lifelike and amazing that you don’t really have to go that far into the imagination to think you are on stage with a real live breathing animal. They are right there, looking at you in your eyes, smelling you, -it’s cool.
AH: I’ve heard and read that people will actually foget that the puppets on stage are not real actors/ animals. I am really looking forward to seeing why so many people go nuts for this show. During your role on stage, what part do you enjoy performing the most?
MC: It’s really nice in the beginning when it’s all peaceful and that’s fun. I get to be with my father. But I really love interacting with the horses and I would say one of my favororite parts is when I am acting with Joey and we go over the German lines. We are riding with swords raised and heading for the German machine guns. It’s pretty fun and amazing to do.
AH: Can you compare the real Michael to the character you play?
MC: I would say, although it’s tough to see it in the play, because Albert is the one who falls in love with Joey, but my character loves horses too. He wanted to buy Joey at the auction in the very beginning of the play. So I would say, in a sense that I am very similar to Billy in the love of horses; And also in respecting family and wanting to do right by them.
Michael is currently touring with the show. He is a NYC based actor who graduated from The University of Central Florida where he earned his BFA in Acting from the University of Central Florida. After graduating, Michael spent a year as an acting apprentice with the Actors Theatre of Louisville, appearing in A Christmas Carol and Heist! (part of the 34th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays). NYC credits include icallmyselfaplay at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre and Waiting For Lefty at the 45th Street Theatre. Michael is a co-creator of SmartMouth Productions, a film and photography company that also produces its own original viral comedy.
Follow the link to learn more about Michael Wyatt Cox.
WAR HORSE has been seen by more than 2 million people worldwide and is currently playing at New York’s Lincoln Center Theater, in London’s West End, and at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre. Future productions of WAR HORSE are planned for Australia, Berlin and South Africa, as well as a UK Tour. For more information, please visit
Here’s the schedule for the first 6 months of the US Tour of War Horse. For more dates and cities check their official site at
- Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre 02/13 – 02/24/03
- Portland, OR Keller Auditorium02/26 – 03/03/13
- Spokane, WA INB Performing Arts Center03/05 – 03/09/13
- St. Louis, MO The Fox Theater03/13 – 03/24/13
- Cincinnati, OH Procter & Gamble Hall – Aronoff Center for the Arts03/26 – 04/07/13
- Cleveland, OH Palace Theatre04/09 – 04/21/13
- Tampa, FL Carol Morsani Hall 04/30 – 05/05/13
- Ft. Lauderdale, FL Broward Center05/07 – 05/19/13
- Fayetteville, AR Walton Arts Center05/22 – 05/26/13
- Charlotte, NC Belk Theater05/28 – 06/02/13
- Providence, RI Providence Performing Arts Center06/05 – 06/09/13
- Minneapolis, MN Orpheum Theatre 06/12 – 06/23/13
- Appleton, WI Fox Cities Performing Arts Center06/25 – 06/30/13
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