The Story Behind “Beyond Glory”: Actor Stephen Lang On Portraying Medal Of Honor Recipients

Stephen Lang


Actor Stephen Lang grew up in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of the borough of Queens. His mother was a homemaker, and his father was a businessman and engineer. As a boy, Stephen was interested in sports and pirates, and was fascinated by the theater, movies, and television. His first exposure to the theater was when his grandparents took him to see Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” As a boy, he always enjoyed performing for his mother, and practiced recitation. He attended George School, a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania, where he was inspired by one of his teachers who taught Religion and Theater, instilling in him a reverence for the theater. In 1973, he graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in English Literature. While in college, he began acting in local theaters, eventually being hired in Washington, D.C., and New York. Eventually, larger and more important roles started coming his way. He was cast in a Joe Papp production of “Hamlet” for Shakespeare in the Park, and later played Dustin Hoffman’s son Happy in “Death of A Salesman” on Broadway, reprising the role in the 1985 made-for-TV movie. After that, he played Babe Ruth (1991), Major General George Pickett in “Gettysburg” (1993), and Ike Clanton in “Tombstone” (1993). In 2004, he started performing “Beyond Glory,” an adaptation of Larry Smith’s book “Beyond Glory: Medal of Honor Heroes in Their Own Words.” In this one-man show, he portrays eight diverse Medal of Honor Recipients, describing their experiences contextualized within their lives as a whole. He has performed the show over 500 times in locations ranging from deployed bases for the military, to regional theaters, to Broadway. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his education, and developing within the craft of acting. He describes some of his early roles, and his excitement at working with people like Dustin Hoffman, Ron Maxwell, and James Cameron. He focuses on his work on “Beyond Glory,” and explores some of the personalities he brings to life on the stage. He ends by reflecting on the importance of service, and what it means to be a good American and a good human being.


conflicts World War II Korean War Vietnam War
topics Leadership Camaraderie Morale P.O.W.s Medal of Honor Injuries
interviewer David Siry
date 08 October 2019


name Stephen Lang
institution Swarthmore
graduation year 1973