Olivia Wilde on the relevance of Broadway's '1984' today

The actress, who makes her Broadway debut with this play, talks about the show's intensity and her family's connection to George Orwell.
7:19 | 07/14/17

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Transcript for Olivia Wilde on the relevance of Broadway's '1984' today
George orwell's "1984" depicts a dark future with omnipresent surveillance, where thought crimes are punished by thought police, and language is regulated by the government. So it might surprise you to learn that the happy go Lucy "O.C." Star Olivia wilde might just be the perfect person to retell this story. Here's ABC's David Wright. Reporter: Big brother is watching. The party has been captured. Reporter: George orwell's D distoppian vision of the surveillance state. I have to do something. Whatever the consequences, I have to do something. Reporter: "1984." A cold war classic everybody read in high school. Now taking Broadway by storm. Down with big brother! Down with big brother! Down with big brother! Reporter: Not exactly light fare for date night. This show comes from a big place of anxiety. Yes. Anxiety is a buzz word for us. Reporter: Model and actress Olivia wilde is one of the stars. You may remember her from the hit series "House." I did good work yesterday. And I was still fired. Reporter: Where she played 13. Hey, I'm Alex. Reporter: Before that she was Alex Kelly on the teen drama "The O.C." My passion. Reporter: She also starred as Devon finestra. My heart is full. Reporter: In Mick jagger's HBO show "Vinyl." So if the 1984 on Broadway is a bit of a departure for her. So this is your Broadway debut? This is, yes. Reporter: What an intense debut. It is an intense debut, but I wouldn't want it any other way. Sunday afternoon. At 15 get the train. Reporter: The character Julia is the ambiguous love interest who's either betraying the regime or betraying her lover. We're never quite sure which. No love except love of big brother. No loyalty except to the party. Ambiguous. Ambiguous, yes. As orwell intended. Is she a collaborator or is she -- The question is never answered. I have an answer for myself. What do you believe? I don't know. It sort of ruins it to give it away. Tell me afterwards. Reporter: The production comes at a moment when New York theater is a political hotbed. Vice president-elect pence, we welcome you and we -- Reporter: Last year the incoming vice president got an earful during the curtain call at "Hamilton." We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us. Reporter: Earlier this summer Shakespeare in the park staged "Julius Caesar" complete with dark suits and trump ties. That production targeted by trump loyalists. Shame on all of you! Reporter: -- Eager to make a scene. And now this. Yeah. How does this fit into that conversation about politics and art? It's interesting because this is the least literal of all of those in terms of reflecting the current politics. There's no one dressed up as trump in our show. We're not diverting from the text to draw any parallels to today's world. It's just clear. When the audience hears words like "The truth matters," "Words matter," that's something that they recognize from their own lives. Reporter: Wilde points to moments like this. Sean spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. Reporter: To demonstrate the play's relevance. It was of course when kellyanne Conway said alternative facts that "1984" shot to the top of the best-seller list once again. If ever there were newspeak. If ever there were newspeak it has been coined and perfected by kellyanne Conway and the entire trump administration. I think people are sort of aware of but they kind of would rather not believe it was that dangerous. We destroy the party with tiny secret acts of disobedience. Reporter: In a way Olivia wilde was born to play this role. You grew up in a family that would certainly have been of interest to the thought police.p Yes. We wouldn't have lasted long. Thought criminals. Unpersoned. The whole lot of us. Reporter: Her grandfather Claude Coburn was one of the most famous radical journalists of his time. A contemporary of orwell's. Wilde's uncle was Alexander Coburn, a columnist for the "Village voice" and "The nation." His latest book is the soon to be published "Encounters with the sphynx." Reporter: Alex Coburn came on "Nightline" in 1990 to argue that communism was alive and well despite the collapse of the Berlin wall. I think the ideals that animated the communist movement or the socialist movement 100 years ago are still very much alive. How did that shape who you are and your political awareness in dealing with this material? I was raised to question everything. My grandfather was a great journalist, and he had a quote which I love which is "Believe nothing until it has been officially denied." It's all lies anyway. Remember who we're at war -- Reporter: The show for all its relevance is based on material that predates the trump era by decades. Wilde's co-star Tom sturridge plays the main character, Winston. 95% of this text was written in 1949. This play was conceived five years ago in Nottingham, England, way before American politics has shaped the way it has right now. Sure. So when people come into this space, they bring all of the things, the burdens of the world on their shoulders, but it's their interpretation, not us presenting something to them. When this play was originally adapted, it was mostly about the NSA and about, you know, the revelations of Snowden and what people were suddenly realizing about how they were being monitored and what we are willing to give up in the name of security. Reporter: Part of the play takes place behind the scenes. This is the little room where we retreat to during the show four times. And we run from the stage back here. Everything here is then broadcast live out to the theater. The idea is that Winston and Julia think they're in a private place. Reporter: But the audience outside is watching it all. Complicit in the surveillance. The rats are everywhere these days. The city's crawling with them. Can we stop -- Reporter: The intensity of all this takes a toll night after night. That is what alcohol is for, it turns out. Turns out it was made for Broadway. Reporter: Are your kids in town? Do you go home and tuck the kids in at night? They are in town. They're asleep, thank god. Reporter: Wilde is a new mother. She and her fiance, actor Jason sudeikis, have two young children. What do you tell them about this world and what mommy's doing? It's very funny because my son loves -- he loves to perform. He loves the stage. And I could barely tell him any bit of the plot. I look forward to doing something one day that my kids could see. So far I haven't chosen one thing that they can see. One day I'll get into like "Toy story 17." Exactly. You can do the voice of a Disney princess. Oh, a dream. Reporter: You were born in 1984. I was born in 1984. I remember 1984, and I remember in high school reading that book and thinking, well, George orwell got it wrong. But now -- It was like sci-fi. Right. It was still the distant future. And now it's kind of -- Now it's current events. Reporter: An old drama with new relevance in the era of alternative facts. I'm David Wright for "Nightline" in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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