Whether he’s playing a sociopathic stringer, a gay cowboy or a boy in a bubble, Jake Gyllenhaal has wowed us on the big screen for decades—but the Oscar nominee really surprised us when he made his off-Broadway debut in 2012, playing a supporting role in Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. He must have had a blast, because he’s back on the New York theater scene, making his Broadway debut in another Payne drama: Constellations, opposite The Affair star Ruth Wilson. In the ethereal British import, Gyllenhaal plays Roland, a beekeeper who meets Marianne (Wilson) at a barbecue, unleashing a myriad of infinite possibilities. Gyllenhaal recently chatted with Broadway.com about his “beast” co-star, why he wants to put a beehive on the roof of the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre and more.

You’re back in New York in another Nick Payne play—is it safe to say you had fun last time?

Yeah, I did! I loved working with Nick Payne and [director] Michael Longhurst and I love Nick’s writing. You can be effusive about a writer’s writing when you’re doing it once, but when you decide to do it a second time, and they want you to come back and do their writing again, it’s proven by action.

You must have people asking you to do plays all the time—why did you want Constellations to be your Broadway debut?

I don’t know about that, but I know that to me, the creative process is about relationships and intimacy. Being able to be open and trusting when that trust exists. When you’ve tried it and beaten it up a bit, bring it back out and try again. It’s very important for me. It’s wonderful to do something totally new and venture into something with people you don’t know at all, but in the case of knowing people, you feel like you could go even deeper. That’s how I feel about all of them and why I wanted to do this.

Is it easy to fall in love with Ruth Wilson onstage?

The love between these two characters is so strong, it’s wonderful. When you’re working with an actor who is as talented as Ruth is, who has the number of choices she has and her mind is working at a very high level all the time, that in conjunction with the writing, there’s this profound, beautiful love happening amongst all of us. That sounds super hippidy-dippidy, but it’s happening. The writing really brings it out. I’m so happy to be working with Ruth and I’m so honored to be working with her, so that exchange makes every day really fun. We can only do it together and it is a dance, and one is only as good as the other one. I know on any given night I will be there if anything happens with her and vice versa. I trust that, and that’s rare. She’s a beast. She’s a real animal up there and it’s exciting for me.

You play Roland, a beekeeper—did you work with any bees to prepare for this?

I had an intention of wanting to have a hive up on the roof of the theater which would have been really cool, but it’s winter, so that’s not gonna happen. But we already have met with a beekeeper and I’m gonna hang out with some bees. We’re definitely eating our fair share of honey while learning about theoretical physics. I learned how to smoke bees, I’m doing it all.

Did you get stung at all?

I haven’t even worked with the bees yet, and you’re already wondering if I’m going to get stung?

Oh! I thought you had. Well, I’m very concerned for you.

I live in New York, I’m on Broadway, I’m sure there’ll be my fair share of stings. [Laughs.]

See Jake Gyllenhaal in Constellations at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, opening January 13.