BWW Interviews: WHITE'S LIES' Christy Carlson Romano
Christy Carlson Romano is not your average twenty-six year old. She has already spent two decades conquering show business, finding success in theater, film, and television. A former Disney kid, she was nominated for an Emmy for her role in the TV series "Kim Possible" and is also well known for her role alongside Shia Labeouf in "Even Stevens". On the stage Romano has appeared in the original Broadway productions of Avenue Q, Beauty and the Beast, and Parade. Now, at twenty-six she is the youngest cast member of White's Lies, alongside the likes of Tuc Watkins, Peter Scolari and Betty Buckley. Romano took time out from her busy schedule to chat with us about her comfort on the stage, her passion for her work, and her love of comedy.
BWW: You started acting when you were very young. How has it been transitioning from child actress to adult?
CCR: It's been really interesting. Recently I played a bunch of parts that were bad girls, I'm trying to do different parts and flex my acting muscle. With the part I'm doing in Whites Lies, she's still young, she's only twenty-two, and so I feel like I am going to back to my roots playing a good girl. But this time she has permission to be sexy and funny. It's an adult play but I am playing a younger girl so I guess that is appropriate. Younger actors who are transitioning all feel the need to prove something to everybody about being able to play older parts and everything, I've definitely done a few Indie films, I have a film coming out, a Fox Searchlight Film called Mirrors 2, it's a horror movie coming out in October. There's a shower scene in it for me so, there you go!
Do you feel that it's important to do something radical like that to distance yourself from the past?
CCR: I don't know if it's that so much as it is wanting to do different types of things. You do the same thing or play the same part and you don't have anything to prove, you just get lazy. I want to challenge myself; I love what I do and I love acting, so as I get older I have more questions and I don't want to be satisfied just being successful as a child actor, I want to grow. Even when I was working for Disney I was also doing theater and now I'm just amping it up with harder parts. I was only six when I first started, and I started in the theater.
So you really have already made that leap.
CCR: I hope so! I'm learning that as an actress you are constantly evolving and you must continue to leap and change, I'm finding that out as I get older.
How has the transition been between TV, movies, and theater?
CCR: Well it is a lot harder doing theater because you don't get to say "cut" and have another take, like the other day they gave me a paragraph that I had to learn and do within 24 hours and I was like, "okay, I'm game for that!" You really look at it like it's your life. With TV shows you become a family with the people you work with and then when it's over it's over. And that's kind of a weird thing. But with theater it's a much more personal experience and you have to be much more committed to your play.
Talk to me about White's Lies. How has it been working with professionals who are very well known and been in the buisiness for so long?
CCR: It's been amazing! I mean, I am actually going on twenty years of professional acting, so I have been in there a long time, I guess you can say it's a different embodiment of professionalism. But with Peter Scolari and Betty Buckley and Tuc Watkins, they are all really good people and very, very talented, but when we come together we create this really fun dynamic for the play. I feel that we are all very well cast for the show. I am having a blast with all of them and I learned so much from Betty Buckley, just about creating characters and creating a character for myself... she is just a really great actress.
So you feel that you all work well as one cohesive unit?
CCR: Totally, yes. I feel like we are a team.
It comes across when watching you guys.
CCR: Oh yeah, it's like we are passing the ball to each other so it's like a relay race. If someone drops the ball then someone else has to pick it up and keep going. At the pace of this show it is very specific. You need to have to have a great pace because that's how you keep people laughing. It takes a lot of energy. Peter Scolari is an absolute master when it comes to pacing, so I am learning a lot about that too. A lot of people say that White's Lies is almost like a sitcom, but it really has a heart to it. So it is up to us as the actors to show that. Otherwise we are just playing these fake characters, so that's what we've been struggling with, but at the same time I think that the play is really finding its heart.
Do you feel a connection to the character you are playing?
CCR: Oh god, Michelle and me are exactly alike! I mean, I don't know if I've ever dated a much older guy and gotten into the complications she gets herself into but.... I try to make Michelle the quintessential cool young girl that I definitely was at twenty-two and try to continue to be now!
White's Lies is a comedy and you have a history in comedy. Do you feel a connection to comedy more than other genres?
CCR: Yeah I do. But I'm kind of biased, I started in musical theater and I think that musical theater tends to be comedic. And the stuff that I did was sort of light-hearted and fun, especially as a kid, you don't do much dark stuff unless you are Dakota Fanning. So I learned how to have a sense of humor at an early age and was lucky enough to work with a lot of really great people. I worked with so many funny people over the years that I got taught how to be funny in a very specific way and then when I did Even Stevens I was working with Shia Labeouf, and in his heart he is really a comedian as well, even though he has gone on to do all of these amazing things, he is really just a simple funny clown. He is also a genius with timing as well like Peter Scolari. So we worked together and I played the straight woman and he played the funny guy so I really have become a great straight woman. Now that's kind of what I'm doing with Michelle, people are funny around me and I'm trying to keep up with them.
Well sometimes it's harder to play the straight role when everything around you is jokey.
CCR: Totally is. You have to keep your energy up and keep up with the people around you.
It is harder to be a woman comedian; men love to say that women aren't as funny as men. Do you feel that it has been more definitely for you to be funny in shows or in life than it would be for a man?
CCR: I think that is a really good question, and I have been struggling with that since we started the show. I do think that it is hard to be sexy and funny at the same time. You see someone like Sarah Silverman do that very well so you know it's out there, but I think that you just have to find what works for you, find your own comedy in real life and what makes you funny and have your own perspective on people. Comedy is very personal, which is why I think that a lot of comedians have a lot of darkness in their lives, and they use that darkness to create the light. So doing a play like White's Lies helps me grow as a comedian, and the only way you can really learn comedy is by making people laugh.
You started in musical theater, any plans on getting back into it?
CCR: Absolutely, I have been auditioning for things like Hair and Rock Of Ages, and yet I'm telling you, getting paid to laugh and getting paid to be on stage having fun is the best thing in the world, and that's what I get to do with White's Lies. I want to continue that, I don't want to have to go to work and stress out. I would love to continue to do fun things, whether it's fun musical theater or not.
So your focus is on theater rather than film?
CCR: I don't know! It's been a hard time in the business lately, actors are pretty much just happy to have a job. And I am very happy to be working in White's Lies with such amazing people; I feel very blessed. I know that there are a lot of actors in LA and NYC who are all shaken up about the way the business has been going. I don't think that people who aren't in the industry realize how hard it is right now rather than the way it used to be. It used to be that if you were talented you could book. Now it doesn't even matter if you have experience at this point, a lot of actors are losing their homes or having to have "normal" jobs, but it's a whole different quality of life here in New York than it is in LA. In LA people aren't making money but somehow they survive!
I was going to ask you about that, how has it been moving here and living in New York?
CCR: It is a totally different vibe, I miss my friends in Los Angeles, and they are all really good people. It took me a while to find good friends, I was there for six years, but I finally found a great group. New York is always going to be there, and different cities represent different chapters of your life, and for New York, now that I'm twenty-six and I am approaching it more like an adult, it's like "well who am I going to meet now?" The option of actually meeting really cool people will always be here. Every time I go to a new city I meet a new batch of amazing people who are going to influence my life, and right now the only people I am really hanging out with are Betty Buckley and Peter Scolari...
...which isn't too shabby.
CCR: We share dressing room space with the Temperamentals and those guys are a lot of fun too. We get to see them all the time.
Do you enjoy working at New World Stages?
CCR: Another great question! Yes, I do, absolutely. I love Avenue Q, and when I did it I was sad to leave but now I am across the hall from them and see them all again! And New World Stages is great because everyone from the box office to the ushers, to the stage managers, everyone is so cool. There is so much art happening at one time and it is really fulfilling as an artist to be a part of it.
It is also very intimate; you get to be very close to the characters on stage., more so than in a larger theater.
CCR: I am pleased with it all. I am pleased with the publicity that the show is getting. Actually I have been involved in White's Lies since before the reading, before Betty, before Peter, before Tuc. We had Tom Cavanagh, Martha Plimpton, Elaine Stritch; we had a bunch of different people and every actor who reads the play instantly wants to be a part of it because it is so funny and it reads so well off of the page. But producing it was a whole other batch of things, hearing from the producers that we are happening and then we're not happening and then we are happening.... And one of my major goals for the past year was to have a roll where I created a character and I have done that with this show. I know that we aren't going to be a part of the Drama Desk Awards, we missed the cut off, but we are trying our hardest to make the show the funniest it can be and give it heart. But I will tell you this, lately people have been talking at the stage as if it was the TV, so that's when you know that everyone is involved and responds to your character.
So when that happens you really have to roll with it.
CCR: You stick to the script, comedy is very specific and Ben Andron's script is specific and wonderful so you want to stick to what it is. But as a group we are able to go with it- we are just working together so well and are striving to make it the best show that it can be. It is only going to get better and funnier. When people come I'm sure they will just see us having a good time and they will have a good time too.
Tickets for White's Lies are $75 & $60
RESERVATIONS: (212) 239- 6200 (telecharge)
Photo Credit: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.