BWW Interviews: Carla R. Stewart as Oda Mae in GHOST is Sure to Entertain
GHOST is an Oscar winning movie written by Bruce Rubin and released back in 1990. GHOST THE MUSICAL stays true to the storyline of the original movie while adding wonderful musical numbers and special effects that need to be seen in person. Carla R. Stewart plays the role of Oda Mae and Broadway World got a chance to catch up with her and find out more about her and life in that iconic role.
How did you get interested in performing?
I was doing a lot of community theater and singing in the pit doing a lot of background vocals for shows. I ended up auditioning for a lady named June McLean. She had a Production Company and I went to audition to be in her pit. She saw something in me. She wanted me to be onstage and I didn't want to that, but I liked it and I really liked being onstage. It was fulfilling another part of me being as performer because I just was doing background vocals. I went to do some work at Congo Square, Black Nativity (Theatre) and I went onto audition for the Goodman for Amos David. He really liked me and I got called back like 4 times. They really liked (me) but they said, "We really like you but we think you need more experience maybe like go to school or something like that." And that was the beginning of it all. I went to school in New York. I left and moved to New York and went to AMDA (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy).
I also noticed that you spent some time working with Disney Cruises. Tell us about that experience.
Working on the cruise ship is just a whole other world because for me it felt like I was on a floating island. I think it's a great job that every performer should have once in their lives. It was different and it was a way to go away from normalcy. You're disconnected as far as using your phone or using internet at certain times. it's just disconnected. The company, Disney is great and it was fun. You get to save lots of money and as a performer you're always looking for ways to save because we don't know what the next step may be.
Let's talk about GHOST now. How did you get the role of Oda Mae?
It was the first audition I went on as soon as I got off the ship. The audition was like June 6th. I went and it was a long audition process. I had the privilege of seeing the show before I went on the cruise. It was incredible. My friend asked, "What role do you see yourself playing because this could be your show?" I thought Oda Mae was really cool. I never thought twice about it and so when I went out for the audition, I went in for the sisters then the casting director emailed my agent and said, "We were looking at her for one of the sisters but now we are looking at her for Oda Mae." When I heard that, I studied, studied, studied. I (rehearsed) with one of my friends these long hours studying for this role and my work paid off. I'm really thankful and happy to have this role.
How do you approach the role of Oda Mae now that you know who she is?
Oda Mae is like a larger than life character. I know that not dealing with the truth, that's Oda Mae. She can't connect with the dead. It's probably something that she'd seen her mother do and I look at her as a person who is doing a show. So, she's a character within a character. So, when I prepare for her I just say, "Oh, Oda Mae is about to do a show" and that's how I go on to do her. The curtain rises and Oda Mae steps out into a show for the patrons. That's how I feel like she's a one woman show who doesn't take life serious until she actually scares herself because she can hear Sam. I prepare for her as a woman doing a show.
Do you find that people are trying to compare you to Whoopi Goldberg's portrayal of Oda Mae? How do you overcome that?
I purposely didn't watch the movie again. I saw it years ago and I know I was going to watch it when I was preparing for it but once I realized that Bruce Rubin who wrote the movie as well as the book for the stage musical, things have been really true to his story and pretty much verbatim so I didn't want to go back and watch the film because I didn't want to mimic her, Whoopi Goldberg. So I decided that I was going to work from the angle of who I thought she was. You get a fresh look on Oda Mae through my eyes and how I see her. I think that what separates me from Whoopi Goldberg. I know that people out in the audience are comparing me her but I don't focus on that. I just focus on being who I am as Oda Mae.