BWW Interviews: BRING IT ON's Kate Rockwell Talks with BWW SF!
Kate Rockwell is blissfully excited about coming to San Francisco as part of the musical comedy cast of Bring It On. She plays Skylar, whom she describes as "the sexy, sassy cheerleader you love to hate."
Rockwell first caught the attention of casting directors after singing for millions of excited fans on the reality show Grease: You're the One that I Want, and has been honing her craft ever since. Legally Blonde and the Broadway revival of Hair followed, along with a part in the Sex and the City movie. But even though she's been in the limelight for a while, Kate confides that she was in awe of Liza Minnelli when she first met the grande dame of theater. "…It was the most brief, passing thing, but I was just speechless to be in the same space as she was. I couldn't' take my eyes off her."
In her interview with BroadwayWorld's Linda Hodges, Kate talks about her love of SF and her new show - as well as what it's like to be living her Broadway dreams. That interview follows.
Hi, Kate – thank you for doing this interview with BroadwayWorld San Francisco and welcome to the City by the Bay! Have you been to San Francisco before?
I visited San Francisco when I was a little kid because I have family here (they now live in Marin County), and fell madly in love with everything about the city. This is my first time back in over a decade and I am so excited!! We have a day off each week so I personally plan on running myself ragged to make sure I get to see it all.
I just realized that you're going to be in town during some major holidays since the show runs Dec. 14 – Jan.7. How do you plan on celebrating?
What a great question……I have no idea!! I DO know that Christmas Day is our only day off that week, so it will probably be a quiet celebration for most of us. As far as New Year's goes, I hope we get to ring the New Year in somewhere fancy. This cast cleans up real nice and we all love a chance to put on a nice dress!!
I'm sure you'll have a great New Year's Eve in the City and I know that San Francisco is going to have a great time at your show. In addition to a great cast, Bring It On has got an all-star creative team of young Broadway talent behind it. How did that come about?
I think it was kismet that they all came together. They work so well together and create such great material. Some of them (Andy Blankenbuehler, Alex Lacamoire, Lin Manuel Miranda) had worked together previously on In The Heights a few years ago, and Tom Kitt and Amanda Green had worked together previously as well on High Fidelity…
Have you met any of them?
I have in fact gotten to work with every one of them! The entire creative team was very hands on in our development process. I've even had the pleasure of working on some other developmental projects with pieces of this team too!! They're just so incredible to work with.
With that kind of talent and the way audiences have been reacting – it sounds like Bring it On is Broadway-bound.
I sure hope so. I know everyone wants a Broadway run, but there's nothing set in stone yet. I think we're all waiting with bated breath for that announcement! In my (not unbiased) opinion, we HAVE to go! There's nothing like this show anywhere on Broadway and I know audiences love it!
It's got to be the first show to feature cheerleading. Audiences can come and get a high solely from the super-charged choreography. What was it like to learn Andy Blankenbuehler's intricate steps?
Let me start by saying that I call myself a "strong mover," which is a fancy way of saying I get away with choreography by standing in the back so no one can see my two left feet. Andy's a genius and his work is some of the best I've ever seen. He's also an absolute perfectionist when it comes to his dancers, so my first week rehearsing with him, I worried every day that he would fire me. But he was incredibly patient with me and eventually it all sank in - although I'm still happiest when I'm in the back and don't have to worry quite so much!
Well, you can't be in the back for too long since you play Skylar in the show. Is there a freedom in playing one of the show's leading mean girls?
Yes, yes, yes!! Growing up I always wanted to be the lead girl in the "white dress roles" (the nickname I came up with for all the roles where the ingénue gets married at the end in a glorious ceremony and a 30-pound dress). It wasn't until the end of college that I realized how much fun it is to be a character actor! With Skylar, I get to say some unbelievable things that no one would EVER get away with in real life, and there's some real freedom in that.
Sounds like a juicy, fun part. That said, what's the hardest thing about playing Skylar?
Making sure she's not just mean, but honest. I certainly don't want Skylar to just be an "ugly pretty" girl. I want her to always stay honest in her beliefs, and if she stays honest, then she's hysterical. Everyone knows "that" person who says unbelievable things, but they're just being genuine, so you can't take it too personally. That's Skylar.
Skylar is definitely not a "white dress role," but Sandy in Grease was. You got your start trying out for Sandy in the reality show "Grease: You're the One that I want." What was that like?
I'm so grateful for my experience on that show, but I'm also grateful that I got to move on from it and not be defined by it. It introduced me to the casting community because before that, I had just gotten out of school and moved to NYC, but I still had to pound some pavement and prove myself, which I value immensely.
Do you keep in contact with any of the contestants and what they're doing today?
I do! I just saw Chad Doreck here in LA, and I speak to Laura Osnes regularly. She's opening Bonnie and Clyde right now! Austin Miller and I still stay in touch, and I saw Derek Keeling right before he left for his tour of Million Dollar Quartet just before we left to start this show. We all bonded in a very deep way, and even if we don't see each other often, we make sure to keep in touch.
It's so great that they're all working and so are you. It doesn't sound like you have a lot of down time right now so I'll ask – in your down time between scenes, what do you do?
Haha-well, I have a good bit of downtime actually, and it's become a little joke that, since I'm the oldest girl in the show, I'm "grandma Kate" who knits for the "kids"….but I actually DO knit, and I love doing it, so that's my current backstage work! I'm working on a really pretty piece right now that's a Christmas present for a friend!
Wow – at 26 you're the grandma! So now I have to ask – when you're on stage what's your favorite part of the show?
I think my favorite part of the show to DO is when I get to walk out onstage and eat Doritos. I love Doritos. Any job that lets me eat Doritos and call it "work" has my vote.
LOL! Kate, you Dorito-munching fiend. You are living the dream! But seriously, you are living the dream of being an actress and a singer. Is it everything you thought it would be?
I'm not sure WHAT I thought it would be! I think the "dream" happened my first night in "Legally Blonde" in NY, and "real life" started the next day. I love the work that I do, and I love the life that comes along with that work.
What surprises you most about the workaday world of Broadway – after the spotlights dim for the night?
It's sort of like waking up in a Disney movie the day after. It's like asking, what happens every day once you've gotten to that dream? I think what surprises me the most is how much more I love the "real life" part than I ever loved the "dreaming." It's so great to wake up every day and know that I'm actually working towards a great goal. Sometimes the working is as much fun, if not more, as achieving the goal.
So, real life means hard work even when you're in a career that's sprinkled with magic dust. What is the most unexpected thing you've learned now that you've "made it"?
Someone once told me that when you get your first Broadway show, you're "in." It doesn't EXACTLY work that way! You can be flying high one day and broke and unemployed the next, and that's the nature of this business. You have to embrace the temporary-ness of our crazy entertainment world, and learn to love every experience so that you have those memories to get you through the rough patches.
I think that's good advice for life, too! And from what you're saying it sounds like you have to have something of a thick skin to be in the business. And you definitely have to be able to handle rejection. What do you do to take care of yourself and stay grounded?
I try to keep what I do in perspective – I mean, my job is to tell stories and sing songs for a living! I mostly try to keep balance in my life and not let the "business" stuff take over. I have a great puppy who makes me smile every morning; I have wonderful friends who let me laugh and cry whenever I need them, and I make sure to always have other projects that keep me "human" first and "actor" second. The rejection can be really demoralizing, and it's important to remember that you are WAY more than your audition, your 8-show week, or your best 16 bars.
I love that. So, that's how you stay grounded. Now, what advice would you give to someone who wants to try to make it but is afraid to soar?
Follow your heart. There will be SO many people along your path telling you who you are, what you do best, what you don't do best, what you should do, blah, blah, blah. Your heart knows you better than anyone, and it will always lead you in the right direction. It's a VERY hard world and it's not for everyone, but if your heart is really in it, it's totally worth it!
It's clear that your heart is really in it, Kate. Best of luck to you in this show and in all your future endeavors!
San Francisco audiences will be able to see Kate Rockwell and the rest of the cast of Bring It On at the Orpheum Theater Dec. 14 - Jan. 7, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Michael Lamont