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BWW Interview: KENAN is Taylor Louderman's Comedy Bootcamp

Louderman plats Kenan's co-host Tami on the sitcom; a new episode airs tonight on NBC at 8:30 p.m. ET.

BWW Interview: KENAN is Taylor Louderman's Comedy Bootcamp

Broadway's own Regina George is hitting the small screen! Tony nominee Taylor Louderman stars as Tami in the new sitcom KENAN, which premiered last week on NBC.

This single-camera comedy follows a widowed dad, Kenan (Kenan Thompson), who's juggling a high-profile job as the host of an Atlanta morning show and raising his two girls. As Kenan tries to move on, his father-in-law (Don Johnson), brother (Chris Redd) and co-workers all have strong opinions on the best way to live his life.

Louderman made her Broadway debut originating the role of Campbell Davis in BRING IT ON: The Musical by Lin Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, and Amanda Green. She went on to play Lauren in KINKY BOOTS on Broadway, and most recently originated the role of Regina George in Tina Fey's MEAN GIRLS on Broadway for which she received a 2018 Tony Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. She currently plays 'Tami' on NBC's KENAN alongside Kenan Thompson. Other television credits: THE GOOD FIGHT (CBS), SUNNY DAY (NickJr), EVIL (CBS), PETER PAN LIVE (NBC), and HIGH MAINTENANCE (HBO). Taylor wrote a teen musical with pals Hannah Kloepfer and Nat Zegree which premiered in 2019 at Ozark Actors Theatre in Rolla, Missouri. She also founded WRITE OUT LOUD: a songwriting competition for young, new Musical Theatre writers. Taylor volunteers at Ozark Actors Theatre in Rolla, MO where she participated in her first professional show at the age of ten.

BroadwayWorld had the pleasure of speaking to Louderman about the difference between her work onscreen and her work in musical theatre, learning more about comedy from Kenan Thompson, and what she thinks the future of theatre could look like.

Read the whole interview below!

We're so excited to see you're involved with this show - can you tell me how you got involved with KENAN?

Yes! I was working on another project with Broadway Video - that one didn't work out, but I did some readings of it. But they said, we have this other project we're really excited about and we'd like for you to be a part of it. And I'm so excited! I'm thrilled to do something where I'm not even singing!

Well, I shouldn't say I'm not singing. Spoiler alert, in one episode I'll get to do a little singing. But, yeah! I'm really excited to do comedy, and to work with this team. It's really exactly what I wanted and I'm thrilled.

Tell me a little about your character!

She's a little kooky! I am a co-host with Kenan on his morning show, so I have some really fun moments where I have to keep it together because we're on air. But we're crumbling! I think that's where I'm having the most fun - scenes like that. But my character also doesn't always say the right things. She's well-intended, but comes across a little kooky. It's really fun - it's really fun to play an idiot.

I feel like sitcoms - especially the ones that, for years, have been filmed in front of the live studio audience - share a lot of DNA with musical theatre. What kind of sitcoms did you love growing up?

Oh, absolutely. Growing up - I'm trying to think of what I was really drawn to when I was younger.

Lately, I've been watching KATH & KIM, which is an Australian show, and then THE IT CROWD, which is from the UK. I'm really bad at watching TV! But I agree that the multi-cam live audience is a lot like theatre. We don't have a live audience here with Kenan, so that was definitely something I had to adjust to and adapt to. In theatre, you know whether something's funny based on the audience's reaction. Here, you don't have that, so I really had to learn how to trust myself.

I remember one of the first days of shooting, we got done with the first take and I was like, [gasp], that was terrible, right? And I was like, why am I beating myself up so hard? And I think it's because I'm so used to that radar and gauge of an audience reaction. And the crew can't react because then they ruin the take!

It took a second to get used to. But I really prefer that format when I watch things - without a laugh track. I think it makes for a better story and a better show.

I wonder what it's like for you coming, again, from the world of musical theatre to, like you said, 'play' with actors like Kenan and Chris Redd who come from the world of live comedy.

Yeah! Oh my gosh, I was so intimidated when we started because they're so funny! And, yeah, I have some comedic shows under my belt, but I'm not as well-versed in the improv world. But there will be times where the director will be like, "Okay, just play! Just have fun. Just riff." I'm like, riff? Singing riff?

I remember being like, oh my gosh, how do I do this? But you can't judge yourself, and you can't shut down! You have to be willing to play - and fail. I watched these fearless leaders. And sure, one out of every ten will be a dud, but more often than not, what they improvise with is amazing. So I'm taking note! I'm probably four for ten, but I'm getting there!

They're equally schooling me and really supportive. It's a fun environment. I feel very lucky.

That's so beautiful to hear.

Yeah. It's nice, right? When it's as good as it seems. It's what you dream of!

You said they're kind of schooling you - what else have you learned on set?

Kind of what I just said was the biggest takeaway - just being brave and bold enough to try different things, and trusting people around me.

I think another thing is, with musical theatre, I know the big picture, so I know what the show looks like. Because I'm there for rehearsals and we run the show. So you really understand the larger scope of it all. Here, I will show up for my scene for the day, and you don't always get that bigger picture. It's really collaborative in that you trust your director, your showrunner, to keep you in line with the story, the character. You don't know what take they're gonna choose! It feels a little more hands-off in some ways and more hands-off in other ways. In theatre, I'm the last filter it'll go through before the audience - the actors are. And here, you really have much less control over that. That's been fun to play with.

And, of course, I love that my character is changing with everything. I show up to work and I'm sort of unraveling these new aspects of the character, as opposed to on Broadway, when you're showing up and doing the same thing.

There's always good and bad, right? I miss the live audience, and the relationship with the live audience, but I do love getting to know a character even more.

Can you picture yourself doing a lot more TV and film work in the future?

Yeah. I think I would love a balance. I've been really spoiled to be able to do both, and I do really enjoy both. I think they both have amazing things to offer. I'd definitely be open to more.

Everyone here is so excited to see you working on this, and we're also excited to hopefully see you on stage when we can and when you're ready.

I know!!!

What is your dream for what the post-pandemic theatre world could look like?

I think about this often! And I really don't know, because we can't do 50%! We have to do all or nothing. Somebody's gonna have to take a hit financially if we do less than 100%, and I would hate for that to be the actors or performers or crew.

I just can't see it being anything less than 100%. I think people, once we get back from the pandemic, will embrace live performance again. I do see it coming back. It may take some more time, but I'm ready to celebrate it ASAP again.

I think that I'm excited to see what happens with local communities, too - just sort of engaging in whether it's the regional theatre or the community theatre in your home town. Things that feel close by that feel like they're part of the community. I'm excited to see what happens there.

It feels time for a re-vamping of our expectations.

I agree! I'm so curious what it will be, though. I would love to see more transparency in Broadway in general, and what it takes to build a show. I think of it as such a luxury item, and sort of old-school in many ways. I'm so curious what will be come of it. I can't wait to watch it unfold.

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