As you started to have a bit of success and become more public-facing, have you ever seen anything written about you or heard comments that gave you pause or made you uncomfortable?
A few years ago I was in a play where I was the only female. It was written by a woman, Theresa Rebeck, who is so great at creating complicated women who are getting their hands just as dirty as the men, which is why I’m always drawn to her characters. So I was doing this role which was a consultant to the male character, who was a very temperamental chef who is running his business into the ground.
And of course we butt heads, that’s the fodder for drama. The audience would always take his side because he was a temperamental and charismatic guy, and I’m getting in there trying to ruin his creativity. Whereas I saw the character as someone who’s trying to make solutions for an otherwise unsustainable situation. And audiences would come to me and say, “Oh, I hated your character. Oh my God. She was so annoying.” That would happen a lot. And one time I was doing an interview and the interviewer said, “Well, we know [your character] Emily is going to be bossy from the second she comes in, based on what she’s wearing.” And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, she’s wearing high heels.” I really blanched and I said, “Okay, let’s unpack that for a second.”
So that actually leads very well into the next question, which is how you cope with professional criticism.
I’ve had to learn so many different coping mechanisms for this, and a lot of it’s trial and error. And one of those things is I don’t read reviews.
I don’t read comments. I don’t read any reviews. No. Especially with theater, the review comes out, and then theoretically, you’re doing the show for another year. So if there is somebody who specifically says something that I can replay in my head every time I get to that part that they didn’t like, I won’t survive. I’ve actually started not watching my performances either, once I started doing television and film, because I had no control over the final product. I can’t control what the edit is and what scenes they took out or what take they use.
You have to find the people you trust to be your sounding boards. And find those people early, keep them close to you. And if they’re telling you that there’s something you’re leaving on the table or that you could do better, take that in, as hard as that might be, and move forward with it. If it’s a thousand people on the internet telling you something, move on.
We love to ask actors are interview this question: Has there ever been a role that you really wanted and it ended up going to someone else?
Oh yeah. There was a show that’s still on the air [Amazon Prime’s sci-fi comedy-drama] Upload. I was very far in the running for that. At the time I was tired of being the “eye roller” and wanted to play a more complex character, especially on television. And it just felt like this was the one, this was going to be the thing. And it didn’t happen. For months I thought about that. This was my part. But it wasn’t. And it’s fine. I ended up doing a show on Netflix called Daybreak, playing a witch, which I was like, “Ooh, this feels weird.” And I ended up having the time of my life, literally getting myself filthy and dirty, and throwing myself into physical comedy and it really healed me in a way that I was so grateful for.