DIVA TALK: Chatting With Death Takes a Holiday/Tokio Confidential's Jill Paice, PLUS Carol Channing

By Andrew Gans
03 Feb 2012

Paice and Katie Finneran in Company at the New York Philharmonic
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Question: When did performing change from a hobby to when you knew or wanted it to be your career?
Paice: I know I got more serious in high school just because you start thinking about your future, and you start thinking about college, and I thought, "Maybe I should just move right to New York," but I'm very grateful that I went to college first. But, for years, tours would come to Dayton and play at the theatres, and, my family, we would always go see them. I never realized people got paid to do this. [Laughs.] I didn't know it was a job for a very long time.

Question: Was it in college, then, that you thought you wanted to pursue this?
Paice: No, it was definitely in high school. Probably junior year of high school. I had some pretty awesome mentors in my life who started helping me figure out where I wanted to go with my life and encouraged me to pursue a degree in musical theatre.

Question: When you were in high school or maybe early college, were there any artists or singers that you particularly admired or influenced you?
Paice: Absolutely. I really look up to Kelli O'Hara, and I always have, even before I ever met her. I just think the combination of her voice and the actress that she is is something really to strive for, and I used to watch Kristin Chenoweth. I used to play her performance on the Tony Awards when she was in Charlie Brown over and over again.

Question: When did you finally get to New York?
Paice: I moved to New York in 2002 when I graduated college, but then I immediately left. I went on tour with Les Miz, and then I went to Vegas to open Mamma Mia! out there.

Question: You have a rare resume in that you made your West End debut before your Broadway debut, right?
Paice: Yes, I did.

Question: How did that come about—the casting in Woman in White?
Paice: I still don't really understand how it happened. [Laughs.] I know, from my side, that I had chosen to not renew with Mamma Mia! in Vegas and make a go of it—come back to New York—and make a go of it here. At the same time in London, they were having trouble casting a couple of the roles [in Woman in White], and Trevor Nunn wanted to open up the casting to America, so they put a bunch of us on tape, and I don't know—that's the part that I don't understand—why I ended up in that room because there were a lot of A-lister names there—those very same people that I had been looking up to. So, I didn't understand why I was there, and I think it was a VHS tape—this was a long time ago. [Laughs.]… From there, Andrew [Lloyd Webber] came over and I sang for him, and then they sent me over to London and I sang for everybody there, and it just sort of unraveled that way.

Paice in The 39 Steps.
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: What was that like for you? How did you process that you would be making your West End debut before Broadway?
Paice: Yeah, it was surreal… That was never even in my realm of thinking. I didn't even know that was possible. While I was actually still in London, I found out that I got the job and would come back in a couple of months, and it was just surreal and beyond my wildest dreams or hopes. It was totally wonderful, and that's the really, really best way to explain it.

Question: You also got to replace in 39 Steps. What was that like to do a non-singing role? Would you like to do more of that?
Paice: I would love to do more of that! [Laughs.] You know, it's a challenge. That show was a challenge both physically and from the point-of-view of an actor. I found it to be easier because you didn't have to sing and didn't have to wake up worrying that you were going to be sick or anything, but it was exhausting because I'm very hard on myself. Especially with a comedy, if you feel like you're not landing it and you start analyzing why it's not working, you become your own worst enemy, and it's also a challenge to step into a show… Often when you replace, you're put-in by a stage manager, and I had an amazing stage manager, but there were still things—even when we closed—that I was trying to get right.

Question: Do you have any other projects or workshops while you're doing Tokio or are you just focusing on this?
Paice: I'm just waiting for the next job. I don't have anything lined up right now. I did just film an episode of "Person of Interest."

Question: What was that like for you? Had you done TV before?
Paice: I've done other TV, but I've never made it to air! I've been cut out of everything I've ever done, so I'm really hoping it makes it this time. [Laughs.]

Question: What's that process like—filming versus being on stage?
Paice: Filming—they're definitely longer days. Obviously, my part was very easy. I imagine, for whoever's running around doing all of the action sequences, they would probably have a totally different perspective. But we were just hanging out in a house out in Queens, so I found it to be easy, and it was fun getting to know a whole different group of people, a whole different vocabulary for how things are run. It was a wonderful time.

Question: Do you have any dream roles in musical theatre? Is there any role that you would love to do?
Paice: I'd love to do Music Man, and I'd love to do The Sound of Music.

[Atlantic Theater Stage 2 is located at 330 West 16th Street. For more information and tickets, call (212) 279-4200 or visit www.ticketcentral.com or www.TokioConfidential.com.]