DIVA TALK: Chatting With Once Star Cristin Milioti

By Andrew Gans
27 Apr 2012

Milioti and Steve Kazee in Once.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Question: That was going to be my next question.
Milioti: [Laughs.] Yeah. It's interesting because I've gotten to know Glen and Markéta, and they are just beyond lovely. I actually more want to see it to support them than for my own curiosity. [Laughs.] I know it's going to be different, and Once is something completely different to me, but I want to see—these two people that I've gotten to know—I want to see this thing that they [created].

Question: How involved were they in the original Off-Broadway staging? Did Markéta offer you any advice on the role or did she leave that to the director?
Milioti: Glen came up for a night when we did the workshop in Boston, and he saw it. We were all very nervous, and I think he was very nervous, and he gave us the approval, then we all jammed until like 4 AM—it was amazing! I didn't meet Markéta until the day before we went into tech downtown. We had coffee with the director, and then she came, and she saw a run-through. She didn't say anything other than, "Great job." She's been nothing but supportive. I can only imagine what it's like for them watching this, especially in the beginning. I think, now, this is its own thing to them as well. But, I think initially, it was an interesting experience for everyone. [Laughs.] Especially because she watched that run-through with [Glen]—it was the two of them… Have you ever seen the rehearsal space at New York Theatre Workshop?

Question: It's small, I take it?
Milioti: Oh my God! You can't move in it, it's so tiny. So there they were in these two foldout chairs, and we were running this show for them in this tiny rehearsal room on a Sunday afternoon. It was really intense, but she's been nothing but lovely—they both have.

Question: How did you go about approaching the role and working on the accent?
Milioti: You know, most of what I do has dialects or accents or voices. It's very, very rare that I use my own dialect I guess. [Laughs.] That didn't frighten me at all. I guess I approached it like I approach every other play I've ever done. Every time I do a play, it's as if I've never done one before. I'm always confused. I always am convinced I'm going to be fired. I'm like, "I don't remember how to act. I don't know how to do this." And, it's just a very slow process, and then, all of a sudden, it's just there one day. I still don't understand how it happens. I'm at a loss. But the dialect certainly, for this character, is extremely informative… Czech people I've met, Slavic people I've met—that general area… I don't think staccato is the right word, but there is a forwardness, and there's a forwardness in your mouth when you're doing the dialect. Everything comes from right behind the front teeth. And, that's very helpful in terms of characterization, certainly.