After Liza Minnelli held her hand on Born Yesterday's opening night and declared, "This woman has just changed Broadway," it's no wonder everyone in town wants to talk to Nina Arianda. But as I made my way to sit down with the in-demand ingénue at the Cort Theatre, her reps phoned to tell me that there would be no talking: Her doctor had placed her on vocal rest indefinitely, except for those hours she brightens the stage as gangster's moll Billie Dawn. So the first-time Tony nominee and I took to our computers to chat through instant messenger — technology that would have no doubt flummoxed her iconic character, the ultimate ditzy blonde.
Playbill: Hi, Nina! I'm bummed we couldn't speak in the flesh.
Nina Arianda: I wish this could have happened in person too. I'm so sorry I have a stupid bruise on my vocal chord!
PB: Your career has taken off with a shot since you graduated from NYU's Tisch School with an MFA in 2009. You're obviously very talented, but do you also credit anything else for your success — good luck, timing, fate?
NA: I think it has to do with all of the above, and to add to that equation, I've had the great privilege of meeting people who believed in me.
PB: But you're like the theatrical equivalent of a girl who loses 50 pounds in one week on a weight-loss commercial, where the disclaimer reads: RESULTS NOT TYPICAL. Could you be giving impatient young actors false hope?
NA: I hope I'm doing the opposite — inspiring young actors to know that it is possible.
|photo by Carol Rosegg|
PB: A Best Actress in a Play Tony nominee for your Broadway debut, just two years out of school, at 26 years old... how does it feel?
NA: It's incredibly surreal! I don't fully understand what's happening, but it's very exciting. And because it's my first time experiencing all this, I have no expectations or preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be. It's fantastic.
PB: Have you encountered famous fans — people you admire who now admire you?
NA: Yes, I heard through the grapevine that Estelle Parsons liked the show — I almost fainted! Not to mention Judith Light and John Larequette. PS: I can't spell.
PB: "Larroquette." It's a tough one. Anyway, Born Yesterday's Billie Dawn is an iconic role, and you're following in the footsteps of the great Judy Holliday, who originated the role on Broadway in 1946 and won an Oscar for the 1950 film. What kind of pressure does that put on you?
NA: Well, I was scared at first about the word "iconic," and I know that a lot of people are fans of the Judy Holliday film. But the reason why it's iconic is because of the writing and the character that Garson Kanin created. I've never seen the film, and I won't until the run is through. I figured that if I'm going down, I'll go down with my version of the character.
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