What Didn't Kill Them Made Them Stars: Ramin Karimloo, James Monroe Iglehart and More Turn Rejection Into Tony Success

By Adam Hetrick
June 3, 2014

The day following the announcement of the 2014 Tony Awards, Playbill.com asked this year's nominees to talk about how they cope with rejection in show business and the hard work it takes to carve out a career in theatre. From bad reviews and flops, to the jobs they didn't get and the roles that got away, here's what keeps these artists going.



As the June 8 Tony Awards ceremony approaches, Playbill.com will continue to update with nominee responses. Click through to read them all. 

 

 

James Monroe Inglehart
Photo by Monica Simoes

 

James Monroe Iglehart, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, (Aladdin)
You have to have passion and you have to love it. This is the hardest thing you can do. If you want to do anything else besides be an actor, go do that because you're going to hear "no" all the time. You want to prove those no's wrong. In high school I got a lot of no's. There's nothing like being the oddball in school - the nerd, which I was. I read comic books, I watched professional wrestling, I loved Broadway as a kid and all the "cool" guys don't do that everybody's watching ESPN. That's not me. You have to look at yourself and go, "Whenever they say no, you say, 'Yes, I can, and I'm gonna prove it.'" And after a while you stop wanting to prove it to them and you want to prove it to yourself.

People are going to tell you that you can't do it, people are going to tell you you're not good enough, people are going to say to you, "You don't even look like an actor. You don't sound like an actor. Well, you don't sound like so-and-so. You don't look like so-and-so." But you can't look like so-and-so, you have to look and sound like you so that you can bring that originality to whatever it is you're going to do. So you have to have a perseverance. You have to have a thick skin and you have to believe in yourself. You have to have a little bit of ego to say, "Yeah, I'm bad I should do this." That's my philosophy.

 

Ramin Karimloo
Photo by Monica Simoes

 

Ramin Karimloo, Best Actor in a Musical (Les Misérables)
I kind of trained my brain from an early age to know that sometimes doors are closed for a reason. You just have to be brave to accept it, and you may not know why but at some point you'll know why. And I think that if you believe that, and I do believe, that if you try and stay positive there's something out there for everyone. You just have to believe that, and otherwise this business is going to kill you and you won't sleep at night!

 

Robert Schenkkan
 

 

Robert Schenkkan, Best Play (All The Way)
It's a marathon, it's not a sprint. I have had some moments of absolute transcendent triumph, and I've had very some disappointing moments as well. The key is to put one foot in front of the other and keep doing what you love, and in this instance, doing what I love has this fantastic performance here on Broadway and it's a great fairytale ending. I couldn't be more pleased to be here.

 

Lauren Worsham
Photo by Monica Simoes

 

Lauren Worsham, Best Featured Actress in a Musical (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder)
I try to think that whatever is meant to be is meant to be. In fact, with this very show, I had the door close on me twice. I wasn't able to do it out of town, and then I wasn't the top choice [for Broadway], but it ended up working out. Just wait around and things will turn and go whichever way they're supposed to go for you. That's how I feel about it.

 

Warren Carlyle
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Warren Carlyle, Best Choreography/Best Direction (After Midnight)
I'm in this life for life. It's a marathon not a sprint. Yesterday I was lucky enough to get two Tony Award nominations. I also had an interview that I did not get. [Laughs.] So I also did not get a job yesterday. That was a great reminder. It's just life. It's what we signed up for.

Sutton Foster
Photo by Monica Simoes

Sutton Foster, Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Violet)
I think [those experiences] do drive me in a weird way. I feel like a good thing about my personality is that whenever someone tells me no, it just makes me want it more. Or if I ever fall on my face, or if someone says, "Oh, you can't do that." Then I'm like, "Oh yeah?" It makes me want to fight for it even stronger. I've fallen down a million times in this business. I've been fired from jobs, I've been re-hired for jobs, I've gotten panned in the papers. It is about sort of saying, "Okay, I'm just going to keep going and I'm just going to learn, and I'm hopefully going to be better the next time and hopefully continue to challenge myself." I think that's what it takes in this business. You've got to keep moving forward.

Jessie Mueller
Photo by Monica Simoes

Jessie Mueller, Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical)
I'm not just saying this, and I still work on it, but I have come to peace with the idea that if it doesn't happen for me then it wasn't for me. It's not that I'm bad or I'm wrong, that role is for somebody else. That experience is for somebody else. There's another experience for me. There's another role for me. You know? And it happens all the time, so I think you have to look for the good in those situations. I don't really have the thing of, "Oh, they didn't want me, so I'm going to show them." I've just never had that kind of perspective on it, but I've also been really blessed to be able to do roles that I wanted to do. Certainly, I look back at things I didn't get and I think, "Yep, that's exactly why that didn't happen because the next thing that happened for me was this and that helped me meet this person." Sometimes it's not even business related. Sometimes it's that I met my best friend in that production, or I had this certain experience. That's the way I try to look at it.

Bryce Pinkham
Photo by Monica Simoes

Bryce Pinkham, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder)
I like to think of myself as a young actor [laughs], but I like to tell younger actors who ask me about this, "Every time you get turned down or a door closes, try and think of it as fuel for the fire as opposed to rejection." There are more doors that have closed than have opened in any actor's career, and I've tried to use those moments as fuel to get me to this one. You have to think about "I can't wait for the day when," and so here we are at that day.

Playbill.com will continue to update with additional responses from the 2014 nominees. Check back!