Always watch and always listen.
"Everybody has a different way of doing it, but I think you can learn a lot by not forcing yourself to the frontline, but actually hanging back and watching and learning from other people. The listening plays greatly into being a good actor. Listening is one of the hardest things you can do on stage, and I think it’s one of the most valuable, because I think it’s what keeps things fresh and grounded and rooted. And the greatest actors I know can do that, can listen."
You need to find yourself within the character.
"For Carole King, I did a lot of research and studying, and then I got to the point in rehearsal where I had to stop for a while. I had to stop listening to all the records all the time and reading all the books, and I had to be like, 'Ok, I’ve done that work, and I need to let it resonate with me a little bit, I have to find where it lives in me.' Otherwise there’s going to be a separation between the information and the performance. It has to come through me at some point. There has to be enough of me in the performance that it seems believable."
It's alright to be nervous before an audition, but it's important to trust yourself.
"I always get nervous before auditions. I think sometimes nerves can help auditions. You have to do the work outside the audition, and then once you get there you have to trust that you’ve done the work and just let things fly. It’s funny, you walk into the room and there are a ton of people at a table who are just staring at you. But those people, they want you to do really well. Because if you do really well, then they’re done and they can go get a sandwich. So even though their faces [might not] look like it...they actually really want you to succeed."
When it comes to performing, it's totally fine to make it up sometimes.
"Sometimes it’s research, sometimes it’s just completely making it up. I was in the revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and a lot of it was just making stuff up, playing pretend, being a kid. You just try something and it works, or it doesn’t work, and then you go from there."
Stick to the same rules you learned in kindergarten.
"I think I find that more and more, as I continue in this business, it’s about [sticking to] the same rules you learned in kindergarten. Be nice to people, play well with others, it’s all about teamwork. It’s all about relationships and how you treat people. And I don’t mean that in terms of 'getting ahead,' like, 'Oh, I want to meet you because you can do something for me someday.' No, everyone should be treated with respect.
There’s a side of the business that’s like, 'Wow, you were my intern on one show and now you’re directing shows.' A huge part of this business is working with people. You don’t do it alone, you never could, in theater especially. So you have to have respect for the people you work with and for what everyone else is doing."
Everyone has moments of uncertainty, even Tony award-winners.
"My entire career I’ve had experiences where I didn’t think it was 'going to happen.' I’ve definitely wondered, 'Will I ever work again? Is this right? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Why do I want to do this?' I think you have to come back and keep investigating why you’re [performing], why you want to do it. Everybody’s reasons are different, and many, many reasons are valid.
It can be a tricky thing — if you believe that you were given talent or given a gift, then it’s your responsibility to share it. Try and find your peace with why you’re doing something, and if things aren’t going the way you want, keep checking in with that. I think you have to believe in the way you do it is different than anybody else, and you have to keep coming back to that. You have to believe in that."
Always remember that you're special. Everyone is.
"Always come back to that core belief that, just like your mom used to tell you, 'You’re special.' And it’s true, we’re all special. And isn’t that kind of the task of life? Figuring out what special thing about ourselves we have to share with the world? If you truly believe you have something special to share, whether you think it’s a gift or a talent, however you think about it, then that’s the thing you always have to come back to. And there are days when you’re like, 'Yep, I don’t have it today.' And that's ok. It’s an exploration."