We continue with When I Grow Up, our interview series where we catch up entertainment pros with Broadway kid roots and talk about their upcoming film/TV/music projects! This month we talked to Akira Golz who recently finished playing Alice in Matilda, her Broadway debut. She lept from Broadway to Nick Jr. a month later to star as the titular character in “Nella the Princess Knight”! Akira plays 8 year old Nella, a princess who fights for justice with her fellow knight Sir Garrett and trusty unicorn Trinket. We talked with Akira about booking Matilda, playing Minecraft, and leading a groundbreaking Nick Jr. show!
How did your performing arts career begin?
My parents actually have videos of me singing from a very young age, so think I was born that way. LOL. But my career started when my gymnastics coach suggested acting to my mom because I’d always sing and dance when waiting in line to use the different equipment. After a lot of pushing from my coach, my mom sent my picture to two modeling agents and it began from there. So I started out as a print model at age 5 and from there did commercials, voiceovers, and musical theater. I began auditioning for musical theater at age 7 before ever being in a theater production. After auditioning for a year of Broadway shows I started doing regional and community theater, which helped me soooo much on my journey to Broadway.
Photo Credit: Akira Golz
What was it like finding out you booked Matilda?
Well I’ve been auditioning for Matilda for about 3 years. The music director at Matilda told me that I was one of the first group of girls to audition for the role of Matilda, I was 7. There was a period where I auditioned for both Matilda & Lavender roles. After that I auditioned for Lavender/ensemble kids, then I got Alice. Matilda has been a big part of my life so when I got into Matilda I was beyond happy!
Describe your Broadway debut.
I was very excited on my Broadway debut. I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m not sure why but it felt like a rehearsal with an audience. I was worried more when I had my put-in.
Did you have a favorite song or scene to perform in Matilda?
My favorite song to perform was Revolting. Because the feeling of the dancing in that number made me feel empowered. I always looked forward to performing it.
What was your favorite thing to do backstage at Matilda?
My favorite thing to do backstage was to play Minecraft with the other kids and I loved making Video Stars. They are videos you make where you lip-sync to a song, like it’s a music video.
What was the audition process for “Nella the Princess Knight” like?
My audition for Nella I could not make the audition in person due to Matilda rehearsals. So we ended up doing a self-tape recording the sides on my phone. Sometimes you do so many auditions you forget about them, but probably a month to maybe 2 months later I got callback. My callback was in person. One month later my manager called me with the news that I booked Nella. I couldn’t believe it!
Akira presenting at UNICEF’s 70th Anniversary Event with Chen Lin and Millie Bobby Brown. Photo Credit: Zimbio.com
Did you have a favorite Nick Jr. show when you were younger?
Yes! My favorite Nick Jr. show was definitely Dora. I watched that every day before I went to school.
What’s your schooling situation like for “Nella” as compared to Matilda?
Since I record Nella once to twice a week I’m able to go to back to my public school. When I was in Matilda I had to be home schooled, because we had to go in 2 hours early for safeties. So that schedule didn’t work to well for regular school, especially my middle school.
Take us through a typical day in the recording studio.
A typical day is I first warm up on the car ride into the city. When I get to the studio I’ll have some tea, it helps warm up my throat. I go into the booth with the voice director and engineer. Sometimes the director of the show Skypes in from Europe and the musical director from California. The voice director talks with me about what we’ll be recording that day. It could be episodes, songs, promos for the show, pickups (which are changes in the lines), or a video game. Then I start recording. I do each line 3 times with different reactions so they have something to choose from.
What’s your advice for kids who want to pursue a career in acting?
My advice is just to never give up. I kept going to auditions even when my mom didn’t want to go. Another tip is to have a good attitude when you go in. Most of the time people want a kid with a good attitude so they’re easy to work with. Also, don’t be scared to ask questions.
Favorite thing to do in NYC: Either go to Central Park or to any museum.
Favorite food to eat in NYC: Chipotle. Because there are none where I live. Broadway dream role: Elphaba in Wicked or Angelica in Hamilton. I can’t decide. If you could swap roles with anyone on Broadway (male or female) right now for one night only, who would it be?: Either one of the roles I listed above. If someone wrote a musical about your life, what would it be called and what would be the name of its show-stopping number?: It would be called, Holo There!: The story of a 12 year old wannabe hipster. The best number would be called: Hunty (like honey but hunty. or hun-ty if that makes sense.)
Thank you so much Akira and mom Wyonna for this really fun interview! You can catch “Nella the Princess Knight” weekday mornings at 10am on Nick Jr.! Check out a promo below:
This month brings the launch of our brand new interview series When I Grow Up where we catch up with Broadway kid alumni (with a focus on YBAN alumni) to talk about their exciting film/TV/music projects! To kick things off, we talked to Katherine McNamara who was one of the very first kids on our website when we launched in April 2010. She made her Broadway debut at 14 in A Little Night Music, working with legends like Catherine Zeta Jones, Angela Lansbury, Elaine Stritch, and Bernadette Peters. She has since made the leap from Broadway to film/TV starring in the “Maze Runner” film series, guest starring on shows like “CSI”, “Jessie”, “Kickin’ It” and now starring on the hit Freeform show “Shadowhunters”, based on the best-selling series “The Mortal Instruments” which follows a group of human-angel hybrids who protect the mortal world from demons. We are incredibly delighted to talk to Kat about her start in musical theatre, her Broadway days, and the return of “Shadowhunters”, which returns on January 2nd at 8pm!
*Note: some portions of this interview were edited for brevity and clarity.
Lindsay Burton: How did you get started in musical theatre? Katherine McNamara: I got started in musical theatre when I was about 12 years old, I think. I was living in Kansas City, where I grew up. I was a dancer as a kid and I ran into a family friend who happened to be directing a community theatre show and needed a dancer. So I thought “Well, I’ll give it a go. And I’ll do something new. I’ll try something different, try something fun for a change. And I ended up falling in love with theatre and with performing on stage in that way and in that relm. I’ll never forget the moment I walked on stage for the first time on our opening night. Something hit me like a brick wall and I just knew in that instant that this is what I was put on this earth to do and that I have to do this for the rest of my life. LB: What show was it? KM:The King and I
Kat working with Sutton Foster at a Broadway Artist Alliance workshop in 2010 Credit: Broadway World
LB: Oh cool! So for A Little Night Music, can you take me through the audition and rehearsal process all the way through your opening night? KM: It was a bit different for me than normal because I was actually an immediate replacement for the show about a month after it opened. So, I – it’s so strange how this happened – I worked with a woman in Kansas City who ended up being in A Little Night Music because the theater brings in actors and actresses in New York sometimes to come play the leads in the shows to bring an audience in. And so she went back to New York and ended up working on A Little Night Music and when she heard they needed an immediate replacement, she and I had gotten to be pretty close while we were working together. She said “Oh there’s this girl in Kansas City. You should really look at her. She’d be great for this part.” And I get this random phone call one day at my house and they say “Hey, there’s an audition for you for Broadway’s A Little Night Music if you would like to fly to New York and two days and meet with the directors and go through this process for the immediate replacement.” And I said “Oh! Well, sure. Why not?” I had just started rehearsals for a show in Kansas City at the time and I had spoke to the director and I said “Hey, I have this opportunity to go audition. I know that I’m not going to get this in a million years but, you know, would you mind if I just went for the experience?” And they said “Sure! Of course! Have fun! Go for the experience.” And I said “Great. Awesome. I’ll see you in a few days.” So I go to this audition and I do the audition and the callback, all that. And then, 40 minutes later – it was all in one day, the audition, 4 hours later was the callback. 40 minutes later I was at LaGuardia getting ready to fly back to Kansas City and I get this phone call. And they said “Hey! Congratulations. You’ve booked the part. We need you to come back in a week ready to stay for 6 months or more.” My life changed. Never in a million years expected to go to New York. Never in a million years did I expect for Trevor Nunn. Never in a million years did I expect to be working on a Broadway show with the likes of Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury. LB: So, for a majority of minors on Broadway they need to attend school for a certain number of hours a day in addition to rehearsals, special appearances, the show itself, etc. You, however, received you high school diploma at 14 and then your undergrad at 17. So, what was your schooling situation like? Were you juggling college and A Little Night Music? KM: What I was doing during A Little Night Music was, I was doing my last semester of high school, full enrollment in college, and I started university while I was in A Little Night Music. It was insane because I was working 8 shows a week [and] doing school. But the way they did it was instead of having one full-time understudy and one full-time performer, we would each do 4 shows a week. So I had four shows where I was on stage and four shows where I was backstage and I would use that time to get my homework done. It took a lot of discipline because I wanted nothing more than to be out and about spending time with the cast and chatting with people and listening to the show and watching the show and things like that. But I had to prioritize my time and I had to learn to be self-disciplined and self-motivated when it came to my studies. LB: Did you get to interact with other Broadway kids while you were in the show? KM: I did. Some of my best friends to this day I met through the other shows. There were so many shows going on that you would think that Broadway is such a large community and that it would be hard to know everybody. But, honestly, the people that I met and the friends that I made on the show, you really do become family. It’s a really tight knit community. LB: Let’s move on to “Shadowhunters”. So, your character goes through this emotionally taxing journey in just one season. Even her world completely changes within the first 15 minutes of the first episode. So, what’s next for her in season 2, for anyone who hasn’t read the books?
Credit: Freeform/John Medland
KM: I’m so excited for people to see season 2 of “Shadowhunters”. We have re-vamped the show. We’ve matured everything. We’ve elevated the entire show to a level that I think will surprise a lot people in a great way, especially for Clary, now that she’s been in this world for a little while. She’s learned a lot. She’s learned what it takes to be a Shadowhunter and the sacrifices that you have to make. And she’s grown up quite a bit and she’s matured quite a bit. And what’s so great about season 2 is that now that we’ve established all these relationships and we’ve established this world. We get to dive into those depths of those relationships and push the characters beyond what we could in season 1 because now we get to see different sides of them and we get to see different colors, especially for Clary now that her mother is awake. She has to deal with that relationship because her mother still sees her as the young girl that she was at the beginning of season 1, but she’s not that person anymore. She’s grown up. She’s now a shadowhunter and getting her mother to see that could prove to be a bit difficult. And also she’s also trying to find and solidify her place in the world of the shadowhunters and in this team of Jace, Alec, and Isabelle. And on top of that she’s still reeling from finding out that Jace is her brother and dealing with that side of everything. But that’s what she spends a majority of the season dealing with is how to bring Jace back because she found out that Valentine was her father in episode 2 of last season so she’s had all of this time and the support of the shadowhunters to deal with that. Jace on the other hand just found out that Valentine is his father in episode 11 last season and on top of that he’s now in Valentine’s clutches, potentially on his side. So Clary’s main motive at the beginning of the season is to get to Jace and get him back because she knows that she could help him through that and keep him from going down this dark path. But on top of everything, you get to see Clary be so much more of a badass this year. I have several legitimate fight scenes. You get to see her tough side and you get to see her maturity and you get to see her take charge in an authoritative way and it’s really nice to see her character. LB: That actually leads to my next question – how do you prepare for the show’s fight scenes? KM: We have some amazing, amazing individuals that help us prepare for these fight scenes. We have an amazing fitness trainer named Nuno and we adore him. He kicks our butts every day in the gym and pushes us beyond what we think is possible. But, what I love about him is that he’s able to craft workouts for each one of us. There’s seven of us and we’re all trying to do something different physically. He’s able to work with each one of us and create a program that actually make a difference. But then on top of that we have an amazing stunt and fight team, which is headed by Darren McGuire who is absolutely an incredible martial artist. We have a master of kali on the team as well, which is a Filipino sword fighting martial art. And then to top that off we have an amazing boxing coach that works with us as well. So we have a boxer, a swordsmen, and a martial artist teaching us how to fight and how to do all these stunts and helping us with our wire work and really improving our skills on the technical side of things. So between our physical training and our technical training with all of these martial arts and weapons and things that we’re learning, it’s coming together to create a team of soldiers, which is essentially what shadowhunters are.
SHADOWHUNTERS – “The Guilty Blood” – Freeform’s hit original series “Shadowhunters” returns on Monday, January 2 at 8pm ET/PT. (Freeform/John Medland)ALBERTO ROSENDE, KATHERINE MCNAMARA
LB: How do you create a character that’s not a copy-and-paste version of what fans have already seen in the books and in film? KM: What I love so much about this series and about what the writers are doing with it is they’re taking the essence of the books and the other iterations of this story and what people love about it and what people love about these characters and they’re extrapolating upon that and they’re making twists and they’re making turns and they’re bringing in story lines that don’t exist in the books at all. So you really get to see these characters pushed beyond their limit and in situations that you would never expect them to be in. And it forces them to show sides and show colors that you didn’t get to see in the books. And I think that’s what fans are really going to appreciate about the show and about this season is that you get to see these characters outside of their comfort zone and having to really work through things and really deal with things. It allows all of us as actors the freedom to create our own version of these characters because there are such differences in the way they are portrayed. LB: What advice do you have for any aspiring young actor? KM: I think my biggest advice would be make sure that you really really love this and that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life because it’s not an easy job. You hear a lot of rejection and you have to have a really thick skin. But if you love it and if this is what brings you the most joy and if this is what you feel you have to do forever and ever, go for it and commit to it with every fiber of your being and don’t let anyone tell you “No” and don’t let anybody get you down. And don’t lose sight of who you are because that’s something I found is very easy to do in this industry where your personal life is so intertwined with your professional life. In an industry where so much is based upon your image and so much is based upon your relationships and things like that, it’s very easy to lose sight of what makes you you and who you are at your core so make sure to stay true to yourself. LB: Do you have any advice for kids who are already on Broadway or performing Off-Broadway or on national tours? KM: Have fun! Keep doing it. Eat healthy. Get rest. Have a blast. I wish I was doing what you’re doing right now. I miss theatre!
Speed Round! Favorite thing to do in NYC: Go see Broadway shows! Favorite food to eat in NYC: Levain Bakery Broadway dream role: I’d like to do a new show. There’s so many shows that I’d like to be in revival of, but something new. If you could swap roles with anyone on Broadway (male or female) right now for one night only, who would it be? Anyone in “Hamilton”. I just want to be in “Hamilton”! I love Lin. He’s one of my favorite humans on the planet. If someone wrote a musical about your life, what would it be called and what would be the name of its show-stopping number?
Oh! *laughs* I think the name of the show would be “Just Go With It” or “Just Say Yes”. And then the name of the show-stopping number would be “When It Rains, It Pours”!
We can’t wait for the season premiere! Thank you so much to Kat for talking with us. It was an absolute delight. Check out the trailer below then tune in on January 2nd.
CAP UCLA, in partnership with LACO, welcomes back NYC’s SITI Company with an all-new production of Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars directed by Anne Bogart with music direction by Jeffrey Kahane. For his final Broadway score, Weill gave passionate voice to this powerful, uncompromising social indictment of apartheid South Africa. This production will also include the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the chorus, and the principal singers (who include Lauren Michelle and Justin Hopkins).
SEEKING ALEX – a young Zulu boy (so the role requires a boy of color) to sing a big number, The Big Mole, to be able to act a bit, and to join the chorus. Alex is approx. 13 – 16 years old.
Actor would need to be available for all of the Tutti rehearsals, and some of the rehearsals marked “SITI” for the acting parts, understanding that we can work with our stage manager to accommodate him on the SITI rehearsals as some of them conflict with school time. He would be required to be at the dress rehearsals and performances, of course.
We have a small budget for their compensation – $2,500 – plus parking passes at UCLA for whomever would drive him. All parts would need to be fully memorized, ideally, by the first rehearsal on Jan. 9. We understand that this rehearsal period may need to be altered due to the lateness of the inquiry. There are two performances in LA at Royce Hall, UCLA campus on January 28 and 29.
Those interested should download and prepare the following sides and song. Please send auditions to email@example.com by the end of the week.
Happy Trails to the companies of Ruthless! and Fun Home! We can’t wait to see what’s next for all of you.
TONIGHT: Kids of the Arts presents Lyrics for Life, which will play Symphony Space to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Break a leg, everyone!
TOMORROW: The Cabaret for a Cause kids will sing at Pier 36 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Performances will take place at 9am and 11am. Performers include Sophia Gennusa (Matilda), Eleanor Koski (Les Miserables), Sophie Koski, Ellie Poon (A Christmas Story tour), Sam Poon (The King and I), William Poon (The King and I), Joshua Turchin (A Christmas Story tour). Get more info HERE.
Join Ava Briglia, Aviva Winick, and Willow McCarthy (Matilda) at Strand Bookstore in NYC for a performance, a reading, and a craft on Sept. 13th! The fun starts at 11am. And it’s free!
In case you missed the cast of The Lion King at Broadway Sessions, you’re in luck! You can catch the full FB livestream of the event down below:
The You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown kids will take the stage at TheatreMania’s block party tomorrow at 2:30pm. See why they’re excited about the block party at TheatreMania.com!
Today, Luca Padovan and Isabella Russo (School Of Rock) took over Broadway Box’s Instagram for the day! We’ll have pix from their takeover here tomorrow.
Fiddler on the Roof will have a slightly different schedule this October! Get more details at TheatreMania.com.
Congrats to Tahlia Ellie (The Gray Man) who appeared on “Unraveled” this week on Investigation Discovery. Video is coming soon! In the mean time, take a look at these pix below!
Here’s another video from Elsie Fest with Stranger Things‘s Caleb McLaughlin (The Lion King) and Gaten Matarazzo (Les Miserables) singing “Fugue for Tinhorns”!
And here are more pictures and video from the kids of The Lion King, The Layover, School of Rock, Fun Home, and Matilda!
The full lineup for Cabaret for a Cause at 92Y Street Fest is now up! It is as follows: Alessandra Baldacchino (Fun Home), Gabriella Baldacchino (A Christmas Story), Beada Briglia (Matilda, A Christmas Story), Lilyana Cornell (Les Miserables, How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Samantha Cutler (Billy Elliot), Ava DeMary (Matilda, Evita, Billy Elliot), Sophia Gennusa (Matilda, Doctor Zhivago), Abbey Rose Gould (Les Miserables), Heidi Gray (Annie), Eleanor Koski (Les Miserables), Hailey LaBar, Rileigh McDonald (Matilda), Madilyn Jaz Morrow (Matilda), Zell Steele Morrow (Fun Home), Sawyer Nunes (Finding Neverland, Matilda), Lily Brooks O’Briant (Matilda), Ellie Poon (A Christmas Story), Sam Poon (The King and I, Macbeth, Billy Elliot, Les Miserables), William Poon (The King and I, Beauty and the Beast), Taylor Richardson (Annie, A Most Violent Year), Leah Rose, Presley Ryan (Fun Home, How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Mavis Simpson-Ernst (Evita, Les Miserables), Adaiah Stevens (MasterChef Jr), Sheariah Stevens, and Ava Ulloa (Matilda)
Lots of alumni news! “Clean”, the short film feat. Marquise Neal (Kinky Boots), will play more film festivals! It will play Middlebury New Filmmakers Film Featival in Vermont, International Black Film Festival in Nashville, SAG-Foundation NY Short Film Showcase, and Indiana Film Festival. Keaton Tetlow (Lisa and Leonardo) has booked a gig with Toys R’ Us. And Isabela Moner‘s (Evita) newest film now has a trailer! Take a look at “Middle School” below. Congrats to our alumni and all their success!
And here are more pictures from the kids of Les Miserables, Matilda, Fun Home, School of Rock, and A Day by the Sea
More videos from Cabaret for a Cause are now on YouTube! Check out Brooke Tyler performing “The Hymm of Axiom”, Eleanor Koski, Mckayla Twiggs, Maya Grace Fischbein, and Ali Baldacchino performing “Beautiful”, Joshua Turchin, Cole Alex Edelstein, David Rosenthal, and Evan Gray singing “Stars”, Rachel Jackson performing “Who Will Comfort Me”, and Eliza Farr performing “Castle”!
Gabby Pizzolo represented Fun Home at Broadway in Bryant Park! Take a look at those pictures and video below:
Congrats to Alexandra Hoffman and Rachel Quiner who will reprise the role of Clara at this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular! More casting to come. Congrats, girls!
Unfortunately, Liberty will play its last performance on July 24th. See it while you can!
Congrats to Ruthless! which recently celebrated its 1-year anniversary!
Sophie Knapp (Once) has booked a short film called “Wishful Whiskers”! More details to come. Congrats, Sophie!
It is confirmed that the entire cast of Fun Home will perform a benefit concert in Orlando! On July 24th, the entire company will perform at Dr. Phillips Center to benefit Equality Florida. For more information, go to TheStageReview.net.
Video from the Teen Mash Mob (with Evie Dolan and Brandon Niederauer of School of Rock) is now up on YouTube! Watch below:
Alexandria Suarez (On Your Feet) was interviewed on Univision recently! Take a look at the full interview at Univision.com
And here are more pictures from the kids of Finding Neverland, Motown, School Of Rock, Matilda, New York Spectacular, and Trip of Love!
Kaitlyn Schieble will play Megan O’Brien in Off-Broadway’s Missing Gemini next month while Amanda Swickle and Sophia Guarnaschelli join Colton Maurer in NYMF’s Tink this July. Congratulations!
Alumni news:Anthony Pierini (Mary Poppins, Big Fish) will guest star on “Royal Pains” tonight and Jad Grey (Radio City Christmas Spectacular) has booked a guest star on the show “The Night Shift”. Congrats, Anthony and Jad!
In case you missed Broadway Kids for Orlando, you can watch a highlight reel below:
Gabby Pizzolo (Fun Home) took part in a Talks at Google event with her Fun Home castmates where they performed and did a Q&A. Watch below!
Gabby also performed at the Celebration for Arts Education event and you can find pictures from that over at Tumblr.com!
The cast of Finding Neverland recently hit 500 performances! Check out their celebrationg at Broadway.com.
And here are more pictures from the kids of Les Miserables, Tink, Fun Home, Dream Street, The Lion King, School of Rock, On Your Feet, and New York Spectacular!
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