A first date can be a frightening thing. For actress Krysta Rodriguez, her new Broadway show First Date, now in previews, started similarly.
“This project came across my desk, which I had honestly never heard of,” the actress, who played Ana Vargas in the second, final season of the NBC Broadway soap Smash, says. “All the writers are now making their Broadway debut, so I didn’t really know their body of work. But I read it, and I immediately was completely charmed.”
Rodriguez signed on to play Casey, a serial dater out for an unforgettable first date with Zachary Levi’s Aaron, and the show—by Gossip Girl writer Austin Winsberg—secured a coveted space at Broadway’s Longacre Theater.
We caught up with Rodriguez to talk about serial dating, Broadway on TV and just how easy it is to stalk a potential suitor.
You’re about to open a brand new show on Broadway. How did you land that?
It’s all sort of random and not random at all. I had been living in L.A. and I came back to New York to do Smash, and then Smash ended. I auditioned for a lot of TV shows and I thought that’s where I’d head next, and then [First Date] happened.
The thing that I think is unique about it is someone who wrote for television and film, Austin Winsberg, writes the story. This is his first time writing a musical, but it really reads like a sitcom or like a movie. It’s very quick, the wit is very fast and it’s really charming and sweet and really unique; there isn’t a lot of stuff out there that’s like this.
Was it a fit right away?
The character just really resonated with me, and I thought this was definitely something that I could do and really enjoy sinking my teeth into. So, I auditioned for it and then I had to go back in the next day and read with the other guys. And then the next morning I got the offer. So it was a really quick, very fast-paced thing, which doesn’t happen when you’re auditioning for a Broadway show. You usually have to audition like six or seven times and go through the whole process or you’ve been involved in it through readings and workshops for years.
Is there an extra responsibility you feel when you’re originating a role like you are with Casey?
More than responsibility it feels like an opportunity, especially for me because [previously] either I originated a role or I understudied every role in the show. What’s really great about originating a role is getting the chance to make it your own and adjusting it to your voice and adjusting it to your personality. Being that person on the cast recording and being that person that’s in the YouTube videos and everything. Those are all things that are really exciting. In that way, I think that’s really the blessing that you get from originating a role. It’s not pressure though; it actually takes the pressure off. You don’t have to fit into any mold. You just have to do what you do best and everyone has already collectively agreed that they think you can do it the best, so you don’t really have to worry about it.
Did a role on Smash, which was all about Broadway, change the way you think of working on stage?
I think Smash was a great thing because it was a Broadway musical but we didn’t have go through all the rigors. The unique challenge of Broadway is doing the same thing every night, and that was something that was alleviated while I was doing Smash because you do something completely different every day.
I think it gave me a great experience of getting to act like I was in a musical without having to be a nun like I am when I am doing a real musical. Which is getting your full nine hours of sleep and having your teas and your steaming and all the other things you have to do to keep your body in fighting shape. I was a little hesitant to go back to the grind, but it’s fun and it’s really where my first love was. I never really even considered doing television until I had done five Broadway shows and was feeling a little tired.
Now that you’re back on Broadway, are your colleagues revealing themselves to be Smash fans?
Yeah, definitely. There was a different group of people on Smash, some of them had never done a Broadway show before and didn’t come from a theater world and then there’s the rest of us that did. Our community, some embraced the show and some didn’t.
Your character, Casey, is a serial dater. Are you cut from the same cloth?
I’m definitely not a serial dater, I’m a serial monogamist. I don’t really go on dates. I’m not really somebody that just meets people and casually dates them. I’m somebody that meets people and gets friendships with people and then decides to be in relationships. I’m very much a person that likes to be in a committed relationship. I don’t want to put myself out there as much as poor Casey does.
Casey also gets involved with Google stalking her date and setting up fake phone calls. Are you guilty of any of that?
I think in some ways. I like my phone. In this business, you never know where your next job is coming from so I think we all get a little attached to our devices. We all live in this new world now. It’s not even about stalking anymore; you just do know everything about everybody. You know you’re on Facebook or you’re on Twitter and you try to follow someone and that person decides to let you and they let you see all this information that you didn’t really ask for. It’s difficult to make first impressions; someone has already known everything about you when they meet you.