Daphne Rubin-Vega is a smash hit. Why you ask? Well, first of all, she originated and made her Broadway debut as Mimi in this little show called Rent. Since then, she has played many classic roles on “The Great White Way” such as, Fantine in Les Mis and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. On top of that, Daphne is also playing Agnes on NBC’s Smash. Enjoy!!
BMC: When did you catch the theater bug?
DR-V: I saw The Me Nobody Knows with Irene Cara. She looked more like me than anyone I had ever seen except she was skinny and I was chubby! I thought: I want to do that!
What training did you do to acquire the skill you needed for a Broadway career?
Before the Broadway career I had studied with William Esper at his studio in NYC. I was also member of the then New Labyrinth Theater Company. We wanted to actively develop an atmosphere that encouraged creative growth. I sang in a girl group called Pajama Party before I sang on Broadway, and I had recorded a few dance tracks as a solo artist.
One of your most notable roles is originating Mimi in Rent. How did the job come about?
My agent at the time called me and said there was casting for a rock opera based on La Boheme. I prepared the song “Roxanne” by The Police. The musical director, Tim Weil, gave me a tape of the track “Out Tonight” to learn and perform the next day or so.
That was the beginning…
Did you know how incredibly special the project was going to be when you first got involved?
I knew that I loved the project and everything about it. I had done a workshop where people left mid-show so I wasn’t sure whether it needed more structure or if it just offended some people. It turned out to be both. At the time, I wasn’t a fan of musicals, but was a huge lover of this one.
Daphne as Mimi in Rent
Because of Rent’s success did you ever feel like you would always be Mimi to others and it would be difficult to break away from the character?
It used to bother me, but I’ve moved on; I can’t help if others haven’t.
Another notable performance was in Jack Goes Boating. Where did your involvement in that project begin?
As a member of the Labyrinth Theater Company, I was involved in Jack… from its table read. John Ortiz and I had just finished Anna In the Tropics on Broadway and I was just a few months pregnant. The author, Bob Glaudini, wanted to hear the play, Phil Hoffman loved the project, one thing led to another…
How did you bring the play to screen? Did you have to make alterations to the character going from one medium to the other?
My character, Lucy, changed from the play to the film. It was as if the years it took going from stage to screen (about 18 months) wore on her marriage and she was ready to take off. In the play, Lucy wanted to make the marriage work. In the film, she was outta there!
Your most recent Broadway credit is A Streetcar Named Desire. How did you prepare to perform in such a classic play? You get used to learning your lines and showing up to work and taking care of your body…
Nicole Ari Parker and Daphne Rubin-Vega in Streetcar
Do you enjoy originating a role more than reviving a role?
I’ve been very lucky to originate most of the roles I’ve played. Even if it’s a classic, I’ve never “revived” a role. Even in Streetcar or Les Miserables, the role I play is original. Unless you are coming in to replace a role, and even then, you are the only one doing that role…it’s original.
Who is your favorite character you’ve played?
I love them all.
Mimi got the most love though.
You also have released many albums! What is your process with creating an album?
It depends on the album. With my own, I spent a few years compiling material that I both wrote and covered. Then I spent a lot of time in the studio!
What’s next for you in the theater world?
I am currently writing a piece called Frequently Unanswered Questions.
What advice do you have for aspiring Broadway performers?
If you can dream it, you can be it. Grow a thick skin and don’t give up!