Today we are pleased to present an Exclusive Interview with Amanda Jane Cooper, who played the role of Glinda on the First National Tour of WICKED. For more information about Amanda Jane Cooper visit her website at www.amandajanecooper.com, and follow her on Twitter @amandajaneCOOP. Check out her interview below!
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you get it? What did you learn from the experience?
My first professional acting job was a featured role in the film Smart People, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, and Thomas Haden Church. The film was shooting in Pittsburgh during my freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University. I auditioned for Donna Belajac (casting director) and got a callback with Noam Murro (director) as well as some producers – they liked the what I did and gave me the job! It was my first time in front of a camera, so there were many lessons to learn. Noam was very patient with me as we shot the scenes that day. Acting is acting, but there are technical differences between the craft on stage and on screen. I also learned a lot from the incredibly talented Ellen Page and the hysterical Thomas Haden Church – I am grateful to have worked with them, and hope to do so again in the future.
How did you come to audition for WICKED? How long was the audition process and what did you have to do?
I was selected to sing “Popular” for Stephen Schwartz (also a Carnegie Mellon alum) at a masterclass in Pittsburgh during my sophomore year. Stephen was so kind and encouraging that day, and took my headshot topass along to Craig Burns at Telsey Casting. We kept in touch and a year and a half later, over the course of 7 months, I went in for WICKED 5 or 6 times. At that time and to this day, I had/have the incredible guidance and support from voice teacher extraordinaire, Joan Lader. Each time I went in to Telsey I was given notes and learned new things about the character and the story-telling. The final audition was in front of the entire team: Joe Mantello, Lisa Leguillo, David Stone, Stephen Schwartz, Dominick Amendum, StephenOremus, Craig Burns, and more. I have so much love, respect, and appreciation for the all of those folks, especially for Stephen, who took believed in my from the start!
What was your reaction when you found out you had been cast as Glinda?
Something like that.
No really, I was shopping in Anthropologie with my sister who was visiting NYC for the weekend, when I got the call from my agent. Holly and I probably disrupted the entire store, but I can’t say that I’m sorry. It was a very emotional moment, filled with gratitude, giggles, hugs, and of course a few tears. Oddly enough, my sister was at the mall with me 5 years earlier when I found out I got into Carnegie Mellon – she’s my lucky charm! And clearly, a great shopping partner.
How long was your initial rehearsal process for the show? What was it like?
I rehearsed for 2 days in New York City at the Gershwin with Dominick Amendum and Paul Dobie. before heading down to Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale for 4 ½ weeks to learn the show. Rehearsals were so fun. In the beginning, I was working with the omniscient Dance Captains and Stage Manager to learn the blocking and the basic outline of the show. I would watch the show at night to soak in as much as I could. As the weeks progressed, I got to rehearse on stage with my soon-to-be cast mates, which brought everything to life. I also had fun perfecting my wand-wielding skills, so I’d practice that a lot on breaks. Clear the decks, she’s at it again!
What was your first performance like?
Oh gosh! Such a dream come true. First, my family was in the audience. They’re my best friends and biggest supporters – it meant the world to share that night with them. I’d been visualizing my descent from the bubble up in the rafters on stage right for…years. So that was a special moment. Of course, I was just so focused on hitting my marks, being where I needed to be, remembering the details of the costume changes, making entrances in the correct wings, and telling the story, that by the end it was a whirlwind. A wild ride. My cast and crew were so supportive that night (and every night), which made all the difference.
What was your favorite part of the show to perform?
Tough question! Hard to choose. I looked so forward to “What is This Feeling” & “Popular” each night because those songs have such fun journeys and I enjoyed sharing the time on stage with Elphaba. The top of Act II is where we see Glinda making defining decisions that impact the rest of the characters and the story in a big way, and I enjoyed that challenge. I loved digging into the scenes, whether they were with the Wizard, Fiyero, Madame Morrible, Boq, Nessa…you name it. WICKED itself is just a gift. Each moment has a special place in my heart but I will say: the “Finale” has always been and will forever be my favorite. Gives me chills every time.
Glinda is a role that requires balancing the comedic with the dramatic. How did you approach that challenge?
Comedy is something I’ve always enjoyed. It’s just the most fun (occasionally terrifying) thing ever. I am grateful to Lisa Leguillo for helping me navigate bringing as much of myself to the role as possible. The comedy and drama are already there for you in Winnie Holzman’s incredible book, so I found that staying truthful in those imaginary circumstances always paid off. I learned so much about that from my Elphabas: Jackie Burns, Dee Roscioli, and Mamie Parris.
Have you witnessed, or perhaps been involved in any onstage bloopers or mishaps that you’d like to share?
Ah yes, live theatre. Mishaps and bloopers are bound to occur. On my opening night I flipped the introduction of the “mother” and “father” as I recounted Elphaba’s upbringing to the villagers. So when I said “she had a mother”, the father appeared. And vise versa. Blame it on opening night nerves…never made that mistake again! The show must always go on. Rarely were there any technical bloopers but if there were, we rolled with it! I always felt lucky to have cast mates that were professional and on-point to keep the audience enthralled no matter what. It’s our job.
What was your favorite city to visit while you were on tour? Why?
Performing for the First Lady and her daughters at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. was a highlight of my life, for sure. Traveling around the country was so Oz-some (see what I did there), and audiences all over made us feel so welcome. But if I had to pick my overall favorite city it’d be Atlanta. We were there on the cusp of autumn and it was just beautiful. The Fox Theatre is gigantic and awe-inspiring, and the audiences were some of the most spirited I’ve ever seen. Nothin’ like southern hospitality.
Are there any dream roles that you’d like to perform one day?
Ah, the list is endless! I look forward to a career full of telling stories on stage and on screen. One of my dreams was to be on GLEE and I’m so grateful to be guest starring this season. More details to come!
Another big dream of mine is to originate a role on Broadway. Fingers crossed.
I am so thankful for all of the opportunities I’ve had thus far, and I look forward to what’s to come.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Passion and perseverance are key.
I’ve found that it’s important to have a calm confidence and to be honest about your gifts; for me, the best path was to go through four years at a conservatory program to hone my craft and grow up a little bit before entering the business, but for another person, the path will look different.
I always remind myself: if you live for someone’s praise, you’ll die by their criticism. So keep going. Keep learning. Keep growing. Be kind. Surround yourself with exceptional people. Do what fuels you and makes you come alive. Take care of your mind, your body, and your spirit. Spread joy through your work and have fun!