She’s won more Tony Awards than any actor in history, but Audra McDonald insists that her journey to the top has been no cakewalk. It still isn’t, in fact; the living legend admits in her Backstage cover story that there have been five jobs this year alone that she did not book. But just as she did after passing out during her “Carousel” audition, McDonald knows the only way to go is forward.
What is one performance every actor should see and why?
The first thing that’s coming to my mind is Judy Garland in the film “A Star Is Born,” singing “Lose That Long Face” and she’s still got to get back on set and finish that song. The way that’s shot and her performance in that, it’s everything.
Do you have an audition horror story that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
Oh, mine’s famous. It’s passing out at the end of my “Carousel” audition. Just passing out, and waking up to the sound of Mary Rodgers saying, “Get her some orange juice!”
I’d heard that before, but it’s still good. And, it worked out, obviously! The next one: What is the wildest thing you’ve ever done to get a job?
Oh, gosh. This is kind of sad. I was auditioning for “Showboat,” and I was told, “They really like you. You need to make yourself look as light as possible so you could possibly play Julie.” So I pancaked the shit out of my face, woke up my sister, and I was like, “Hey,” and she was like, “I gotta take a picture, because you look ridiculous.” It’s like that scene in “Tootsie” when Dustin Hoffman meets Bill Murray for the first time.
How did you get your Equity membership?
Doing an industrial for M&M’s candy in San Francisco. I had to sing “One Moment in Time” while [gymnast] Mary Lou Retton did stuff on a balance beam on a stage at the Moscone Convention Center.
Last one: What advice would you give your younger self?
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
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