Stephanie Hsu on Her Most Formative Year, Worst Audition & Favorite Robin Williams Performance

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Photo Source: Nathan Arizona

Stephanie Hsu has always been drawn to the odder side of art. After training at NYU Tisch’s Experimental Theater Wing and starring in Broadway’s “Be More Chill” and “SpongeBob Squarepants,” the actor took on her biggest screen role yet in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” She’s earned an Oscar nod for playing the dual roles of Joy Wang and her dimension-destroying counterpart, Jobu Tupaki, in the A24 film. Here, Hsu dishes about her most formative year and her love of the film “Flubber.” 

What performance should every actor see and why?

Robin Williams’ body of work is pretty extraordinary. I’ve been wanting to rewatch “Dead Poets Society” recently because I just love that movie so much. His performance is so incredible; everyone’s performance in it is incredible. And “Flubber” is one of my favorite movies of all time. 

I definitely saw “Flubber” in the theater.

Seven times! I saw it seven times in theaters.

What role shaped you the most as an actor?

It really was doing Christine Canigula in “Be More Chill” [on Broadway] while filming Mei Lin on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Toggling between those two for that year really [made me] step up into my chops.

What do the best directors you’ve worked with have in common?

They believe in their actors; they are true collaborators. They want to know what you bring to the table, and they work with you. They actually get in on the ground with you. They don’t just say, “Stay there and talk there.” They want to know what magic you bring to the table as well. 

What’s your worst audition horror story?

I’m sure I’ve had auditions where I just did a bad job. But the one that comes to mind is when I was asked to put on an accent. And I just was like, “I’m so sorry, but I don’t do that.” I was really upset. 

What’s one mistake you’ve made in your career that you’ll never make again?

I think I pretended that I didn’t love what I do, because I was so scared to lose it. Or it didn’t feel real, or it felt too good to be true or something. I wish I allowed myself to truly fall in love with storytelling earlier and not to doubt its validity. I never doubted it for other people, but I really doubted it for myself. Now I feel like I’m playing catch-up. I feel like I’m in grad school right now, where I’m voraciously watching and reading and just digging in so deep, because I feel—for the first time, maybe—true permission to really do this. But I’m realizing I had permission all along. No one was ever going to take it away from me. I just wish I had allowed my heart to unabashedly open up to it sooner.

This story originally appeared in the Mar. 2 issue of Backstage Magazine.