From Stage To Screen: Broadway representation in Hollywood

By Lauren Knight

In the past decade, there has been a significant increase in casting directors choosing to employ stage actors in TV and film. While the emergence of live TV musicals on major television networks brings exposure to these actors in their theatrical environment, numerous TV shows and movies now feature actors who worked or currently work on Broadway. As more theater actors go in for TV/film casting calls, more of Hollywood’s directors and producers are able to see the multi-faceted talents of the well-rounded Broadway community; with this in mind, entertainment corporations now hold numerous TV and film auditions in New York in addition to Los Angeles. They see talent in singing, acting, and dancing wrapped up in one individual, and with that valuable skill set, many Broadway actors find work on the big and small screen.

“The Umbrella Academy” – Netflix Original TV series

Emmy Raver-Lampman made her Broadway debut in the musical “Hair” in 2001, and worked most recently in the original Broadway cast of the hit musical, “Hamilton.” Raver-Lampman performed on Broadway, in Chicago, and was part of the 1st national tour production before departing on Dec. 10, 2017 to work on filming the Netflix series, “The Umbrella Academy.” Released on Feb. 15, 2019, the TV series based on the well-known comic book written by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, stars Raver-Lampman in the role of Allison Hargreeves, a unique superhero in a dysfunctional, separated family.

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” – Netflix Original TV series

With one of the show’s main characters, Tituss Andromedon, pining after a role on Broadway, it’s no surprise that this show, with its bursts of theatrical numbers, features several Broadway actors. Even the actor playing Andromedon, Tituss Burgess, landed several roles on Broadway prior to the show’s air date. Making his Broadway debut in the musical “Good Vibrations” in 2005, Burgess has been in many notable Broadway shows since, including “Guys and Dolls,” “Jersey Boys,” and “The Little Mermaid.” In the Netflix show’s three seasons, Broadway performers have appeared in episodes or as season regulars, including Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton”), Derek Klena (“Anastasia”), Drew Gehling (“Waitress”), Norm Lewis (“Phantom of the Opera”) and two former “Aladdin” Genies, Juwan Crawley and James Monroe Iglehart.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” -Amazon Prime Original TV series

In this particular series, the outstanding number of Broadway actors becomes incredibly evident, with over sixteen name roles belonging to actors and actresses of Broadway. Last year’s Tony Award winners for Best Lead Actor and Actress in a Musical, Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, both hold roles in Season 2 of the series, with Shalhoub playing the lead character’s father and Lenk appearing in an episode during the season. Rachel Brosnahan, starring as Midge Maisel, even held a role on Broadway, performing in Roundabout Theatre Company’s “The Big Knife” in 2013. With a Broadway-star-studded cast, several other notable actors appear in many episodes of this show, including Zachary Levi (“She Loves Me”), Megan McGinnis (“Beauty and the Beast”), and Laura Dreyfuss (“Dear Evan Hansen.”)

“Mary Poppins Returns”

After writing and starring in “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda made the transition to the big screen as he originated the role of Jack, a London lamplighter, in the new blockbuster hit, “Mary Poppins Returns.” Working alongside Ben Wishaw (“The Crucible”), Angela Lansbury (“The King and I”), and Jim Norton (“Of Mice and Men”), Miranda is among several Broadway actors and Tony Award nominees to work on this long-awaited sequel.

“A Star is Born”

Originating the role of Philip Hamilton/John Laurens in “Hamilton,” Anthony Ramos left Broadway on November 20, 2016 to work on Spike Lee’s Netflix series, “She’s Gotta Have It.” With the release of “A Star is Born” in October 2018, Ramos can be seen on the big screen alongside Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, playing the role of Ramon. A few days after the premiere of “A Star is Born,” Variety magazine announced that Ramos would be starring as Usnavi in the upcoming “In the Heights” movie, a film adaptation of the first Broadway musical Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and starred in.

With directors casting more actors from a musical theater background, it’s quite possible that some of the familiar faces on your favorite TV shows and movies may have worked on the Great White Way before walking the Hollywood red carpet.