Interview: Montego Glover on Her Worst Audition, Performing for the President and Broadway’s ‘It Should Been You’

Glover won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Memphis, has recurred on 'Smash' and 'The Following' and performed for the President and First Lady.

Montego Glover

I interviewed Montego Glover back in 2010, a couple months after the hit show Memphis opened on Broadway, and it was so much fun to catch up with her. I say this because since then, her career has blown up. She won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Memphis, has recurred on TV shows like Smash and The Following and performed for the President and First Lady. Definitely a pretty great couple of years.

Now, she’s starring in the new Broadway show, It Should Been You, directed by David Hyde Pierce and also starring Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Sierra Boggess and Lisa Howard. The show revolves around a wedding, the bride and groom, their mothers and all of the craziness that comes with a big wedding.

Montego was just as lovely now as she was then, maybe even more so. In this interview, we chat about It Should Been You and the madness that is previews, working with the cast and David Hyde Pierce, performing for the President, her worst audition and the first professional acting job she got in New York City.

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You guys are in previews right now, how crazy is it for you? When do you actually open?

Montego Glover: We open on April 14th and we’re in that really dense place in previews where the show is coming along nicely but there is some fine tuning we want to do. And then there are whole sections where we want to just change the order. We want to fine tune some arcs and some acting beats and things like that. Music is changing, some cutting, some adding. So it’s a lot of like thinking cap stuff.

I’ve never been in this situation. You have the lines and music in your head, you rehearse and change things during the day, do you sometimes struggle right before you go out on stage and think, ‘We just changed these lines today.’

Montego Glover: Yes. In one or two cases, we’ve started work on a major change in the afternoon but it’s not going in that night. So you’ve worked on the new version for five hours in the afternoon but for curtain that night you’re doing the old version in its entirety. Do you know what I mean?

And yes, there’s a lot of like, ‘Oh my gosh, we changed two words on the interior of this line which changes the whole meeting.’ So you have to get that right because the new lines that come after your interior change are dependent on you saying it right the first time.

So there’s a lot of cheat sheets going on backstage. Writing notes and sort of putting them in a good place backstage so when we run off we can review it one more time. I’ve done that, you have a break, everybody’s got a short break because there’s no intermission, so you run up have a quick look again at notes, change costumes, run down again. Yes, a lot of, “Oh my God, that’s a new thing.”

Myself and three other actors, we had some major alterations to a scene yesterday and just before we went on, we just quietly, very quietly ran the lines one more time before we ran out together to do the scene. It was like we have to be on the same page. By the way, were doing the scene as we’re running on a balcony and down spiral stairs onto the main deck. And one of the girls is wearing a wedding dress and I’m in heels. It’s crazy, yeah.

I have to imagine there’s so much adrenaline pumping through you during this process, more than normal.

Montego Glover: Yeah, in some ways it most definitely is. We’ve been working on the piece… We started rehearsals on the 4th of February, so we’ve been working on the piece well over six or eight weeks now. But this process is different from rehearsal because essentially the show is built, it’s just about putting the final tweaks and sections together, do you know what I mean?

It’s a tiny bit less about creating because we’ve created the characters and put together their lives and their back stories in the rehearsal hall but now that we’re in previews it’s about getting it ready to show rather than laying the foundation. The foundation is there now are getting it ready to show.

You guys have, I think, the greatest cast. I mean working with Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris alone would be incredible?

Montego Glover: I know, right? How lucky are we?

How fantastic is it to work with them?

Montego Glover: Fantastic doesn’t even really begin to describe how great it is to work with them. Seriously. I mean not only are they both lovely, lovely, lovely, gracious, accommodating, collaborative and warm humorous women, they are also really truthfully talented and great technicians. Harriet Harris and Tyne Daly are great technicians and they work so well together. It’s a treat.

I mean my job is to take a master class in acting and comic timing and being grounded and being clear about intentions and building a character. Whether that character is living in a comedic space or whether that character really drops in to a really real space. It’s wonderful. I sit and pull out my imaginary notepad and take notes and watch them work. It’s wonderful.

And David Hyde Pierce. How is it being directed by him?

Montego Glover: The beauty of David is not only is he an actor but David began his career in the theater. So he has the great gift of being able to communicate with actors because he is an actor, But he’s also, like some of us, worked in different mediums. So he really knows how to communicate ideas and thoughts to actors in a way that is simple and succinct but totally in the language that we speak. And the difference between a director who has never acted but always directed and one like David is just that he just speaks actor language.

And he’s intensely collaborative, so gracious, very careful. Always thinking. He is intensely funny. Oh my God, this man is just funny. Just moving through space he’s funny. He’s got an enormous heart and he’s so feeling. He cares very much for the piece, very much for the people involved. And that’s every human being; actors, crew, techs, assistance, interns. He is very much tuned in to every single soul involved in participating in the telling of the story. He’s marvelous that way. We’re in such good hands. That’s a great feeling as an actor to know that you’re very good hands with the director.

How you like doing shows without an intermission?

Montego Glover: I love shows with no intermission, I’m gonna talk straight to you, Lance. Shows running without intermission are really for actors built for speed and endurance and I was built for speed and endurance. So I love it. I think there’s a way you approach storytelling when, you know, you’re not taking an act break that allows you to start at a certain speed and continue to build and you don’t really have to give up the play until it’s over.

I think our audiences are benefiting from having no intermission in the show. The good news is, if we ever wanted to put one in, if we ever felt that the show really needed it or we were taking a turn or our target audiences, so to speak, was changing or something, we know exactly where to take an act break. So the beauty of it is we can have it both ways if we wanted it that way.

So, since the last time we talked, you’ve been doing great. I feel like I see you on TV all the time, in movies. Congrats, it sounds like you’ve been doing fantastic.

Montego Glover: Yeah! It’s been very, very, very, very great. My team and I have been working very hard to make sure that after the success of Memphis, we had a very clear vision on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and we went after it. You know what I mean? It’s nice to know that when you’re really putting forth the effort and really trying to build a career and do projects that you are really passionate about that expand your career and expand your skill set, you have the opportunity to do that and you’ve created opportunities to do that.

And you also performed for the President.

Montego Glover: Yeah. [laughs]

Holy crap. I would be so, so, so nervous.

Montego Glover: [laughs] There’s that. It was really an amazing experience. If somebody had told me five years ago, six years ago, 10 years ago, ‘By the way, there’s going to be the very first African-American President in the history of the United States, you’re going to perform for he and his colleagues, dignitaries, diplomats from all of the world and the first lady too.’ And, it would be a week before the Tony awards in a season where you are nominated for Lead Actress in a Musical. My head might’ve exploded. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to wrap my brain around any of that. But that’s exactly what happened.

I was working on Memphis on Broadway and the show was going beautifully, great success. And we got word that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, was bringing her daughters and her mother and of course their Secret Service and crew of 1 million to the Shubert theater because she wanted to take the girls to the theater. They wanted to see Memphis. So we got word that there were coming, she came, they saw they loved it. Fast forward to the First Lady being asked who she wanted to be on the program for the Ford Center Fourth of July celebration in DC and she said, ‘I would like the lead actress from Memphis.’

So basically, all she has to do is say a word and hundreds of people scurry to make it happen. People scurried. I’m so easy to find because only a stones throw away here in New York City. And we got the word, my publicist Lisa got the word saying, ‘the First Lady is bringing Ms. Glover to come in sing in this program.’

It was great. It was great and their warm gracious, lovely people and it was my pleasure to be there.

What was the worst audition you’ve ever been on?

Montego Glover: Okay, there was this one audition where the call was like a fun swing song, like a song from the swing era. I said, ‘I’m on it.’ And it was a song that was really great for me. But in the context of the play where the song is from, the girl can’t sing and that’s what’s funny. She’s singing this song but she’s a terrible singer, right? And it’s cute but it’s terrible. “That’s what I’ll do, that’s what I’ll do!”

So I go in, thinking that the people behind the table will understand that I’m singing the song badly because that’s how it is in the play. And they did not agree.

And I was like maybe 20, like just getting started in my career and I walked out and went, ‘I don’t think that went very well.’ [laughs] That was very…interesting.

What was your first professional job when you moved to New York?

Montego Glover: When I moved to New York, I had made a pact with myself that I was going to spend the first month just getting to know my new home. Getting to know New York, getting to know the city, settle into my apartment, see some friends who had already moved here and so on and so forth.

About two weeks after I moved here, I got a phone call from one of my friends. He said, ‘I’m doing a production of The Pirates of Penzance downtown. We just lost our Mabel. I recommended you and you’re going to get a phone call to come in and sing.’

I got a phone call and I remember walking to the audition and being so terrified because this friend who recommended me I also went to college with. And he was a senior when I was a freshman and so that’s sort of the nature of our relationship, he’s always be a senior and I’ll always be a freshman. I remember thinking, ‘Please God don’t embarrass him. Don’t embarrass him. He recommended me.’

I show up, I sing for the role of Mabel, they asked me to leave the room and I wait for 20 minutes. They all come out and go we want you to be our Mabel. And so I had a job in New York City.

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