Interview With Actor/ Singer/ Dancer Kaylee Harwood

Hey Everyone, I recently had the chance to talk to Actor/Dancer/Singer Kaylee Harwood, we talk about everything from the Tonys, to life on set, and role preparation.

Q: What has been your favourite production to be a part of so far in your career and why?    

A: My two years on tour with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical definitely offered the most varied of my experiences so far. We played a lot of major cities all over the US and Canada, some of which I’d been to before, and some of which I got to visit for the first time. We’d stay in each city anywhere from one week to two months, which can give you a great sense of a place. For someone like me who loves traveling (on par with my love of performing), it was a huge highlight. Not to mention the incredible music we got to hear and perform every day. I was a swing, which meant I had to keep five roles (including Carole King) in my head at all times. I could be called on to perform anytime, sometimes weeks in advance and sometimes even in the middle of the show. It really kept my creative mind engaged. 

Q: What drew you to the theatre in the first place?  

A: I have always been around the performing arts (watching and doing) but I was relatively late to Theatre. Even though it seems obvious to me now that my interests as a kid were in preparation for the career I have now, I was pretty timid to audition for Theatre, coming from a classical dance and singing background. I had a number of excellent teachers and mentors who helped me bring all these skills together. As an audience member, I am grateful for early exposure to Theatre through my family. Musicals, plays, chamber music, concerts, etc. Certainly once I found my personal love of performing, there was an uptick in the number of productions I attended. Once we’re through this madness of the pandemic, I can’t wait to sit alone with strangers in the dark again. It’s my favourite thing. 

Q: How would you say a theatre production differs from that of a film/game or TV production?

A: So far, I have much more experience in Theatre, but from my time on set and recording VO, the rehearsal time is a huge difference. Not-for-profit Theatre in Canada commonly has about 3 weeks of rehearsals (8 hours per day, 6 days per week) before putting it in front of an audience, and even then we hardly ever feel ready. Stepping onto a set having only rehearsed my lines at home and doing my own personal work is a whole different thing. It’s exciting and only mildly terrifying to know that what you do on the day is preserved for eternity on Netflix for all to see! The anticipation of an audience in Theatre, on the other hand, is exciting and terrifying in its own way. Will they laugh when we think they will? How do we know if this bit is working? That sort of thing. Along those lines, another difference is the exchange with the audience. I love being on stage or in an audience, part of the collective experience. Some people think we can’t hear or see them out there in the darkness, but we sure can. As for VO, I voiced a video game last year and when it finally came out it was fun to find my characters!

Q: What is your process? How do you slip into the mind of your subjects? 

A: I don’t have a strict process that I carry into every role, per se. It’s a varied approach based on the needs of the story or character. I do heaps of research, no matter what. Sometimes I have accent coaching, depending on the role. Sometimes the vocal or physical demands of a role are such that I do specific training, but bare minimum I like to come into any process having done as much prep as possible, with an openness and adaptability to whatever transpires. The key is staying flexible, I think. I don’t perceive my job to be putting on the life of someone else. I think of it more as stripping down to my bare bones, trusting the director to guide with heart, and becoming part of something greater than myself. If I lead with expectation or ego it all just goes badly. 

Q: What do you do in your down time in-between rehearsals? 

A: Pre-shutdown, my M.O. was constant travel. Even when on tour, if I had a few weeks off, I would go somewhere new. Between contracts, I’ve been known to just pick up and fly wherever I could get the cheapest deals, to the point that for the longest time I didn’t have a fixed address. But in recent years I’ve found a slower pace and a lovely landing pad. I’m itching to get back out exploring again once it’s safe. 

Q: Talk us through what an average day is like on set or stage for you?

A: Completely different from each other. Namely the hours. Once I’m into a run of a show, I sleep late, go about my day (if there’s no brush-up rehearsal or matinee), late lunch/early dinner, off to the show, and unwind after. On set, the hours are much longer, and it usually starts earlier with hair and makeup, then wardrobe, blocking rehearsal, chill while they work their magic, then off to the races. Completely different, both excellent. 

Q: Do you have any funny stories?

A: When I was doing the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, we had a bunch of press appearances. I was in the ensemble and we backed up Judas on the title song, which we often performed for TV spots, etc. I had a really neat dress that looked like a tent with all sorts of zippers and pockets and folks always commented on it. One day, we were performing on The View and Whoopi Goldberg got into the elevator right after me and asked where my dress was from. I had to confess that they built it for me. Once off the elevator, I asked Whoopi for a photo, quickly realizing I didn’t have my phone on me (having just performed), so the next words out of my mouth were, “Wait here!” Off I ran to get my phone like such a nerd, and sure enough when I came tearing back around the corner, Whoopi was there waiting. That dress was also a conversation-starter with Jessica Chastain backstage at the Tonys. I was making an entrance from the same wing as her, and like clockwork she asked where the dress was from (she was wearing a stunning gown, of course). I had to break her heart as well. She told me she was very nervous about having to go on stage to present, and I told her I was nervous about dancing, but then my music cue started so there was no time to dilly-dally. 

Q: Who was the most interesting person you have ever worked with?  

A: Maybe only interesting to me, but nonetheless… I did a couple episodes of a TV show called Reign and my first day on set was directed by Megan Follows, who is a legend. Canadian royalty. She starred in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries in the 80s. I had grown up obsessed with this series and like many young Canadians thought I was Anne Shirley. My first day filming, I was all alone, just seen through a castle window, so I didn’t have to pull myself together to say any of my lines, thank goodness. But she came up to introduce herself and I was melted butter.  It was such a full-circle moment, and she was so gracious and encouraging. 

Q: What would be your dream project?

A: I love being part of new work. It’s any actor’s dream, I think, to be in on the ground floor seeing something take shape. I love working with writers in the room, and I feel honoured to have had many opportunities in my career to do so. I think my next dream would be being part of an Original Cast Recording of a new show.

To hear more check out Harwoods podcast 

Photo credit Kristine Cofsky.

I hope you enjoyed the interview.

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