No matter how many movie musicals she’s made, the stage--with or without live singing--has eluded Amanda Seyfried. “I always wanted to be up there,” she tells ETonline, ever since she first auditioned for the Broadway revival of Annie when she was just a pre-teen. (“The audition was awful,” she told Jon Stewart during a recent appearance on The Daily Show.)
That initial failure led her to the small screen where she landed her first acting gig at the age of 14 on the long-running CBS soap opera, As the World Turns. Later, she garnered attention as Lily Kane on the cult classic, Veronica Mars. However, Seyfried’s big break came in 2004 when she adopted the “ESPN”-blessed persona of Karen Smith in Mean Girls before honing her dramatic chops in HBO’s Big Love.
In the years since, Seyfried attempted to make her theatrical debut but somehow always fell short. In 2013, she signed on to playwright Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things, but the production fell apart when they couldn’t find a co-star or director. “I wanted to do something else last year that ended up not happening,” she adds vaguely.
And then there’s her stage fright--which she says she occasionally drowns with whiskey, especially during appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman--that may have ultimately sabotaged her, at least until now.
“It was one of those things I kept putting off because I was scared shitless,” she says.
But she’s about to break her bad luck streak now that 29-year-old actress is set to make her Off-Broadway debut in the two-person play, The Way We Get By, written by LaBute and co-starring The Newsroom’s Thomas Sadoski. The performance comes on the heels of one of her most nuanced roles on screen as Darby in Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young--another opportunity she’s been hoping to get. “I’ve always been a fan of Noah’s,” Seyfried says. “It was about him being attracted to me at all in any way.”
However, Seyfried’s upcoming stage production doesn’t mean the fear is gone. She said her heart was pounding while watching her Les Miserables co-star Hugh Jackman in the Broadway production of The River last December. “It makes me nervous to even think about it,” Seyfried says of her upcoming show, which starts previews on April 28 and officially opens May 19.
While the play is the right fit for Seyfried (“It’s the perfect first play”), it may not be an obvious one for fans who’ve seen her sing soaring father-daughter ballads with Jackman in Les Miserables or massive dance scenes with Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia.
“Ugh, no, I can’t live like a singer,” she says. Unlike Emma Stone, who recently took on Sally Bowles in Cabaret, or Vanessa Hudgens, who is prepping her debut in Gigi, Seyfried admits she doesn’t have the discipline for such a production.
“I love to sing--but not for work,” Seyfried explains. “Unless it’s a movie where you can put it all down in the recording studio and then forget about it.”
But one opportunity she can’t forget about is a film adaptation of Wicked. While yes, it does involve singing, it’s something of a passion project for the actress. For the past two years, she's wanted to bring the hit Broadway musical to the big screen, and her sights are set on the role of Glinda, originated by Kristin Chenoweth. And aiming for the role has come at the expense of other musicals, even the chance to reunite with Streep for Into the Woods.
“I was working on ‘On the Steps of the Palace’ with my voice coach,” she says of the main solo number for Cinderella. “I remember one day I was singing it and I was like, ‘No. I can’t. I can’t do it--I can’t get it. This is so hard. I’m not auditioning for it.’” (The film featured Anna Kendrick in the role.)
And just like that, Seyfried returned her focus to Glinda’s solo, “Popular.” But this opportunity may also pass her by.
Talks for a big screen version have been rumored since 2004, but only recently has producer Marc Platt--also behind Into the Woods--said the project is in the process of being developed.
“I might be too old when they make it. Or if they make it sooner than later, maybe I’m not the right person,” Seyfried says with a humble sense of reality. “I just still--I want it. I want to present myself and be a good candidate.”
For the time being, at least, she’s ready to conquer the stage, which she says is an opportunity she’s “never really felt ready for” until now. “This is for me.”