Off Script: 'Orange Is the New Black's' Kimiko Glenn Serves Physical Comedy in 'Waitress'
The actress tells THR of picking empowering roles and constantly snacking backstage: "I basically eat throughout the whole show — I'm putting in a ton of energy that I get so hungry."
In Orange Is the New Black, Kimiko Glenn is the imprisoned outcast Brook Soso who was involved in the series’ most gut-wrenching storyline to date. But onstage — and backstage — she’s all smiles as Dawn, the shy and skeptical server of the Broadway musical adaptation of Waitress.
“If you ask anyone in the show, 'Is Kimiko singing along to every number? Is she dancing again?!' The answer is yes,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m always backstage either in my dressing room or in the wings dancing like a crazy person or singing along full-out.”
THR’s review calls Glenn, in her Broadway debut, “hilarious and touching singing "When He Sees Me,” a solo number of the Sara Bareilles score in which the actress showcases her physical comedy chops all over the diner. With Jessie Mueller and Keala Settle, they’re “treasures, the dynamic among the three of them revealing the material's debt to Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.”
Glenn, 27, goes Off Script to explain how she picks roles that go against stereotypes, who gave her the most memorable fan gift and why she’s constantly apologizing to fellow castmembers before a performance begins.
What do you admire most about Dawn?
She’s analytical and weighs everything that’s gonna happen before it happens. Then she goes on an adventure and puts herself out there, and ultimately, finds what she wants: someone to spend her life with.
Keala Settle, Jessie Mueller and Kimiko Glenn in Waitress. Photo credit: Joan Marcus
What’s the toughest part about playing her?
The song is a little challenging; I’m running around and singing high. It’s a huge production-type number where I’m being lifted and dragged away in a cart, panting and yelling. I always tell friends seeing the show to text me at intermission because there’s so much to accomplish before and through my song that if I’m thinking about people being there, I get nervous.
Who are your physical comedy icons?
Steve Martin came the other day and I totally freaked out. Carol Burnett, Robin Williams, I always looked up to them as a kid.
Orange and Waitress are both female-empowering projects. Does this influence the roles that you look for?
Yes. I'm terribly specific about the kind of work I want to be doing. I love to tell stories. If there’s a role that speaks to me, I go for it. But I also like to be a part of something that says something. That changes the world for the better and doesn’t continue to put forward or perpetuate certain stereotypes and certain ways of thinking that aren’t helpful to our world. So I try to be mindful as much as possible because I think the media informs how we think so much more than we actually realize.
For me as a kid, not seeing too many Asian-American actors on television or in film, and if they were there, they were always secondary — I’d start to see myself kind of as secondary in life. It creeps in whether you know it or not. You start to view yourself in the way that you’re portrayed by the media. So I try to be mindful of that as much as possible because it’s so much of how we’re educated as well, how we take things in.
Do you have to split your time between Waitress and Orange?
I was doing the workshop for Waitress when I was filming the Orange finale, both but it wasn’t too intense. It wasn’t quite like Danielle [Brooks’] schedule because she was in [The Color Purple] previews at the time — you’re rehearsing during the day and performing at night — and she’s also a series regular and had much more to do. [Now that Orange is filming again,] it’s a lot of waking up at 4 in the morning, shooting, hopefully taking a nap at some point in the day, and then doing the show at night. I don’t know how she did that!
How has your diet changed for the stage?
I eat a full meal two hours before the show. After the song, I basically eat throughout the whole show! I’m putting in a ton of energy that I get so hungry. I usually bring a protein box from Starbucks and eat that during intermission, and usually there are pastries around. Not a lot of pies though. Schmackary’s cookies are the main thing.
Any preshow rituals?
Tea. And some weird vocal warm-ups. I’m always apologizing to people about those.
What do you when you’re not onstage?
If I don’t have anything super pressing, I’m checking my phone like a normal millennial. Otherwise I’m reading a script or knitting. Right now I’m knitting a blanket, which takes forever. We’ll see when that finishes, probably by the time winter rolls around.
What’s something special in your dressing room?
A real nice couch. We get a lot of sleep on that couch.
What time do you sleep after a show?
It’s bad. I shoot for 12:30 a.m. but, especially when my boyfriend’s not home and he goes to bed early, I’m up until 2 or 3 a.m., sometimes 5 in the morning. Once you pass that threshold of tiredness, you get your second wave.
What do you do on your day off?
I haven’t had one in a while, but my favorite thing to do is go to the park and hang out with my puppy and my boyfriend. And an iced beverage.
Best stage door reaction so far?
This one girl made pie heels – shoes pies on the heels. How did she even do that?! She made five or six more and sent them to us.
Christopher Fitzgerald and Kimiko Glenn in Waitress. Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Additional reporting by Jackie Strause.