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Exclusive Interview with Broadway's Samantha Pauly

IRK: Are you so excited to be included in such an amazing and legendary show, THE GREAT GATSBY?

Samantha: Yes, absolutely thrilled!  This is my second Broadway show, and my second time originating a principal role - both things I never thought I would achieve in my lifetime.  I feel very fortunate that I get to bring an iconic character to life.

IRK: What was your first play?  

Samantha: The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I was in kindergarten and I think I played the butt.

IRK: I love how you first heard you landed the role!  Tell us!  

Samantha: Oh my gosh.  Okay so, I had gone to final callbacks and also a private work session with the choreographer.  I felt good about how everything went, but hadn't heard anything for a few days.  As actors, if a weekend is coming up, it's usually safe to assume that you'll either hear something before then or you have to wait until the following Monday.  It was a Friday, late afternoon, and I was at a doctor's appointment.  I was scrolling through Instagram and had a DM from the composer Jason Howland that said "Congratulations! Can't wait to work together!"  I hadn't heard anything from anyone so I started texting my managers asking what was going on and they were able to do some digging and find out from casting that I did book and an official offer would be coming after the weekend.

IRK: How do you prepare for a role?  

Samantha: It depends on the show.  For a show like Gatsby, I didn't want to re-watch any of the films or re-read the book while we were in rehearsals so that I could go in with my own interpretation.  I had an idea of who I thought Jordan was, and the creatives helped shape her a little bit as well.  But Jordan Baker is very Sam Pauly, I like to bring some of myself to her every night.

IRK: Do you ever feel lost in a character?  

Samantha: No.  What I do on stage is work.  As soon as I leave the stage I turn it off, no matter what the role is.  I don't like to bring work home with me, I don't like to get lost in anything to a point where it feels consuming.  Theater is my job, it's not my life.  I leave work at work or on the stage.

IRK: Can you tell us about your experience portraying Jordan Baker in "The Great Gatsby"?  

Samantha: It's been very healing and therapeutic to discover who she is every night.  I see a lot of myself in Jordan - her opinions, her experiences, her attitude.  And there are things about her in this particular interpretation of Gatsby that reflect things I have gone through in life, so there are moments in the show every night that are continuing to heal parts of Sam Pauly.

IRK: What drew you to this particular adaptation of the classic novel?  

Samantha: I was given a copy of the script when I first went in for the show, but I hadn't read the book in a long time.  I don't think there was anything that really grabbed be at first, aside from a section of 'New Money' that I had to sing for my audition.  I loved the song and the feel of it, I was excited at the idea of working with Jason Howland, and I was really eager to be back on stage after leaving SIX and possibly originating another role.

IRK: How did you prepare for the complexities of your character?  

Samantha: Again, I just drew from some real life experiences.  I see a lot of myself in Jordan, so it was easy to connect to her.  This character has forced me to face some of my own issues as a human, but it's also furthered my ability to just be a great performer and master being vulnerable in front of thousands of people.

IRK: What aspects of the Roaring Twenties era did you find most intriguing or challenging to embody?  

Samantha: I think with a character like Jordan, it's been easier to exist in this 20's world we've created on stage.  She is not conforming to societal norms, she's independent and does what she wants.  One thing I did have to figure out was how she spoke, and where her voice sits.  We had an amazing dialect coach, Deb Hecht, who honestly taught me more about Jordan than anyone else.  As soon as I was able to access how she spoke and carried herself, everything else fell into place.

IRK: Costumes ? Tell us !!!  

Samantha: They're gorgeous!  What else can I say?  I love a high-waisted, wide-leg trouser.  And that's all I wear haha

IRK: What sets this production of "The Great Gatsby" apart from other adaptations you have been a part of? Or seen?  

Samantha: I haven't been a part of any other adaptations, and I've only seen the 2013 film.  I think our production is a true big Broadway spectacle - the set, the lights, the massive orchestra, the big dance numbers.  There isn't anything quite like it on Broadway at the moment, which is very thrilling for audiences.  I think it's something that everyone can enjoy, whether or not you're familiar with the book.

IRK: How did you approach the dynamic relationships between Daisy, Jordan, Gatsby, and Tom in the story?  

Samantha: Jordan doesn't really have much of a relationship with Gatsby, and her relationship with Tom (in our production) got scaled back during rewrites.  My priority during this process was Jordan's relationship with Nick.  I have an incredible costar in Noah Ricketts, I couldn't ask for anyone better.  Because Jordan and Nick's relationship was expanded on in our production, it was important to Noah and I that we become very clear about what we wanted to portray on stage.  While we were doing our out of town run at Papermill Playhouse, we would ride the train out early multiple times a week so we could work on scenes on the train and then we'd work outside before call time.  During our Broadway rehearsal process, we spent dinner breaks rehearsing alone in my dressing room - going over lines, finding beats, creating blocking.  Eva Noblezada (Daisy) and I had a fairly easy time finding the dynamic between Jordan and Daisy.  They're so different, they want different things, that all came very naturally. 

Image Credit: Samantha Pauly & Noah J. Ricketts in The Great Gatsby (c) Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

IRK: In what ways do you believe the themes of wealth, love, and societal expectations explored in the novel resonate with audiences today?  

Samantha: I think audiences are getting a very beautiful interpretation of the novel on a very grand scale.  They're able to see the glamour, the heartache, the struggles that people still face today.  I hope that when audiences watch Jordan, they feel a little empowered or inspired to ask for more and know that they deserve it.

IRK: Can you share any memorable moments or challenges you encountered during the rehearsal or performance process?  

Samantha: With a show this size that is brand new, there are always challenges everywhere you look.  But I think one thing that will always stay with me is, despite a difficult process that left me feeling invisible at times, I can come out to the stage door every night and have people tell me that I was their favorite part.  Which means I've created something memorable that people connected with for a few hours, which then means I've done my job. 

IRK: What do you hope audiences take away from this interpretation of "The Great Gatsby"?  

Samantha: I hope it makes them fall in love with one of the greatest pieces of American literature.  A lot of people come to see the show having never read the book, which is absolutely okay!  A lot of people have told me they hated the book but saw the show and now love the story.  There's a little something for everyone in this production, and if it keeps people coming to Broadway and seeing more shows, then I think that's wonderful.

Image Credit: Samantha Pauly & Cast in The Great Gatsby (c) Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

IRK: From Photographer Chris Knight, You've played some truly iconic roles like Mimi in RENT and Eva Peron oin Evita, buut what unconventional role would you love to take on that you haven't had the chance to yet?  

Samantha: One of my dream roles is Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.  I'm ready for that anytime.

IRK: In 2018, you played Valkyrie in Bat Out of Hell, what Meat Loaf song is the best karaoke jam, and what's an underrated option that most people are sleeping on?  

Samantha: You can't go wrong with 'I Would Do Anything For Love', that's a great karaoke option.  If we're talking a Jim Steinman selection, then I would absolutely choose 'It's All Coming Back To Me Now' by Celine Dion.  Which was in Bat Out Of Hell!

IRK: Having performed both on Broadway and the West End, which city out of New York or London has the better post-show dining scene, and what are your favorite spots in each place?  

Samantha: I have to go with New York, there are so many places that are open so late!  To be fair, I didn't get a true chance to be out late in London because Evita is such a beast of a show.  I was going home at night to rest and be ready for the next day.  But in New York, some of my favorite spots near the Broadway Theatre are Hold Fast, Vida Verde, and Tanner Smiths.

IRK: Are there any other projects or roles you are particularly excited about in the future?  

Samantha: I'd love to keep doing new things and originating roles, but I just want to stay working on Broadway.  I'd love to expand into more tv and film, but Broadway is what I'm best at.  So let me hop into Wicked or Moulin Rouge, I'm dying to do those.

IRK: Favorite song right now:  

Samantha: 'Supernatural' from Ariana Grande's new album.

IRK: Favorite lipstick:  

Samantha: I really don't wear lipstick, I kind of hate it. I do love Dior lip oil.

IRK: Favorite Broadway musical: 

Samantha: It was never on Broadway, only off, but my favorite musical is Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party.

IRK: Favorite travel destination:  

Samantha: I love Miami, for a week, for two days, doesn't matter.  I went there last summer by myself and stayed at a wellness resort for a week, it was amazing.

IRK: Favorite bag: 

Samantha: Probably my black tote bag I got from Target.

IRK: Favorite shoes:  

Samantha: I'm usually in some sort of boot, even in the summertime.  I have black (fake) leather cowboy boots that I wear often, or my all black Dr Martens.

IRK: Favorite designer:  

Samantha: Not like I can afford designer things, but I like to look!  I think Prada and Gucci have nice accessories.

IRK: We help raise awareness for the17 Global Goals of the UN ,

Which goals do you align to and why ?  

Samantha: It's hard not to say "all of them!".  If I had to choose a couple, I would say No Poverty, and Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.  I think poverty is the cause of a lot of the other issues listed on the global goals - hunger, health and well-being, clean water and sanitation.  Furthermore, with stronger institutions and justice systems that truly care about the equity of all humankind, ending poverty would be a possibility.  The disparity in quality of life between those in poverty and those who are not, is visible in all facets of life: justice, equality, economic advancement, climate action.  If poverty didn't exist, people in positions of power would no longer be in power.  It's the unfortunate reality of the world that we live in, but I do believe it can change.

IRK: What hopes do you have for the future?  

Samantha: I hope for a world where people in positions of power put their money where their mouth is, and start taking action for things like climate change, inequality, and genocide.  We are not living in a way that sets future generations up for success.

IRK: Future of the planet? 

Samantha: More sustainable forms of energy.  More care and love for life on land and in the sea.  More compassion for each other.

IRK: What advice do you have for young thespians and artists?  

Samantha: There is no right way to go about succeeding in this business.  The things that are meant for you will find you.  Go to school, don't go to school - it doesn't really matter anymore.  What does matter is working hard, being kind, and being someone that other people want to work with.

Photographer: @chrisknightphoto

Special Thanks to @imprintpr


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