Tamyra Gray Talks Rent

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Tamyra Gray is earning rave reviews in the play Rent. She recently sat down with Broadway.com and talked about the experience...

Tamyra Gray in Rent
With the return of Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, it must be an exciting time to be in Rent.
It's like a rock concert—at every show. At the beginning, it felt like we were at Madison Square Garden! The energy from the audience since they've been back has been absolutely amazing. Knowing the guys' history with the show just makes you up your game that much more. You don't want to disappoint them, you don't want to disappoint yourself, and you don't want to disappoint the audience.

How did you get involved in Rent? Did you audition?
I did. I had a proper audition, and it took them two weeks to let me know I got the job. I was upset because I was thinking, "They told me the audition was great," so I thought that meant I should get the part. Finally after the second week I got the call.

You had to sweat it out a bit.
I did, and it was great, because I had really fought the audition. I live in San Francisco, but I was in L.A. and there was a nor'easter going on in New York, so I was stuck in the airport for 10 hours. I thought, "I'm just gonna go home and forget it," and I almost did. But instead I went and got a copy of the Rent movie and spent the entire time studying it.

I didn't understand "Without You" or "Out Tonight." It had been almost eight years since I had seen the show, and I couldn't put into context what the deal was with "Without You" and why she was howling in "Out Tonight." I just didn't get it. But I watched the movie, and everything made sense. I was like, "Okay, 'Out Tonight' is a performance piece, she's at a strip club, she's doing her thing. Got it. 'Without You' is a memory piece. She's going through her memories because she just lost the love of her life. Got it."

So if there hadn't been a snowstorm, you might not have gotten the part?
I am so thankful for that nor'easter, because otherwise I wouldn't be here! It's like one of those God things, where's he like, "No, no, no, you're gonna stay put." I'm glad I was listening!

When you first saw Rent on Broadway eight years ago, what did the show mean to you?
I was in New York doing an industrial video for Coca-Cola, and I was broke, and I saw every show that I wanted to see for $20. I saw Rent sitting in the front row, and I thought it was amazing. But I also saw Aida, and I have to admit, I was affected more by that than I was by Rent. Watching Aida made me want to do Broadway.

Was Adam Pascal in Aida when you saw the show?
He was! I told him when I first saw him, "Okay, I have to get this out of the way, because I am going to be thinking about it every single day if I don't tell you this now, but I absolutely loved you in that show!" [Laughs.]

But you weren't a Rent-head.
I knew the show, of course - and I went to the movie opening weekend! But I really don't feel like the movie did it justice. What you see on stage is so much more powerful. It just didn't translate onscreen as well as it does on stage.

Why do you think Rent has touched so many people over the years?
It's such a "life show." What the actors do here is take you through a journey of their characters' lives. We are inviting you in. The blocking of this show is not like other shows, where you are always facing the audience. The audience is watching us from a side view—you are stepping into our world. The show reminds you of life and the importance of love, and of honoring those who you call your friends and your family.

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Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.