Denzel’s daughter talks upcoming role in ‘The Glass Menagerie’

Linda Armstrong | 5/7/2015, 11:19 a.m.
ennessee Williams’ classic drama “The Glass Menagerie” will be performed at the 47th Street Theatre, located at 304 W. 47th ...
Oliva Washington

How would you describe your character and what approach are you taking to the role?

At this point, we are a week into rehearsals so I really enjoy finding new things about her. I’m not sure if I have one specific approach to taking on this role. But I can tell you today, this day in the process, I really am fascinated by all her layers and discovering just how many she has!

What about Laura can you identify with and what about her is the opposite of your personality?

Umm (laughs) well, I can relate to her in so many ways, and yet there are parts of me that would say, “No me, Olivia, would probably have said something in this moment.” My family would probably say I’m nowhere as quiet as she is, I tend to think out loud (laughs).

You have grown up around the industry. What lessons have you learned about the things to watch out for in this business?

I wouldn’t say I grew up in the industry, my parents were in it, but I went to school, I had after-school activities, I had a very normal childhood. You know, it’s interesting because I think people assume that in my house we discuss “the Industry” like at the dinner table or something, but that wasn’t the case. Yes, of course I get advice from my parents, but for the most part, their advice is about the art. They are artists and I have learned a lot from them.

What are your hobbies? How do you relax?

I like to knit, I read, I also enjoy Netflix marathons. I’m lucky to have made some really great friends in school and many from home who live in this city, so going out, hanging out is something that I do often.

Once you commit to a role, how do you prepare for it? How are you preparing for this production?

I think it’s different every time. I really have to feel it out, see what is needed. I think what I consistently ask myself is what are the circumstances of the story, what the big idea is and how my character advances or challenges that idea, but before I do that, I read and read and read again. Seriously, I read it so many times.

What does it mean to you to play a role that is normally cast for a white actress and to have a Black brother also?

Although our production is not overtly dealing with race, it will be interesting to see how people take and interpret it. I focus more on the work, and the pursuit to gain a better understanding of character, to do my best to really inhabit her, wholly. And I truly hope the audience will relate to pieces of her that I bring.

What does nontraditional casting do for a production and for the audience?

We will have to see!

How exciting are you to be part of this production and have it mark your New York debut?

I am beyond excited! And to be surrounding by such giving and knowledgeable people everyday is beyond anything I have ever hoped for, for my New York City theatrical debut. A real sense of family is being built in this company, and it feels really special that my first off-Broadway show will be the inaugural show for Masterworks Theatre Company.