Degree/Year: B.A., musical theatre, 2010
Hometown: New York, New York
Current: actor, singer
What Samford faculty member had the most influence on you and why? Samford is full of incredible educators, regardless of the department. In addition to the top-notch theatre faculty, Jennifer Rahn almost turned me into a geography major, and Charles Workman was an inspiring and endlessly patient Spanish professor. But, Randall Richardson in the music department certainly had the biggest impact on my life. He was equal parts voice teacher and life coach, and we've maintained our friendship to this day.
What would you say is the key to success in today’s world? Humility! So many people forget how blessed they are, and that many of our successes are often gained from being in the right place at the right time.
What is the best advice you were ever given and by whom? Nowadays, it’s easy to get discouraged/jealous amidst the humble-brag minefield that is Facebook, so I always remind myself what a friend once told me: “Other people’s successes are not your failures.”
What is a favorite Samford memory? When I was a sophomore, my Sigma Chi brothers gave me the distinct honor of codirecting Step Sing (primarily because I was a musical theatre major and, more importantly, no one else wanted to do it). If you ever want a crash course in patience, try teaching 60 fraternity guys complicated choreography and four-part harmonies. Through a series of minor miracles and happy accidents, our show about Jesus and his disciples, aptly named “The Original Fraternity,” won Sweepstakes. I will most likely not win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, but I can imagine it feels a lot like that night.
Briefly describe your professional journey that ultimately landed you on Broadway. After graduating from Samford, I got my master’s degree in performance from the University of Nevada–Las Vegas (UNLV). I moved to New York City in 2013, where, after another series of minor miracles, I signed with one of the top agencies. It was able to get me into a lot of big auditions that I wouldn't have been able to get on my own. After a few months, I booked a new production of Mamma Mia! being mounted back in Las Vegas, where I had just spent three years. Many friends in Vegas hadn’t even realized I left. Sadly, the production closed after only three months. I moved back to New York, and later that year, when the actor playing my same role in the Broadway production left due to injury, the director asked me to step in. Bottom line: Right place, right time.
What was it like to perform an iconic role like Sky in Mamma Mia! Ironically, my only experience with Mamma Mia! prior to doing the show was seeing the film version, which was — how best to say? — Not an enjoyable one. So, I was slightly skeptical when I started. But the whole thing is a big party. Getting to dance around singing Abba tunes was a blast, and Sky is one of the best roles on Broadway. One thing I won't miss, however, was the self-tanner we had to wear. Actually, I don't want to talk about it.
How did your Samford degree prepare you for your current work? Acting is kind of like basketball. You can only study how to shoot a free throw so much. Eventually, you need to get in the gym and take some shots. Unlike most theatre conservatories, Samford allowed for an immediate opportunity to perform. I was in more than 15 shows, and that, coupled with the great classroom experience with Donald Sandley and Mark Castle, gave me the confidence to pursue this crazy career. What is your favorite professional role so far? I don’t know about my favorite, but my most recent show was certainly the most challenging/rewarding. It was called A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and in 2014, it won the Tony Award for Best New Musical. Most nights, I would go on as a member of the ensemble, playing 17 bit parts, but occasionally I would fill in for the lead role, Monty Navarro. The show is two hours long, and Monty is only offstage for 45 seconds, so it was quite the marathon!
ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked private university deeply rooted in its Christian mission. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states, the District of Columbia and 29 other countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.