Carrie Johnson is a Madison High School graduate who has made her acting dream a reality. She is currently on the national tour of Les Miserables as Fantine's understudy and in the ensemble. The tour will be at National Theatre in Washington, D.C. starting Dec. 7.
When did you first start acting and was there any significant moment that made you start seriously acting?
My mom would probably say I started acting when I was 3, but the first acting I remember is doing Children's Spotlight Theatre which later expanded into a major children's theater. At Madison High School I was in the theater group. During my college summers, around '97, I got a job at Busch Gardens Williamsburg where I was part of the strollers, a singing quartet. We rode a bike made for four around the park and would periodically stop and talk to people and then start singing. It was one of those random performance groups that would go around the park and no one would know when we would start performing. That job gave me the bug to start acting.
What was your favorite role and why?
It would have to be the role I am currently in, being the understudy for Fantine. This was the first show that I saw and it was also the first show that I saw at National Theatre. As a kid it moved me. I found myself singing all of the songs in the car. Now, I am able to sing all of the songs that inspired me as a kid. It went full circle. Other roles I have enjoyed were the Baker's Wife in "Into the Woods" and Aldonza in "Man of La Mancha," which I performed in high school and college. It was interesting to reprise those roles in college when I knew a little bit more about acting.
Have you had the opportunity to work with any well-known actors? If so, what was it like?
In the theater world, I have worked with a couple of famous actors. I have worked with Randall Keith and Ivan Rutherford. They have both been the Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera" and Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables." It was fun to work with them – they have interesting stories to tell. Ivan Rutherford was Jean Valjean when Ricky Martin was Marius on Broadway. It was interesting to hear stories about Ricky before he was Ricky Martin. When I hear these stories I can get a sense of their emotions that they draw from when they are performing. When I am able to see those actors it is a great character study. I have also gotten the chance to work with Barry Williams and Shelly Long. Everyone I have worked with has been very interesting and has had a lot of good stories to share.
Would you consider acting on television or in a movie?
If the right opportunity came up at the right time, I would take it. Sitcoms are very interesting, but I haven't decided how far I want to go with that angle. Everything is in Los Angeles and I don't know if I am ready to pick up and go. Right now it would be hard for me to move from Virginia and go to L.A. That is a city where you really have to be ready for anything and it might take awhile to get a foot in the door. I just bought a house in northern Virginia and am getting settled. I wouldn't want to move unless there was something for me in L.A.
If someone asked you for advice on starting an acting career, what would you say?
It all depends on what that person needs to hear and is looking for. I would give that person all the encouragement that they could ask for, but they really have to love acting. It is difficult to be on tour all of the time — it is not just a glamorous life. Living in a different hotel room and out of a suitcase is not so glamorous. You live with the same people 24 hours of the day. The job is wonderful, but life is hard. I do get to perform in famous buildings and catch up with people that I have not seen in a few years. I also get to see many different towns. It is great to have a life that you are passionate about. I would also tell that person to not pass up any opportunity. Have a passion for what you do and be persistent.
When you do not have a rehearsal or performance, what do you do for fun?
Right now I am choosing paint colors for my house. I also check e-mail and do projects. Right now I am trying to put together my own cabaret show. I also do the touristy things when I am in a city: such as explore the city, see any new sights that I might not have seen before. We also find some of the good malls and coffee shops that are around us. Many people also pick up hobbies when they are on tour, such as knitting or crocheting items.
<lst>Birthday: December 1st
Hometown: Grew up in Vienna for 15 years
College: University of Illinois
First Job: Western show in Tokyo Disneyland
Music: romantic era of classical, Broadway musicals, jazz, icons such as Barbara Streisand
Books: Adventure/Fantasy — Lord of the Rings, reading about different religions around the world
Movies: Anything that has amazing actors in it. Go see movies for actors and plot line. Like to study and learn from them.