Accomplished actress and New Jersey native Renée Marino was thrilled to play a role in the Broadway production of Jersey Boys, and even more thrilled to be chosen by Clint Eastwood to bring the character of Mary Delgado to the big screen in his upcoming film version of the musical. The Daily Quirk recently spoke to Marino about her experiences working on Broadway, how she landed the role of Mary Delgado in the new film and what it was like to work with Clint Eastwood! Check out the exclusive interview below.
The Daily Quirk: You have quite a background in musical theater! When did you realize that you wanted to perform as a career?
Renée Marino: From the time I was a little girl, I was involved in the arts. I started out as a dancer, and at 5 years old I was known as the little tap and jazz girl. Those were my two favorite styles. It just naturally progressed. I started doing community theater and then I started taking private voice lessons. It was something that came so naturally to me. When it was time for college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to major in and so many friends and mentors of mine said, ‘Renée, performing is a really unstable career, you should maybe think of something to fall back on’ and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do this. This is my one true love and I’m going to do this.’ So I decided to major in Musical Theater, and it was amazing. I got the most incredible training at Wagner College on Staten Island in New York. The day after my college graduation, I was on the plane to Biloxi, Miss. where I was going to begin my first paid gig as the lead singer in a casino show called Heatwave. After that, I booked the 25th Anniversary tour of Cats. I was a swing, so I covered nine different roles, which was unbelievable. After that job, I felt like I could do anything, because that was one of the most challenging shows mentally and physically to do. I received my Equity card doing the world premiere of High School Musical. I decided to leave that tour after nine months because one of my long term goals was to be on Broadway. I decided I needed to come back to New York City so that I could book a Broadway show.
TDQ: Your first role on Broadway was in West Side Story, and you started performing the show after only 3 days of rehearsal! What was that experience like?
RM: It was the coolest show to be part of! I was actually at callbacks for Oklahoma! at a regional theater in DC, and after the audition I got called into the office by the casting director, who was the same casting director as West Side Story. I had auditioned for the show months prior, when I was still on tour. He asks me, ‘Renée, do you sing soprano? Because I need you to cover one of our Shark girls in West Side Story,’ and I screamed, ‘Oh my god! I think I just peed my pants.’ It was so amazing but such a whirlwind. I started rehearsal the next day. I learned all of the opening number, and then I watched the show that night. The second day I learned all of the ballet, and the next day, I learned half of ‘America.’ I had Sunday and Monday off, and on Tuesday I decided to go over to the theater. I was stretching backstage, and the next thing I know, the stage manager comes up to me and says, ‘Renée, how about an early rehearsal tomorrow morning? I think you’re going to be onstage for the matinee.’ I said, ‘Ok, let’s do this!’ The next morning, I was in the rehearsal studio with the associate choreographer learning the rest of ‘America,’ and that afternoon I had my Broadway debut! I never stepped foot on stage besides the audition. I never did a run through with the cast! I just did it. It was quite a lesson in trust. I think it’s a really good lesson for a performer or anyone that’s aspiring to really be a professional in this career. I’m a very hard worker and I put 500 percent into everything I do. It’s important because these situations happen all the time.
TDQ: You were part of a workshop called Becoming Chaplin that turned into an original Broadway musical called Chaplin. What was it like to work on an original production?
RM: It was amazing. It’s so cool to see something develop. As a cast member, when you’re in the developmental stage, you give your own flair to the character. When it becomes an actual thing, you realize that you created that moment. Just to show you how a workshop works, at the start of the second act, there’s a scene that represents Chaplin’s movie The Circus. One day in rehearsal, our director Warren Carlyle as a joke, says, ‘We have a hoop, I’d love if somebody could just jump through it,’ and I was like, ‘I’ll do it!’ In rehearsal, Warren and his associate choreographer thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be funny!’ Then I actually did it and they were like, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re keeping it!’ So I jumped through a hoop in the beginning of Act 2 and then ended with doing front walkovers through a hoop at the end of the number. Needless to say, it was very physical! The show was such a beautiful show, especially since it showed history. People of all ages loved and appreciated the show.
TDQ: You’ll be starring as Mary Delgado in Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film adaptation of Jersey Boys coming out this summer, and it won’t be the first time you’ve played the role. Can you tell us a bit about how you went from playing Mary on stage to screen?
RM: I was asked to cover the role on Broadway for seven months while Mary Delgado was on maternity leave. It was a dream come true, because I had such a relation to Jersey Boys. It was always a hope that I could one day perform it in New York City. My entire family is from New Jersey, so all of my family could come in and see me play the role. On a Sunday matinee, someone backstage said, ‘Clint Eastwood’s here.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, awesome!’ He had been going around to all the different casts to see different performances because he knew he was directing the film. He watched us perform, and it was great. We all took a big group picture after, and then a couple weeks later I went in to audition for the film. At first I was just going in to audition for an Angel, one of the girls who sings ‘My Boyfriend’s Back.’ When I was in there, I said, ‘You know, I would really love to read for Mary Delgado,’ and the casting director was like, ‘Absolutely! I was just thinking the same thing.’ So I actually got to audition for the role. That was June 8, and on June 28 I got the call. It was so special, because I was home in New Jersey with my family. It was crazy, I screamed and then I ran out of my room. My mom and dad and my 92-year-old grandmother were crying and my agent was on the other line crying and saying, ‘Clint Eastwood loved you!’ It was just so surreal. Again, it was a huge lesson in trust, because it was my first film. I’ll never forget that first day where everyone was so warm and wonderful. All of Clint Eastwood’s team were just such great people. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Clint Eastwood. He’s such a rockstar, and there’s a reason he’s a legend, and it’s not just because of his talent. Clint gave us so much freedom as actors. It was such a beautiful and incredible experience. It re-inspired me so much as an actor and as a performer.
TDQ: What originally attracted you to the role?
RM: Mary Delgado is a character that, from the beginning, I had such a connection to. She’s a spitfire and she’s very sarcastic. There are a lot of qualities that we share. I think that’s what makes her so charming and so attractive to Frankie in the beginning. She’s a very strong-willed woman. Mary Delgado herself didn’t change from the play to the film because the character is who she is.
TDQ: What was it like to perform the live show for an extended period of time and then capture it on film?
RM: For me, it’s only like retraining your muscle memory, because on stage, you only work with a couple set pieces or a couple of props. I’m so accustomed to that. When I got on the film set, I just had to consciously say to myself ‘Ok Renée, just let all of that muscle memory go and just live and breathe in the space.’ There’s a scene in the play and the movie that is Mary and Frankie’s first date. It’s a pizza scene. On stage, I’m used to sitting at a table with two chairs and a glass for my wine and my cigarette. It was so crazy for me to actually get on set and be inside of a pizza shop with someone eating pizza next to me! It was like re-shifting the gears. It was great to have those surroundings where I could just live in the story. That was the biggest change. As far as the character, I feel like in the film you really get to see more of her. You get to understand her a little more just because there are more scenes in the film. It’s nice to see how their relationship developed.
TDQ: Can you tell us about working with Mr. Eastwood?
RM: We had the best time! In one intense scene, Frankie and I were in a huge argument. I did it once, and Clint says, ‘Alright Renée, now I want you to really give it to him,’ and I’m going through it for the second time, and in the middle of it, I forget my line! I just scream and keep going. Afterwards, he said, ‘That was it!’ and I said, ‘Clint, I forgot my line!’ and he told me, ‘It doesn’t matter. Mistakes are the best. I love to keep mistakes. That’s where it’s raw.’ That’s what makes him so great. He’s all about the reality of it. And the reality is, you’re so angry sometimes that you forget what you have to say. It was such an incredible experience on set. He almost makes it more of a collaborative effort. It’s so easy for me as an actor to say, ‘Hey Clint, could we try this?’ He’ll say, ‘Sure. Let’s try it.’ It was absolutely incredible working with him.
TDQ: Do you think fans of the stage show will feel the film adaptation does it justice?
RM: Yes. Everything that we love about the show is there, but there’s added goodness. With film, we’re able to do a lot more. I think that fans are going to be really excited about it. I’m one of the biggest fans of the show and the story and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. The reason why I feel that way is that Clint Eastwood is so good at what he does. The fact that he decided to cast people in these roles that weren’t celebrities or A-listers, but people that helped originate these roles, like John Lloyd Young, who plays Frankie Valli is the original Frankie. There’s something about that rawness and that truth that he loved in these actors. I hope that it translates to film because it sure felt like it while filming. It’s so important for Clint to keep the truth alive. It’s not about the bells and whistles for him. It’s not about a huge set, it’s about staying true to the story and true to these characters. I’d like to think that the fans will be very happy.
TDQ: You are also an avid singer/songwriter! When did you discover that you have an interest in writing songs?
RM: I discovered it while I was doing my first job in Biloxi. The sound man was an amazing guy and he took such a liking to me and loved my voice. He owned a recording studio and asked me, ‘Do you write?’ and funny enough, I had written this song randomly. I used to be a substitute teacher at my old high school, and I remember one day I had some time and I just started writing. There was something in me and I started writing this song. So when he asked me, I showed him the lyrics, and he said, ‘You know, why don’t you come down to the studio.’ That was the first time I recorded a song and I just loved it. It was something that I took to. I’m a big writer, I love to journal, I love to write all the time. It helps me figure things out for myself when I’m in a bind, or I have a question. After that, I was in the recording studio all the time. I wrote a couple of other songs, and I fell in love with it.
TDQ: Can you tell us about your demo, Jersey Girl?
RM: The first song on there is called ‘Communicate.’ and this song is exactly what it sounds like! It’s about how communication is the basis of any relationship. My fiancée will attest, because I told him that when we first started dating. I told him, ‘Listen, if you don’t communicate, you’re gone. Communication is key for me,’ and we always laugh about that. He heard my song when we first started dating, and that rung a bell for him, because he realized I was serious about it. The second song, which is one of my favorites is called ‘Life, Love and Happiness.’ I wrote that while I was touring with Jersey Boys. I was in Las Vegas driving in the car. In Vegas, when you drive on some of the roads and you can see the mountains, and the trees are blowing in the wind and I remember being so inspired. I remember thinking ‘Here I am, I’m doing what I love,’ The sun shining, the mountains and the trees were the inspiration for the song. There’s a couple more on there, but those are two of my favorites.
TDQ: What’s one quirky thing that fans would be surprised to find about you?
RM: Oh god, there’s so many! When I go to sleep at night, I can’t go to sleep with the closet doors open! I don’t know why, there’s something about the doors being open that makes me feel incomplete. I have to shut it. It’s weird.
TDQ: And what’s your personal favorite Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons song?
RM: ‘My Eyes Adored You.’ I just think it’s such a beautiful song. As soon as I hear it, I get chills. It’s my favorite.
The Daily Quirk would like to thank Renée Marino for taking the time to chat! To find out more about Marino you can follow her on Twitter and check her out in Jersey Boys when it hits theaters Summer 2014.