Monday, February 4, 2013

JKTS Chat: More with CINDERELLA's Cody Williams

Cody as Will at Arena Stage
Last time we heard from Cody Williams, he and the entire Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella company were just getting ready to start previews.  (Click HERE to read that interview!)  He's been a pretty busy guy, but not too busy to talk a little more with me.  This time around, he talks about working with some of the biggest names in the business, what he'd like to talk to Rodgers and Hammerstein about, and he reveals how he keeps in shape during previews AND rehearsals.  PLUS, he shares some fun pictures and an x-ray!  (Yes, you read that right!)  AND he also answers a few of YOUR questions!  Now, here's...


JEFF: Last time we chatted, you expressed how exciting it is to create a role versus going into a running show.  So, now that you've been through the bulk of rehearsals for Cinderella, what would you say has been the biggest surprise of the process?  The biggest challenge?

CODY: The biggest surprise of the process happened one day during rehearsal for a dance number called “The Pursuit.”  At one point in the number, I slide stage left into the proscenium, quickly jump up, run stage right, and jump over cast member, Branch Woodman, as he is running directly at me.  We had done this same sequence in the workshop, so Branch and I were familiar with each other.  However, in this rehearsal something about the timing seemed off.  To my surprise, I never touched the ground after jumping over Branch.  I found myself sitting six feet up on the top of his head!!! 

As for the biggest challenge, it is learning the two roles (Prince Topher and Jean-Michel) that I understudy.  There are some moments in the show that I have never seen performed because I am either onstage or changing, so I am really excited to start understudy rehearsals!

JEFF: You have had the chance to work with some real big names in the business with this show.  What have you learned from the creative team that you feel you will carry with you for the rest of the career?  

CODY: There are so many things I have learned from them!!!!  The most important lesson I have learned is to be friendly and kind to everyone.  The creative team showed me that the way to work in theater is to know the business/be friends with everyone, know how you fit in the business/be friends with everyone, and have some sort of talent/be friends with everyone.  When you think about it, a person only has two reasons to cast you: they like you, or they think you can make them money.  It is inevitable that people will annoy others when trying to build a show.  By proactively becoming friends with everyone, you will have much more fun, solve problems easier, feel better about yourself, have more success, and so much more!  I can’t tell you how important this is!

Cody Williams and June Schreiner 
(Will and Ado) in Arena Stage’s Oklahoma!

JEFF: Were Rodgers and Hammerstein alive today and working on the show, what questions would you have for them?  As an actor (and, I assume, fan) what would like to say to them?

CODY: I would love to hear them share their insights and secrets on their work.  Can you imagine how enlightening it would be to hear them describe how they wrote a song like “Impossible”?  When I was working on Oklahoma! at Arena Stage, our dramaturg showed us a map that Lynn Riggs had drawn for Richard Rodgers in rehearsal.  It showed where all of the places in Oklahoma! were in relation to each other.  I would love to have Rodgers and Hammerstein draw a map of Cinderellas world.   Knowing how long it takes you to walk or ride to a location makes entering a scene much more truthful.  You are given so much as an actor when you know this information.

JEFF: You are in a large cast full of relative newcomers mixed with some seasoned stage veterans.  What have you learned from the veterans?  

CODY: Not too long after I moved to New York, I was extremely lucky to have been cast in a workshop of Yank!.  Years of acting classes had taught me enough to get cast in shows, but by doing Yank!, I got to see firsthand how the pros did it.  The entire cast was incredible.  I like to consider my time watching and working with Santino Fontana, Bobby Steggert, Tally Sessions, Morgan Spector, Tyler Maynard, Michael Berresse and Cory Michael Smith (just to name a few!) as my grad school.  Those guys taught me how it was done.  I owe so much of my recent success to that experience.  R + H's Cinderella has given me the most amazing opportunity of understudying Santino.  I get to study his every move and walk in his footsteps.  It has been such a huge learning experience.

Such a great show!!!

JEFF: Now that you are in the midst of previews and rehearsals, what kind of routine do you have to keep up your strength, stamina and general health?  I imagine two show days can be grueling!  What kinds of exercises do you do to maintain/prevent injuries, given that you sing, dance and play a raccoon?

CODY: First and foremost, I have to get enough sleep.  Without that everything falls apart.  Since I tend to stay up pretty late; naps are my saving grace.  To warm up for the show, I spend about 20 minutes doing dynamic movements, yoga flows, a ballet barre, and stretching.  At intermission, I throw a back handspring or two and make sure my legs are still warm.   Vocally, I warm up by doing a few exercises.  I try to take a weekly voice lesson too.  Shameless Plug: I have the most incredible voice teacher.  He is the reason I have booked work.  If you are looking for someone, message me on Twitter @odyilliams and I will put you in contact!

Cody, here are a few questions from readers!

1.  Favorite junk food/fast food?  Favorite healthy food?

CODY: I LOVE the chocolate pizza at Max Brenner, but I am staying far away from it because I have to respect the unitard.  To stay healthy, I eat at Chopt about every day.

2.  Favorite sport to watch?  Play? Want to try?

CODY: My favorite sport is Mixed Martial Arts.  UFC fight nights are my favorite!  Alexander Aguilar (Lysistrata Jones, Memphis) and Josh Segarra (Dogfight, Lysistrata Jones) are my fight night buddies.  I used to train MMA when I was in college, but I broke my collarbone sparring.  Alex actually took me to get a plate and six screws put in.  Until I get those taken out, I will stick to dancing.

Cody Williams as a white belt

Josh Segarra, Cody Williams, and Alexander Aguilar

6 Screws... 1 Collarbone 

3.  Who is the biggest influence in your life so far and why?

CODY: That is an extremely hard question to answer.  My family has raised and cared for me.  My teachers have helped me become the person I wanted to be.  My friends have enriched my life.  If I would have to pick one person, I might say my older cousin Warren.  The summer before I started 3rd grade, 6'7" sports star Warren told me that he swam 100 laps without stopping.  He bet me that I couldn't do the same.  The next day I went to the pool, put on my goggles, and started swimming.  At adult swim I completely ignored the lifeguard.  I swam for hours!  At 100 laps I was feeling strong so I started for the next hundred.  At 127, my mother who was tired of sitting in the sun told me Warren had been kidding!  I went home and slept for two days.  That experience influenced the rest of my life.  It taught me that if I gave something my all, I could accomplish anything.


  • Have a question for Cody?  Email it to: or Tweet me: @jkstheatrescene and I'll pass it on!
  • Read more about Cody' pal, Josh Segarra, by clicking on the "JKTS CHAT: The Interviews" tab at the top of the blog and scroll down to Josh's links!


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