Q & A with Nick Kohn
BB: Where did you got to college for theatre?
NK: I graduated from James Madison University in Virginia with a Bachelor of Music. I double majored in Vocal Performance and Music Industry as a "fall back on" career if I needed it. I actually started out as training to be an opera singer, and then my senior year I decided to pursue musical theater. Luckily JMU's degrees are good for well rounding it's students so I took acting and dance classes in addition to music that were required for my major.
BB: As far as schooling/training what were some great attributes to studying there and/or some negatives?
NK: I really loved my college experience and we were lucky to have great faculty who prepared us for our careers as well as music and vocal training. The only thing I wish we had was any type of performing showcases for Agents and Casting Directors. This has become standard for all the big performing art schools and really gives the students a leg up in the business when they arrive in New York looking for work.
BB: What is one thing that you learned while actively pursuing a NY stage career that you wish you would have known/learned before moving to the city ?
NK: BE YOURSELF! There is nothing more detrimental to an actor's audition than trying to be what you think the people behind the table "want you to be" rather than bringing your own personality and interpretation to a character. 9 times out of 10 the creative team of shows (particularly new shows) have no idea what they want and love to find it in the audition room by watching an actor bring it with them. Be your own weird, unique and amazing self. I'm still learning this to this day.
BB: How was the transition from going from college to pursuing a NY career?
NK: In high school I was very active in the choirs so singing was pretty easy for me. I struggled with music theory (as do many music students) so I had to work very hard in that area. It's one of the hardest goals I've ever accomplished but it also prepared me for this equally and more difficult career in the business. I arrived in NYC in 1999 and was pounding the pavement looking for work. I'd arrive at open calls at 6am and wait all day and many times not even get seen. But I knew if I was going to work I had to keep doing it. I actually got Avenue Q from an Open Call Audition. Yes, it does happen! It's also really important to keep taking classes to better your craft. Most of my friends in Broadway shows still take class even if they're on their fifth show. Keep growing as a performer. Never stop learning.
BB: How/when did you get your first Broadway job?
NK: I was on the non-equity tour of the Buddy Holly story, and my friend was the drummer for Avenue Q. He kept urging me to audition for it in the early phases of its Vineyard Theatre run. I didn't have an agent at the time and I was out of town for all of the Equity calls. So I went to a Non-Equity Open Call because it was the last chance to be seen. I was typed in and performed 16 bars and got through. I had 8 callbacks before I was finally offered the Las Vegas production. When Vegas Q closed I did some regional theatre and temp work for about a year and in March of 2008 got the call from my agents that I was going to Broadway. It was thrilling. My opening was one of my greatest days. I'll never forget it.
BB: Can you offer a piece of audition advice?
NK: Besides be yourself like I mentioned above, I would say that if you've never been a reader at an audition, DO IT. Find a casting director and ask them to be one at any audition. Tell them you'll do it for free. It's the most valuable thing I've ever done. You see the entire process from the actor to the creative team's viewpoint. You learn very quickly that everyone; the Casting Director, Producers, Directors, Music Directors, Assistants, Interns even the person behind the piano playing for you, ALL want you to do well. Auditions are just weird unfortunately, but they can be fun if you remember they're all rooting for you to make their job easy.
BB: What was/is your day job/other ventures in between gigs or do you do both simultaneously?
NK: When I booked Avenue Q on Broadway, I kept my day job working in an office working four days a week so that I could quickly pay off some bills, save some money and buy some things I've always wanted. Eventually it became too exhausting and I wasn't seeing my wife very much so I left. Since then I did some scavenger hunts for extra money and I've been working more in TV which has been amazing. I also do a lot of readings and workshops too. I always tell actors to say yes to any reading, you never know where it will lead or the contacts you'll make for later in life.
BB: Do you still train/work on your craft?
NK: My wife and I have a new baby so most of my time now is spent changing diapers and not sleeping, haha. I'm hoping to get back into class as soon as he's a little older. I'm also lucky I get to try new things onstage every night in Avenue Q.
BB: Any words of inspiration or anything else you want to say/impart?
NK: I would say love yourself and be yourself. I'm not going to lie, it's a tough business with a lot of competition. But it's also one of the only jobs in the world that embraces people of all types, races, sexualities, shapes and personalities. High school teaches us to try and conform to some "normal" that doesn't exist. Real life embraces individuality, so keep the personality you were born with, it's much more interesting to people.
Nick Kohn can currently be seen in the Tony Award Winning Broadway Musical Avenue Q. He has appeared on Broadway and Las Vegas productions of Avenue Q and the National Tour of Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story. Regionally he has appeared in Chicago at North Shore Music Theatre, The Full Monty at Stages St. Louis where he was nominated for A Kevin Kline Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and The Cherry Orchard and A Christmas Carol at The McCarter Theatre. Nick’s television credits include Jessica Jones, Elementary, Person of Interest, Nurse Jackie and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He is married to Playwright Marissa Kohn and they have one son named August.