Recently, it was announced that Utah native Jenny Latimer will play the role of Cosette in the 25th anniversary U.S. national tour of Les Misérables. We recently caught up with Jenny by phone and asked her a few questions about the role, her Utah roots, and her theatrical experience.
UTBA: First, tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
Latimer: Well I’ve lived in Utah for 90% of my life as the oldest of eight kids. You can infer a lot from that and you would probably be right.
UTBA: How did you get your start in theatre? What was your very first show?
Latimer: My now-dear friend Pam Peterson cast me as Cinderella in the 4th grade play spectacular. I probably could have died happy then. I mean what 10-year-old girl doesn’t want to wear a big pink dress and dance with talking mice? Pam ended up being the drama teacher at the Junior High and started giving me great opportunities from the get-go. I was very lucky.
UTBA: What are some productions that Utah audiences would know you from?
Latimer: I’ve been lucky enough to have worked at the Hale in West Valley, The Hale in Orem, Provo Theater Company, Tuacahn, and at Brigham Young University. Recently, I portrayed Christine in Maury Yeston’s Phantom at the West Valley Hale as well as Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel. At BYU, I portrayed Margot in Dial M. for Murder, and Ophelia in Hamlet. I’m particularly grateful for these last two shows because through them I received an Irene Ryan nomination and than ultimately received a scholarship to study with the Steppenwolf Theater Company.
UTBA: What theatrical work have you done outside of Utah?
Latimer: Well, I’ve only done one show outside of Utah, and that was She Loves Me at Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s theater in Westport, Connecticut. I worked with Tony award winners Mark Lamos and Jonathan Butterell who directed and choreographed the show. I also got to work with the most lovely and supportive cast ever. Everyone had such a positive energy. I actually auditioned for Les Mis while doing that show, and I believe the love of the cast was instrumental in my getting the job.
UTBA: Besides the cast, what else did you like about working in Westport?
Latimer: Other then Michael Emerson’s (Ben from Lost) headshot being right outside my dressing room? No seriously, there is so much history at a theater like that. So many greats have played there. Christopher Plumber, Eartha Kitt, Blythe Danner, the list goes on and on. You feel like you are on hallowed theater ground. But, lets be honest, Ben guarding my dressing room with that intensive stare. Amazing.
UTBA: Tell me about the audition process for Les Mis.
Latimer: It was actually I pretty quick process for me, thank heavens, because I have the patience of a 5-year-old child in situations like these. I had my first audition on a Tuesday and a final callback that Friday. At my first audition the whole directing team was there and we immediately jived. Such lovely people. My callback was a little more intense, because the writers flew in from France to be there. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be singing “In My Life” for Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil. Never. Claude-Michel actually took my hand and helped me find the emotional journey of the piece. Surreal. Completely surreal. I also was able to sing through “A Heart Full of Love” with my future cast mates, Justin Scott Brown and Chasten Harmon. I actually met Justin at my very first audition in New York. So, it’s been really neat to come full circle like this. Oh, here is a funny tidbit: I got confused and mixed up Claude-Michel and Alain. I twittered after my audition that Alain had gone through “In My Life” with me. Much to my horror I realized soon after I got home the mistake I had made and erased it off my twitter right away, only to find out later that someone in the audition room googled me and read my twitter to the group right after I left! Thanks internet, you’re a real pal.
UTBA: When you found out, what was your reaction?
Latimer: Ecstatic. Shocked. Elated. Nervous. Grateful, so so grateful.
UTBA: What excites you most about this production?
Latimer: That it’s a reimaging of the story. I feel like I get to create a character instead of playing something that has already been discovered. The 25th anniversary tour has new sets, new costumes, new staging and new orchestrations. I can’t wait for the die hard Les Mis fans to see something they love so much with such a fresh take.
UTBA: When do you start rehearsal? When and where will your first performance be?
Latimer: Rehearsals started in the beginning of October and will last about a month and a half. We’ll start by playing at Paper Mill Playhouse, which is a well-known regional theater in New Jersey. We’ll be there for a month and in January we start touring. We actually go through Utah on my birthday (June 3rd), so I can’t wait!!
UTBA: When was the first time you were exposed to Les Mis?
Latimer: I never saw a professional production of Les Mis growing up. My family, although incredibly supportive, weren’t really theater people until I forced them to be. I did know the song “On My Own,” as most girls I knew were belting it around every street corner. I actually think one of the first theater bits-of-wisdom given to me was, “Never sing ‘On My Own’ at an audition.”
UTBA: You’re an acting student at BYU and have had many complex roles. Which ones have helped you grow the most as an actor?
Latimer: All of them in some way or another, but Ophelia in Hamlet especially.
UTBA: Describe to me your professional training. Which aspects have been most helpful?
Latimer: Making sure I was always working on something I’m passionate about. So many people went through college never having done a show. This was definitely not me. I was always trying to work with directors who I knew would stretch me on projects that I was passionate about. I wouldn’t take back my acting training for a second, but I do think practical application is just as important.
UTBA: Any words for the Utah theatre community?
Latimer: I would tell everyone who has dreamed of doing this to never give up. Never ever give up. It takes a lot of hard work and tenacity, but it’s not as far out of your reach as you might imagine. Work with people you love. It will make all the difference. And lastly a quote from Conan O’Brien on his last show that really hit home: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
UTBA: Thank you for the interview, Jennifer. UTBA wishes you the best of luck in the coming months with your work.
The new U.S. tour of Les Misèrables will visit the Capitol Theatre (50 W. 200 S., Salt Lake City) from May 25 to June 5, 2011. Tickets prices and exact show times are not available yet but more information will be posted at BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com. You can read UTBA’s review of the production here.
Update: On January 29, 2012, Ms. Latimer finished her last performance in the U.S. national tour of Les Misérables. We wish her the best of luck as she moves on to new artistic endeavors.