A Broadway Debut Through Suzy Nakamura's Lens | Playbill

Photo Features A Broadway Debut Through Suzy Nakamura's Lens

The television veteran and star of POTUS talks being shot out of a cannon, the importance of comedy, and vomit rehearsals.

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz

Known primarily for her onscreen roles, most recently appearing in HBO's Avenue 5 and Netflix's Dead to Me, Suzy Nakamura returned to her theatre roots this spring in POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. Nakamura plays Jean, the acerbic White House press secretary in the political farce centered on a PR nightmare that befalls the White House as seven female support staff risk everything to keep the commander-in-chief out of trouble. Written by Selina Fillinger and directed by Tony winner Susan Stroman, the limited engagement is set to run at the Shubert Theatre through August 14.

In this new photo feature series from Playbill, Broadway favorites will share their views on a singular subject as photographer Heather Gershonowitz captures them on film. See a part of the world through their lens, and see them through ours.

Ahead of the POTUS' final performance, Nakamura stopped by the Playbill studio to share her Broadway debut experience through her lens.

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz

The obvious assumptions about coming to Broadway are all true, it's the dream job for everyone. And for me, the wonderful part is seeing your call sheet and Rachel [Dratch] has Arabic lessons, and there's also two vomit rehearsals, and I think ‘what choices have I made to bring me to this point?’ I'm telling 17-year-old Suzy that she’s walking in New York City because she’s on lunch during rehearsal for her Broadway show and she is losing her goddamn mind.”

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz

“While we were rehearsing in a black box theater, we didn't know if it was funny yet. We were getting close to previews and Susan Stroman said, ‘We're going to do this in front of a friendly crowd, we're just going to invite friends and family.’ We did it and immediately there were laughs. It was almost unnerving. At the end of the first act Rachel is on the ground, the curtain goes down and Rachel looks up and goes, ‘What just happened?’ She had voiced what we were all thinking, like we didn’t understand what actually just happened. And then we were off to the races. POTUS is like getting shot out of a cannon as far as energy and pace go. Stro basically said, ‘This show starts at a 10 and you have to go up from there.’”

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz

"This production is 99% women. There was this energy that Susan Stroman created and everyone was fantastic from the table read. She assembled this group and there was immediate trust. You have to have that when you’re doing something creative. You want to feel comfortable, you have to feel free to fail. My expectations of knowing this was going to be a great experience have been surpassed because these women are exceptional. This cast is exceptional. The Shubert is absolutely beautiful. You sit in the house and watch other people rehearse, you're introduced to the stage that spins (which is crazy), and then you look up and the artwork is all women—by coincidence. I just love the spectrum of the characters. I love the spectrum of personalities, ages, types. Five of the seven women on stage are over 50 and we're not fucking doing Arsenic and Old Lace. We're running around punching each other, we’re rolling on the ground, we have vomit rehearsals, it's fantastic. Selina [Fillinger] put in the script that three of the seven women have to be women of color. And because it says that in the script, with the stroke of a pen, she has opened doors for more women with these roles.”

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz

"What's great about doing a comedy is you get that immediate response—the audience can't help it. There's a real satisfaction to be able to do that because you can't really control laughter and to hear uncontrollable laughter is really gratifying. Especially now. After the Roe v. Wade decision, the last thing I wanted to do was go do a comedy, but then I got there and I was surrounded by these women and I didn't want to be anywhere else. Then when we did the show and we had to hold for applause during the one line about reproductive healthcare, I realized, oh, maybe people need this, too. It's great to be reminded that what we're doing is not frivolous.” 

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz

“For me to keep my shit together at the beginning of the show, I have to consciously relax to go get 'shot out of the cannon.' But at curtain call, we're more versions of ourselves and I get to see the faces in the audience each night and they're just so into it. It reminds me again that this show and being on Broadway is such a special thing. You can tell it resonates personally for people and that's really wonderful. (I'm tearing up just thinking about it). Theatre is such an important part of our lives because it's such a unique form—there's nothing like it."

Suzy Nakamura Heather Gershonowitz
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