Kelly Marie Tran broke into the Hollywood mainstream as Rose Tico in the recent Star Wars films The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, and she took on her first blockbuster title role as the voice of Raya in this year’s Raya and the Last Dragon. With her star on the rise on the West Coast, it came as something of a surprise to see her name pop up as one of the performers set for the 2021 edition of Miscast, MCC Theater’s annual fundraiser featuring stars of stage and screen singing songs from roles in which they would not traditionally be cast.
But for Tran, who has been a musical-theatre acolyte since middle school, the move made perfect sense. Watch Tran’s performance of The Book of Mormon‘s “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” below. And, read on to learn about the actor’s favorite childhood musical theatre experiences and the role she’d love to play…but would probably be miscast in.
What made you want to take part in Miscast?
I’ve been a huge musical theatre fan my entire life, so being part of Miscast is an absolute dream come true! I can’t believe I get to be part of it—and the class of 2021 is wild! Idina Menzel! Billy Porter! Renée Elise Goldsberry! Appearances from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hugh Dancy! Are you kidding me? Who would not want to be a part of this and… are they okay?
What is your personal history with musical theatre?
The first musical I ever saw was a high school production of Oklahoma!. I was in sixth grade. I couldn’t stop singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” around my parents’ house for months! It’s the reason I got into performing. I started doing musicals—shows like Anything Goes, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys & Dolls—and to this day, I still only listen to musical theatre soundtracks (my friends always give me crap for not listening to “cool music” by “cool bands,” but I don’t care). To me, musical theatre is an example of a world where impossible things are possible! People are constantly breaking into song and dance, and to be honest, that’s where I want to live.
As Rose Tico and Raya, you have a history of taking on ground-breaking roles. What stage performer(s) inspired you?
There are so many stage performers who have inspired me! Savion Glover! Lin-Manuel Miranda! Lea Salonga! They are all ground-breaking in their own right. The list goes on and on. Oh, and also—playwrights! Reading plays is my comfort space. Some of the playwrights I love are Lauren Yee, Annie Baker, Jeremy O. Harris, Anna Deavere Smith, Moisés Kaufman, Antoinette Nwandu, Celine Song… I’m sure there’s more! There are so many incredible artists in the theatre space!
What is your dream Broadway role?
I don’t have a specific dream role, really. My dream is to make radical, revolutionary art that opens people’s minds and influences culture. I want to keep making miraculous, magical things with miraculous, magical people. And above all, I want to keep surprising myself.
In the spirit of Miscast, what Broadway role would you be miscast in but would love to play?
Gavroche in Les Misérables. I’m dying to sing these words: “And little people know, when little people fight—we may look like little weaklings— but we’ve got some bite!” I feel like that’s the logline of my life!
Click here for the full broadcast of Miscast21, which will remain available through May 20.