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You’re releasing a bunch of projects all at once this year. I’d been playing teenagers for so long because I’m so short. If people want Nikki Blonsky, they’re gonna get Nikki Blonsky. Talk a little about trying to make it in Hollywood as a plus-size actress. ” The roles I’ve played before have been kind of delicate. In “Geography Club,” for instance, I play a lesbian. Lainie has given me so much advice about this business.
The saying my grandmother always said was, “When it rains, it pours.” I was out of work for a while, I was kind of sad. People are like, you have such a young-looking face. It’s definitely been something I’ve struggled with.
And my 17th birthday came and I went online to see if [the Broadway production] was casting. I went into it with open arms, ready for whatever’s next. It was incredible to see countries I’d never seen before! The “Hairspray” casting was such a particular, unusual method, looking for a complete unknown. When they see that, they see that I’m a real person. Has that distance from New York and Los Angeles hindered your career?
Blonsky is getting back into work, with roles in the independent high school-set films “The English Teacher” (out May 17) and “Geography Club” (which was released last month) and on the TV series “Smash.” It’s a flush period for the actress, whose parents have veto power over the roles for which she auditions (though Blonsky brought up, on more than one occasion, the idea that she might shoot a nude scene). She’s a very strong woman who is amazing and takes care of her family first and I admire her so much for that. She shows me you don’t have to be a size zero to be gorgeous.
We spoke to Blonsky about her rise to fame and the period after “Hairspray” and about the challenges facing a plus-size would-be star. I think we all have to remember as we get older that there’s only one of us. My career for the next however I live on, I want to spend it with my family, work, have a family down the road. If — — a movie were to come along that was blowing my mind amazing, and it had a nude scene, and it had a scene where I was topless or whatever, I would definitely consult with my parents and say, “Is this the role for me to break out completely? In the industry, Liza Minnelli has been wonderful to me, and I’m extremely close with Lainie Kazan. A., my hairstylist keeps me on the straight and narrow.
I’m gonna be 100 percent honest with you in this interview. And yet, again, I’m not afraid to get into the audition room with these big directors and audition for them. You get to really show your creativity in independent films — I love big-budget films, don’t get me wrong! What is the biggest thing you learned in your rise to fame, as it were?
I was so thrilled and excited to get the role of Tracy Turnblad. I went to the Neil Simon Theatre to see it for my 15th birthday. ” My 16th birthday came and I auditioned, but they didn’t want to get a tutor on set for the show. I went around the world with Zac [Efron] and my mom. I’m not afraid — I look at myself not as a celebrity but as a regular person who’s just trying to get a job. I always say that every audition is an opportunity — even if you don’t get the part, you get to play that character for five minutes in the audition. We’re doing this interview over the phone because you live on Long Island. One major thing I learned in my initial rise to fame — as you would say it, not as I would say it — is to remain yourself and always stay yourself.
But a reason for her protracted unemployment lies in the very nature of her rise to fame; Blonsky was plucked from obscurity to star in “Hairspray” and play Tracy Turnblad, a heavyset teen in segregated Baltimore.
(The 2007 film was the second onscreen take on the material; the original version starred Ricki Lake.) It’s difficult for plus-size actresses to have long careers; while Melissa Mc Carthy, older than Blonsky, has been able to make herself the butt of the joke, there simply aren’t very many roles for actresses heavier than size 4.
“I was out of work for a while,” she told Salon, ruefully chuckling.“I was kind of sad.” Indeed, when we asked Blonsky to comment on rumors that she had been working as a cosmetologist and shoe saleswoman, her publicist cut us off and indicated that Blonsky shouldn’t answer.