Carolyn Mignini is a veteran actress who has worked on acclaimed shows such as The Deuce, The Good Wife, Veep and House of Cards. She has also worked multiple times on Broadway. She debuted with Fiddler on the Roof. Her most recent foray was Tennesse Williams’ play, “The Rose Tattoo” which was revived in Fall 2019 and directed by Trip Cullman. She joined Marisa Tomei in the cast and embodied the character of Assunta.
I have always wanted to ask a live performer this question: what is your relationship with the audience during your performance? Can you perceive them? Do you hear them gasp, cry, laugh etc? Is it important that you do?
I think it is. Before each performance, I imagine a connection with the audience, essentially to open myself to the moment and to “invite them into the story” as director Trip Cullman puts it. Onstage, of course, I hear and perceive the audience, but they are more a general energetic field. It can be like riding a wave or then having a deeply private moment, either of which is heightened by their presence – a shared experience, ALWAYS unique and interesting.
You have had such a long career that has spanned various mediums including TV, Broadway and movies. Which is your favorite way of communicating? Does it matter? Are you more comfortable in one over the other?
I started out as a singer, so that will always have my heart. That said, I think one of the reasons I’ve stayed interested in this work is the variety; the fact that each circumstance calls me forward to keep learning, to challenge myself to sift focus and adjust to the requirements of one medium over another.
Is there a moment when you felt like “This is where the rest of my life starts”? Were you able to identify and recognize the moment when it occurred? If so, how did it feel like? If not, when did you realize it and what made it THAT moment?
Hadn’t thought about it, but there was definitely THAT moment. I was in 10th or 11th grade and had an opportunity to become part of The Baltimore Actor’s Theater, a local group. I’d never done anything like that. As I walked up the stairs, there it was; the musty, dry smell of an old theater that was strangely familiar. Took me unawares, but I knew I was HOME, where I belonged, with my tribe – a thrill I can still feel as I pull up the memory.
What is the harshest lesson about life that you have had to learn in all these years?
That no matter how smart I am or how hard I work, I can’t fix anyone but myself.
How has the industry changed in the years you have been working? Do you like the change? Would you rather they brought back some working styles from the past?
For me, the process of the actual work of acting hasn’t changed much…if anything it’s expanded. As for the industry, big changes – The explosion of content and available outlets for work is extraordinary. There is SO much to see and be part of. Theater remains the same in many ways, though higher production costs often require star talent to fund the projects. Overall, I’m excited about what’s happening. More stories, more work!
Have you been able to fulfill your personal ambitions for your career? If so, what were they? If not, what is left to be done? What do you want your legacy to look like?
Oh yeah. I am definitely having the life I envisioned, if not the order in which I’d expected it! And I am very pleased with my career so far. Broadway, What’s left to be done? More, I guess – More opportunities. Bigger leaps. I feel that some of my best work is ahead of me; as a regular on another great series, certainly more film roles and perhaps creating some content. I don’t know about my “legacy” I never consider it. I do know that I’m enjoying the ride more every year.
What according to you makes Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” worthy of a revival after so many years? What did you connect with in the play?
OMG, His words, the poetry of his writing – The fact that this play is essentially about love and breaking the bonds of old-world culture to move forward. I watched a run through while we were still in the rehearsal studio and all I kept thinking was that we NEED this more than ever right now. I connected with the Italian immigrant experience – re-imagining their lives in a new environment. Heroic, like my grandparents.
As Assunta, what emotions did you want to communicate to the audience? Did you find it a challenging role since the focus of the play is on Serafina and Alvaro and there really is no character arc associated with her character?
The first act is wild and very operatic. It sets the story for the delicious relationship Alvaro and his delicious relationship with Serafina. Assunta is a grounding force in the world of those women, particularly Serafina. I had a great time playing the role and the range of tenderness and rage that she expresses. Don’t agree that Assunta lacks character arc. She has a mission – to love and support Serafina into her maturity. And she sees it through.
What motivates you to keep working every day? Does acting feel as fresh and exciting as when you started or do you see patterns to it and have eased into it like any other job?
For the most part, I am a person who wakes up eager for the day (well, ok after some coffee) So, I’d be enthusiastic about whatever endeavor I chose. Or I would move on. As I said earlier, I am still doing this because it continues to interest and challenge me.
Finally, if you had one piece of advice for a person in their 20s trying to figure out what they were meant to be, what would you say?
Trust yourself! Make a choice and put your shoulder behind it. You will make more than one, I guarantee. Have fun. Inspire yourself and hang around people who are passionate about their lives. One of my favorite quotes: “You never get it done and you can’t get it wrong!”