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King Lear - Off-Broadway

Sam Waterston stars in the Public Theater's production of Shakespeare's masterpiece.

King Lear’s Kristen Connolly Looks Back on Kidnapping Babies and Stalking Twilight Vampires

King Lear’s Kristen Connolly Looks Back on Kidnapping Babies and Stalking Twilight Vampires
Kristen Connolly photographed by Jenny Anderson for
You rarely meet people who are as honest as Cordelia.

Age & Hometown: “Can I say? I should ask my agents”; Montclair, New Jersey

Current Role: Courageous youngest daughter Cordelia opposite Sam Waterston in King Lear at the Public Theater.

Rocky Beginning: As a kid, Connolly faced a choice between drama and field hockey—and it wasn’t a no-brainer. “I really wanted to play!” she says, adding with a laugh, “I wasn't very good, but I liked the skirts. But I was so excited to get cast in something as a freshman, I went with drama.” That first foray on the high school stage proved controversial. “I played a girl who was pregnant and in a mental institution,” she recalls. “I think my parents were pissed about it. Just the idea of me being pregnant at age 14 was upsetting.” Connolly went on to study theater at Middlebury College, then put drama on the chopping block again as she considering law school. However, “A friend said, ‘You don’t want to be a lawyer, you just want to play one on TV,’” and theater won out after all.  

Screen Test: Within days of graduating from Yale School of Drama, Connolly nabbed a small part in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, and after films like The Happening and Meet Dave, she landed in the world of soap operas. “I loved it,” Connolly says of her days on Guiding Light and As the World Turns. “It’s almost like being in a play. It’s set up like a stage, you rehearse it, you shoot it and then you move on to something else. I had a ball.” And who wouldn’t, with some of the plot lines she rattles off? “I got kidnapped, I kidnapped a baby, I pretended to have amnesia but I was actually hired to do it to wreak havoc on someone else,” she explains. “It’s amazing, some of the things that come out of your mouth.”

Bloody Good Fun: Thanks to projects like the Joss Whedon horror flick The Cabin in the Woods, Connolly's drama didn’t end with soaps. “We shared locations with Twilight, so mostly it was, ‘Has anybody seen Robert Pattinson?’ Everybody was sitting around drinking sodas, covered in blood.” Her current project, King Lear, is equally gory, but presents an exciting challenge. “You rarely meet people who are as honest as Cordelia,” muses the actress. “Sometimes I want to shake her, but she is just unable to bullshit and say the things she is supposed to say.” While grappling with this classic heroine, Connolly says couldn’t ask for a better stage father than Sam Waterston. “I don’t know how he does it,” she says of Waterston tackling Lear. “I’ve never heard him complain about one thing, ever. He’s just focused and hard-working and wonderful.”

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