Age & Hometown: 31; Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England (the same town as Once director John Tiffany and choreographer Stephen Hoggett)
Current Role: Following in the footsteps of Cristin Milioti as the expressive, outspoken Girl in the Tony-winning musical Once.
Once More with Feeling: Joanna Christie says her Broadway debut is “every dream I’ve ever had come true,” but in fact, it almost didn’t happen. “I was about to give up. I felt like I was at my lowest, and I decided to go back to university to do anthropology,” said the actress, who serendipitously landed the job as Once’s piano-playing Girl just two weeks before her Cambridge application deadline. Life has since changed “in every way” for Christie, who has played piano since age six but almost gave that up, as well, after a crippling bout of stage fright at 16. “I was playing a concert and my hand seized up, and I decided I never wanted to play in public again,” she recalls. “When I got the Once audition, I thought, I have to get over it. And I think I’ve finally kicked that demon.” Another demon she conquered for the role involved a former romance that echoes her character’s heartwrenching dilemma in Once. “I definitely have a personal connection to this story,” says Christie. “I know what it is to find somebody and not be able to be with them. A year ago, I couldn’t have told this story. Now, I feel strongly that it’s my story to tell.”
Wizards and Doctors: A lifelong musician and actress, Christie finished drama school at London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts before she embarked on a five-month tour of India performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream (“That was, hands down, the best time of my life,” she gushes). Six months after returning, she took a job in PR but soon landed the role of a lifetime in Equus on the West End opposite Daniel Radcliffe. “He was like a little brother to me,” says Christie, who quickly bonded with Radcliffe because the role demanded being naked together on stage. “It was actually worse in the rehearsal room because Dan and I were under horrendous fluorescent lights,” she recalls with a laugh. “It never bothered me again, and now I’m a bit too footloose and fancy free with getting naked!” Another perk of the job? Experiencing the stage door love from Radcliffe’s rabid Harry Potter fans, who are not unlike the devotees of her Once co-star Arthur Darvill, who starred on Doctor Who. “Arthur and Dan both have legions of fans, and I can confirm that Doctor Who and Harry Potter fans are nuts.” So does she prefer one series to another? “I will admit, I’ve never really watched either!”
New York Newbie: Christie’s appearance at the 2013 Tony Awards was particularly memorable for her—if only because she’d never seen a musical. “It was hilarious because there’s Annie and Chicago, and I’ve never seen any of them,” she says. “There’s a style to musicals, and I never thought my voice was like that. My brother’s a jazz drummer, so I’ve been singing jazz for the last 10 years.” Though she frequently performs with her brother’s band back in England, she’s found other, surprising ways to occupy her spare time in New York. “I’ve subconsciously created my life in New York a bit like Sex and the City. I’m not one for spending a lot on clothes and bothering about handbags and shoes, but New York’s done something to me,” she confesses. “At the moment I feel a bit like Carrie Bradshaw!” Though she keeps busy with yoga and running during the week, Christie spends her “very precious” day off binge-watching shows like Mad Men and indulging in the city’s finest culinary offerings. “The other day I ordered so much food, they gave me three knives and forks with it,” she laughs. “I’m a massive foodie, so it’s just heaven!”