Age & Hometown: 22; Camano Island, WA
Current Role: Carolyn, the innocent, cow-loving teenage daughter of Francesca (Kelli O’Hara) and Bud (Hunter Foster) in Broadway's new romantic musical The Bridges of Madison County.
You’re Never Alone: A self-professed "theater nerd," Caitlin Kinnunen has been trodding the boards since age four. "My mother didn’t want me to have a fear of public speaking," the actress, who was homeschooled, explains about her early start in show business. "For me, acting was never really a choice, it was just what I knew and what I loved," she says. After numerous appearances in children's theater and regional productions in nearby Seattle, 16-year-old Kinnunen decided, on a whim, to attend a local open call audition for Spring Awakening. The actress impressed the casting agents so much, they asked her to come to Broadway immediately. "Casting called on a Thursday and was like, 'Hey, can you be in New York on Sunday?'" Of course, she said yes!
The Bitch of Living: Kinnunen was thrilled to join the cast as a replacement Thea in Spring Awakening, but the transition from tiny Camano Island to Broadway was initially a struggle. "It was miserable," she says. "I was homesick for so long." But with the support of her family and new co-stars, Kinnunen eventually felt at home on the Great White Way. "When the show closed I didn’t want to go home," she says. "Now I love it here!" Six years later, Kinnunen is a bona fide New Yorker and has learned to stay healthy (she has type 1 diabetes) while performing eight shows a week. "The technology has improved so much," she says of controlling her blood sugar. The actress even wears an insulin pump and monitor under her costume for Bridges. "All of the girls are wearing girdles because it’s a period piece, and I get a lovely pair of Spanx," she says. "They’ve sewn pockets into them—who knew that you could do that?"
Something From a Dream: Even with one Broadway show under her belt, Kinnunen calls auditioning for Bridges creators Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman a "crazy, nerve-wracking" experience. "It was the most nervous I’ve ever been," she says. "I walked in, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what am I doing?" But now that the young actress has gotten to know her onstage family, she feels right at home—especially with Kelli O’Hara, her childhood idol and "one of the nicest human beings" in the world. "When I was younger, Broadway.com had a video of Kelli getting her hair cut for South Pacific," she says. "I remember watching it and being like, 'I love her; I want to be her!'" While performing in the new musical, Kinnunen hears lots of sniffling and sobbing from the audience—but this 22-year-old is one tough cookie. "This show is so touching and beautiful," she says, quickly adding, "But I’m not a crier. I don’t cry at anything!"