The Unique Experience of a Professional Broadway Understudy

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Broadway veteran, Tony Carlin, revealing the excitement and unique skills needed to be a professional understudy.

6/4/18 #2144






"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. This is One on One. And this gentleman you're about to see on camera is a very talented young man doing all kinds of things on Broadway, Tony Carlin, veteran of Broadway, Professional Understudy... by the way, how many plays are we talking? I... this is my 27th play that we just opened... 27th Broadway play. And the name of it is? Saint Joan, with Condola Rashad, by George Bernard Shaw, at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Has he done much? [laughter] George Bernard...? I'm sorry! [laughter] I worry about him. Really? He doesn't work enough. Yeah. That is part of the problem? True, yeah. By the way, the whole understudy thing... as I was getting ready for the show, I'm like, "Okay, so Tony understudies. He's an understudy for one actor, one role". Not the case? If only. In this play, I understudy three actors, who themselves play six characters. So I'm a dead soldier... What are you right there? What am I...? What are you right there, on that monitor? Ha! That is my ensemble. I am a French soldier. Well, the janitor French soldier. That's backstage. Oh I just wanted to make... That's me with a mop bucket! ...sure that's not a part of the set! [laughter] So that's just a piece of a...? So I don't understand... I seriously... I actually don't... I'm doing one show, one role, this is me. You've got six...? You have three actors? Six roles? Yeah. How do you have that in your head? Right. Well, I have a head like that. [laughter] Compartmentalization. I have to be in the play six different ways in my head. I have to prepare that I am in that play. The thing is... and you know, I... there was a great thing in the news that may explain the feeling of going on as an understudy. And it was the Chicago Blackhawks... Hmm. ...had their third-string... Why are you going into hockey here? Well they had their... Go ahead. Go ahead. ...third-string emergency goalie go on... as an understudy, he's an accountant, a guy named... I think it's... What do you mean he was an accountant? [laughter] He was an accountant. They got down to their third-string and he went on, for a game, and he made, like, 27 saves. Because he had to? Because he had to. That's the thing. And is that your mindset? Yes. I may have to? Yeah. Do you... do you always know when you are going to have to go on? No. No. I have had a week to prepare sometimes, but I'm kind of the one who doesn't get the call until, like, half an hour... 20 minutes before. And they say? And they say, "You're on." And that's the thing..."