The good news — a rare treasure these days — is that it’s Leo season, and according to Brittany O’Grady, that means a moment of respite.
“Leo season is a really good season for people to feel confident, so that makes me excited,” says the 24-year-old actress.
Generally speaking, though, 2020 is not looking great astrologically, something O’Grady has been tracking.
“I look to astrology a lot to kind of figure out where the planets are going to be and how that’s going to affect energy — so it just looks like we’re in for a rough year,” she says over a recent Zoom call from Atlanta, which she’s called home since moving for the Fox series “Star.”
The D.C. native got into astrology, yes, only when she moved out to Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles has changed me! I got into quinoa and juice shots and astrology,” O’Grady says. “I’ve always been interested in horoscopes and just expanding my understanding of human existence and the universe and just kind of wondering how that affects us and our personalities and who we are. I annoy people a lot sometimes with it. I definitely have people who are like, ‘You really believe that planets affect what’s going on in my life?’ I’m like, ‘Yes.’”
There is a good dose of cosmic timing in O’Grady’s life, though, so, really, what’s the harm? The actress broke out majorly in 2016 with a role in “Star,” the Lee Daniels series for Fox that followed a girl group trio navigating the music industry. “Star” was canceled after three seasons, just as O’Grady had decided to buy a home in Atlanta with the anticipation of more seasons to come. Within months she had booked the starring role in “Little Voice,” the new Apple series that debuted mid-July. In her young career, O’Grady is making a name for herself as an actor with musical chops — quite something for someone who, growing up, didn’t ever want to sing in front of anyone.
O’Grady got her start doing commercials and print work around the D.C. area with her older sister, before moving onto theater and church choir. As she got more serious about theater, there came opportunities where singing was required.
“I was about 10 years old, and my mom’s like, ‘You’re going to audition. It’s a musical and you have to sing.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to sing in front of people. I don’t want to do this,’” O’Grady says. “Singing was something that I kept very private to myself as a child. And then I started singing with my piano teacher and everyone’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, you can sing.’”
O’Grady says it’s “definitely happenstance” that her two most known projects to date, “Star” and “Little Voice,” are musically based shows.
“When I decided to pursue acting through television and film, I never expected to be pursuing music in this way. I didn’t expect to be on a music show. Especially ‘Star,’ one that was about a girl group — I’d never been a part of a girl group. I’d never recorded in a booth before.”
“Little Voice,” which is executive produced by Sara Bareilles, Jessie Nelson and J.J. Abrams, is loosely based on Bareilles’ life. (She also wrote the original songs in the show.)
“I think all of us grew up off of her music and heard her on the radio and I always felt really empowered when I listened to her songs,” O’Grady says of Bareilles. “Especially from my childhood to my teenage years, all of the songs that she sang were so beautiful, empowering, and catchy and honest, and I would just listen to the lyrics and really connect to them.”
In “Little Voice,” her character, Bess, is nervous to share her music with the world. She rents a storage unit where she goes to write songs in private and is frequently nudged to perform her songs by her friends, but has to get over her own fears before doing so. It’s not unlike O’Grady’s own experience, something she came to realize only while doing press for the show.
“Those dots didn’t really connect for me until I started doing interviews,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, this is really serendipitous.’ I believe that people get roles to tell stories that they’re meant to tell. So as time went on after the project, I reflected a lot because I was just ready to go, wanted to do it well, wanted to portray this character to the best of my ability.”
The show finds Bess struggling to make it as a musician, all while balancing odds jobs as a dog walker, a piano teacher, etc., and taking care of her father and brother, each with their own complications. It shows moments of what being a young woman in the music industry can look like, some rooted in Bareilles’ own experiences.
“I think that a lot of women, people of color, marginalized groups of people feel — to a certain level — they’re shrinking themselves to people in charge or people who have the least amount of oppression and people in power, men,” O’Grady says. “And I definitely think that I would struggle, and still am finding moments like that, where it feels so big and so heavy to actually say something.”