In a break from tradition, Condola Rashad is dressed in solids — and black and white at that.
“I wear a lot of patterns,” she says, sitting down after her photo shoot, where she danced to Lauryn Hill and Mariah Carey as a camera assistant pumped her hair with wind. “[My publicist] knows all about this. Sometimes I’ll just send her photos of patterns.”
Rashad spends her nights cloaked in rather stern, decidedly pattern-free armor for her role as Joan of Arc in “Saint Joan,” for which she is nominated for a Tony on Sunday night. The nomination marks her fourth — the others were for “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” and “Stick Fly” — and her first for a leading role, making her one of the youngest actors to receive such a count.
“It doesn’t totally affect my wardrobe,” the 31-year-old says of getting into the costume each night. “It kind of more depends on how the role makes me feel in myself. Having the opportunity to play Joan every night has kind of awakened this sense of…I’m very unapologetically myself these days. So anything I ever wanted to wear, or try that for whatever reason I shied away from, I don’t anymore. Just because life is short; you gotta express yourself.”
The daughter of legendary “The Cosby Show” actress Phylicia Rashad and former football player Ahmad Rashad is, of course, no stranger to the stage and to the transformative nature of a role — but Joan stands out.
“Definitely — every role shows you a different color of yourself, but I would say this one in particular,” she says.
“It’s a matter of the way that I feel I walk through the world these days. It just has to do with an inner sense of self and an inner sense of peace,” she continues. “I’m not feeling that I need to fit into any bubble or need to be seen in any way. I just feel like I’m going to be exactly who I am and because of that, the experiences that I’m going to have are going to come my way because of that.”
Her casting as Joan drew attention over the fact that a black actor would play a historical figure who was white. It was that, and the nature of Joan, that drew her to it.
“I love a challenge. I recognized it was one of the greatest challenges as a female actor to take this role on,” she says. “When people think of Joan of Arc, there’s a level of folklore to her, without realizing that, yes, she is legendary because of what she did, but she was no legend: she was a real woman. I think because of how iconic it is, there is this assumption of ‘oh, Joan of Arc, bada– mercenary, totally hard ass all the time’ but actually what was more interesting and more moving to me was she was a 17-year-old girl. This is about a young person who has purpose. That to me was what informed my take on the role; I wanted to tell the story of the person.”
Regardless of what happens with the awards on Sunday, it will be a big night for Rashad; “Saint Joan” closes a mere few hours before the Tonys, so she’ll start Monday morning a brand new woman. “I’m going to wake up the next day and be like, ‘what happened?’” she says. This fall, she’s back on “Billions” for season four, and then plans to return to her roots in alternative music. Acting-wise, she hopes to try comedy, something she hasn’t done since her days at CalArts.
Tapping into her inner Joan should give her the push she needs for the challenge, nerves be damned.
“I’ve had to step up to a role of leadership with this whole cast of a large group of men, and it’s been fantastic,” Rashad says. “But I’d say being put in a position to step up as a leader in that way with my cast has allowed me to step into myself in a new way that I’m really grateful for; not just professionally but personally. I feel very liberated.”
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