Francesca Carpanini has barely begun her professional stage career, but has so far built her breakout on a rather impressive roster of roles.
Carpanini plays Ann Deever in the revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” which is nominated for three Tonys including best revival of a play, best actress for Annette Bening and best featured actor for Benjamin Walker. “All My Sons” marks her second Broadway billing, following a role in “The Little Foxes” alongside Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney.
“I’ve played some really incredible roles, but this feels like a new step,” she says of Ann.
Carpanini, who is 25, was born in England but her family moved to L.A. when she was 5. She attended the arts-focused Crossroads high school before heading to Juilliard.
“I mean, I just always did it. I never wanted to do anything else,” she says of acting. “I was never interested in sports. I was never interested in painting.”
In her third year at Juilliard, she landed the role of Miranda in “The Tempest” in the Shakespeare in the Park production. “The wind was blowing, and I’m in Central Park and I’m acting with Sam Waterston,” she recalls.
The part put her on the radar of much of the city’s theater community, so she opted to leave school ahead of her fourth year, doing some off-Broadway work before booking “The Little Foxes” two years ago.
She notes an interest in more television and film jobs — her credits so far include an episode of “The Good Wife” and the upcoming dramedy “Catching Up” — but theater is where her roots lie.
“As I hopefully do everything, that will always kind of be my bread and butter,” she says. “When I’m on stage, I’m reminded of the little 10-year-old who would have died to be there, who laminated her play books. You know? It brings me back to the core reason of why I wanted to do it.”
Carpanini says she bugged her agents relentlessly asking about “All My Sons” as soon as she heard about the revival.
“You can look at the e-mails. There are, like, five e-mails of me being like, ‘Have they started auditions yet?’” she says. “Because I love this play, and I actually worked on a character when I was at Juilliard in my first year.”
Though she was confident in her audition, she assumed the part of Ann would go to “a name” (Katie Holmes made her Broadway debut in the role in 2008). Lucky for her: Before auditioning, she found some of the notes she had kept from the course, “and there were some notes in there that, I swear to God, I would never have gotten the part if I hadn’t.”
She credits an immediate connection to the “core truths” of Ann for being able to land the part.
“It wasn’t a struggle to crack her. I felt like the core things that made her do what she does in this play, which are some pretty incredible things, I understood,” she says. “From the moment that I opened the play.”
The nature of live theater is that each performance, each moment differs slightly, but Carpanini says it has been especially the case — and the goal —with the cast of “All My Sons.”
“Anytime in rehearsal we would be like, ‘I feel like I’m in a play,’ we would stop and go back and change something. Because we want it to feel vibrant and alive,” she says. “Especially with a play like this, which is older, which is a real classic. People can tend to have an intent to put it in a box. And we wanted to make sure that just because it’s set in 1947 doesn’t mean that people didn’t love and kiss and fight and yell and cry. It should feel as vital as if ‘what if it was a family today?’”
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