Sheila Vand has worked with some incredible talent over the years. We just shared her story of working with Ben Affleck on Argo, but now it’s time to take a step into her experience working on Broadway with the legendary Robin Williams. After originating the role of Hadia in Rajiv Joseph’s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, she stuck with the production for its big Broadway debut. The show’s limited run kicked off at the Richard Rodgers Theatre back in 2011 and featured Williams in title role.
What’s it like sharing the stage with an industry icon, especially so early on in her career? Vand detailed the experience during her upcoming episode of Collider Ladies Night:
“One of the things that I was so taken aback by with him was how willing he was to try anything the director asked him to try. And what was amazing was, he was doing it in front of all of us because that’s how theater works, right? In film and television, you could be in a movie with an actor you never even meet if you don’t have scenes with them, and you kind of do a lot of your work on your own, but in the theater, it’s right out there in the open. I was so amazed by how egoless he was about his process. He might try something and be like, ‘I don’t know if that worked,’ but he would always try.”
Having had experience working as an assistant director on a number of productions, Vand knew this willingness to try was a standout quality:
“I also graduated with a directing major so I had assistant directed a bunch of theater early on in my career and I would see sometimes, actors sabotage directors choices because they didn’t want to do that choice. So they would like ‘try it,’ but without full conviction. But Robin would just go full force to try any way to get into the core of the thing.”
And what made Robin Williams a special collaborator didn’t stop there. Vand also praised his overall work ethic and highlighted the indelible impression it made on her:
“[He] had a work ethic that would put the rest of us to shame. He was twice our age and had ten times the amount of lines as any of us. He had these insanely long monologues in this show. And he would show up like an hour before anybody else to the theater to be running his lines and going through them, going through his blocking. And, you know, he’s a massive iconic celebrity and not to say that that excuses you from doing the real work, but the truth is, there are plenty of high profile people who – not that I know of or whatever, I’m not referring to anyone specifically – just that kick their feet up after a certain amount of time. And it felt like working with Robin Williams, there was no difference between someone in the beginning of their career or at the end of their career. He cared just as much and brought so much of himself, so I’ve always been really inspired by that type of work ethic. Sometimes when I’m afraid of a direction, I think of him like, ‘Try it. Just try it.”
For more from Vand, keep an eye out for her full Ladies Night interview dropping soon! You can also catch her in Dave Franco’s feature directorial debut, The Rental, and on TNT’s Snowpiercer series, both of which are available to watch right now.