Julie White
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Julie White
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Julie White has become one of the stage's most beloved actresses, thanks to her extraordinary performances in works such as Bad Dates, Dinner with Friends, From Up Here, and most notably, The Little Dog Laughed, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Now, audiences can prepare for a triple dose of White: first, she's playing the saucy maid Maria in the Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night opposite Anne Hathaway, Raul Esparza, and Audra McDonald; second, she's appearing in the sure-to-be-popular movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, opening on June 24; and third, she will be starring as a frazzled stage manager in the Roundabout Theatre's production of Theresa Rebeck's new comedy The Understudy at the Laura Pels Theatre this fall.

THEATERMANIA: I know this is your first time doing Shakespeare in the Park, but is this actually your first time doing a Shakespeare play?
JULIE WHITE: I did a guest spot in some production of A Midsummer Night's Dream many years ago, but that's it. For one thing, there's not a lot of chick roles in Shakespeare; there's usually 17 guys and three women. And I think directors think of me as this person who does new American plays. But I love Shakespeare and especially Shakespeare in the Park. I remember waiting in line for hours to see Michelle Pfeiffer in Twelfth Night and Kevin Kline in Henry V.

TM: Did you have dreams of playing Olivia or Viola when you were younger?
JW: I think I would've been great in the pants roles when I was younger. But now I've grown into what one of my castmates calls 'the lighter people.' My job is to get the laughs and that's fine. Plus, I am getting to work with Michael Cumpsty (as Malvolio) and we're having a lovefest. And what's particularly great is that Michael is the kind of actor I never get to cross paths with.

TM: What can you tell us about working with this star-studded cast?
JW: So far, despite the star power, it doesn't feel like one of those ego-driven companies -- which is good, because I am too old to put up with those kind of shenanigans. In fact, I'm sort of the den mother, so I tell everyone we're going to have fun or die trying. We have these Friday night movie outings and everyone goes -- though we did have to excuse Anne one night because she had tickets to see Mary Stuart.

TM: What can we expect from the production, both in terms of your portrayal and others?
JW: I can say it's going to be very beautiful and very musical; Raul gets to sing a little -- it would be a shame if he didn't -- and Audra sings a bit at the very very end. Yes, you have to wait two and half hours for it.. Luckily for all of you, I don't sing or dance -- although I hate that my costume covers up my best feature, which are my showgirl legs. I asked Dan Sullivan, our director, if I could make sort of an Ann Miller-like entrance for my final scene, but he said no. I also asked him if we could work my dog Lulu into the show -- I am sort of the Mama Rose of the pet set -- but he didn't take that suggestion either. But I do get a few amusing props to work with. And I am glad I am in comfy shoes this time. I can run in these as opposed to the ones in Little Dog Laughed. They looked great, but it was like having your feet caught in a bear trap.

TM: Your opening night is around the same time that Transformers opens. Are you excited about that movie?
JW: Actually, I love a big summer blockbuster. I just never imagined I'd be in one. It's a lot of cowering in fear as things gets larger and larger and more things get blown up, but so what. I think I am the only actor in America who gets along with [director] Michael Bay, because I keep yelling 'blow it up again!' But to be honest, I'm actually more excited about the new Harry Potter movie -- even though I'm not in it!