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Interview: Anna Camp Returns to the Stage in the Spooky Thriller 2:22 — A Ghost Story

The Pitch Perfect star talks about the new play at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles.

Anna Camp blazed onto the entertainment scene 15 years ago, going on to thrill theatergoers with her brilliant work in The Scene and Equus, television watchers with her dazzling turns in such series as True Blood and The Good Wife, and movie lovers with her work in The Help and the popular Pitch Perfect franchise.

Now, after a lengthy absence from the stage, she has returned in Danny Robbins's West End hit 2:22 – A Ghost Story, receiving its American premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Matthew Dunster's original London production has traveled to California, with Camp starring alongside Constance Wu, Finn Wittrock, and Adam Rothenberg.

TheaterMania recently spoke to Camp about the play, the challenges of coming back to the stage and working with her celebrated costars.

Anna Camp in 2:22 — A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles
(© Craig Schwartz Photography)

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

This is your first play in four years since you did Belleville. How does it feel to be back in a theater?
I am so happy to be in a play. I feel like I've been starving ever since then. But when I first got back to rehearsals, I felt like I was learning to walk again. Honestly, there were times when I really forgot what I supposed to be doing. I also forgot that when you are onstage, you are so vulnerable — your voice, spirit, and body are all on display. But now that we're performing for audiences, I feel so creatively fulfilled. If I could make a living at it, I would do nothing but plays from now on.

Does having an actual audience for this particular play make a difference?
Absolutely. At our first preview, it felt so validating. First, even though the play is scary, there's a lot of room for laughter, and it was great to hear it from 2,000 people, even if some of it was just nervous laughter. And my character, Lauren, is wasted most of the time, and I worked very hard on finding the moments when she was really drunk or truly sober, and I was so nervous if I was playing it right. But I could tell the audience was following my journey and all I could think was, "Thank God, I'm not crazy!" It was a reminder to me that you have to trust the process.

Despite the title, this play is about relationships. Did you do anything special to bond with your co-stars, especially since you had a fairly short rehearsal period?
Our director, Matthew Dunster, had us do circuit training every morning; we were all in sweats first thing and he had us run around to do jumping jacks, pushups, and other exercises. It was a real drop-your-guard experience that helped us bond with each other, and it also helped us train for this surprisingly physical show. Of course, it could be hard to do it some mornings, especially if you had too much wine the night before.

Anna Camp, Finn Wittrock, Adam Rothenberg, and Constance Wu in 2:22 — A Ghost Story at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles
(© Craig Schwartz Photography)

The play makes a point of mentioning that Lauren is 40. You just turned 40. Was there a special resonance there?
Yes. Every job has come to me in the right time in my life, and this walked into mine at the exact perfect time. It's like a gift. There's a lot of Lauren that is close to me. She's not married and torn between these two guys, and we know I've had a crazy romantic life. I don't regret my experiences. I am always searching for complete satisfaction, but maybe the searching is satisfaction. In any case, I think we need to normalize finding love after 40. More importantly, I am just finding out who I am now. I felt like I was told to be a certain person, from growing up in South and then becoming an actress, and I was afraid if I shed that skin I would not be liked or get certain parts. But that Anna Camp is not who I am — and turning 40 has given me the energy and freedom to drop those expectations.

We're not going to say too much about the play, but as the title indicates, it is a ghost story. Do you believe in them?
I have always believed in them. I grew up in South Carolina, and my mother's family owned a funeral home, so they were always talked about. So, yes, count me as a long-time believer!