INTERVIEW: Once Star Cristin Milioti Gets Into the Sister Act in Sleepwalk With Me

The Tony Award nominee talks frankly about her new film, her own family, her biggest quirk, and working with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Cristin Milioti at the Tonys
(© Tristan Fuge)
Cristin Milioti at the Tonys
(© Tristan Fuge)

Cristin Milioti‘s character in the Tony Award-winning musical Once , now at Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, may just be called “Girl,” but the prodigiously talented actress had made a name for herself in the past few years in such shows as The Little Foxes and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

She’s currently co-starring with Mike Birbiglia in the film version of his Off-Broadway hit Sleepwalk With Me, now in select theaters, and she will co-star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. Milioti recently spoke to TheaterMania about life after the Tonys, her new films, and her trouble with phrases.

THEATERMANIA: How has your life changed since being nominated for the Tony Award for Once?
CRISTIN MILIOTI: I got to wear a pretty fancy dress, and I’ve never worn a dress like that. That was a change! I honestly have not felt a change otherwise, and I think it’s a great thing. It was an amazing honor and an amazing time, and I’m thrilled to still be a part of the show.

TM: Has Once changed since it won eight Tonys, including Best Musical?
CM: Audiences are responding just as enthusiastically as they did before the Tonys, which to me is really great. We’re still having a blast every night.

TM: In Sleepwalk With Me you play Janet, the older sister of Mike Birbiglia’s character, who is much more centered than her younger brother. Did you find that relationship relatable?
CM: I know siblings like that, where the younger one is just more together and “further ahead in life.” But Janet’s also really honest with Matt, and they have a really lovely sibling relationship. She’s just much more pragmatic than he is.

TM: Are the fictional Pandamiglios in the movie in any way similar to the Miliotis?
CM: Only in the sense that they’re both chaotic. I used to think it was just my family, like, “Oh God, my family’s loud and everyone’s talking over each other and everyone’s joking!” Then I saw other families and realized everyone’s family is kind of like that, and everyone feels that way about their family. Now it’s my favorite thing about my family. My mom does something similar to the mom [played by Carol Kane] in the film. We would be at the dinner table and she would be like, “Oh my God, guess who’s pregnant?” It would come out of nowhere. And it would end up being my sister’s former college roommate’s cousin — who we had never met!

TM: What’s your biggest quirk?
CM: I’ll tell you what I do. I mangle phrases constantly. The other day I was chatting with my boyfriend and I said to him, “He really sold him under the bus.” And he said, “I think you meant ‘threw him under the bus,’ or ‘sold him up the river.'” I’m always having trouble with the phrase “run the gamut” or, “run the gambit?” It’s a constant problem. On my first date, my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to eat a la carte, and I said that I would prefer to stay inside! It’s really embarrassing too. I’m a smart person, I read books, and I speak for a living essentially.

TM: This film is about dreams? What is the craziest thing you have dreamed about?
CM: I used to have a lot of recurring dreams about Captain Hook when I was a little kid, which I remember very vividly. But I think I just really liked Peter Pan a lot, and Hook was my favorite movie.

TM: Sleepwalk With Me is similar to Once in the sense that everything isn’t wrapped up with a neat bow at the end. Do you purposely look for projects like that?
CM: I don’t consciously seek them out, but I do like that they’re lifelike. I love movies, but I think people think relationships are supposed to go how they go in movies. The ones I like are the ones that represent life.

TM: Speaking of movies, tell us about getting the role in The Wolf of Wall Street?
CM: Leonardo DiCaprio has two wives in the film, and I play the first wife. All of my scenes take place in the 1980s. I have a perm and I’m this Italian hairdresser in Bayside, Queens. It was insane, because I tested with Leonardo and Martin Scorsese the day before the Tony Awards, and I made the choice not to tell anyone. Then I found out I got the part the day after the Tonys. It was a great week.

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Closed: January 4, 2015