Discovery: Molly Ranson

By
Photography Thom Kaine

Published December 27, 2011

 

As of the premiere of the new production of Carrie, Molly Ranson, the young actress in the title role, is about to become a huge force on stage. She has appeared on Broadway in Jerusalem and August: Osage County, but has been in talks for this role and slowly preparing for close to two years. Ranson is herself a warm, sweet, confident woman—so her transformation into the painfully shy and socially tortured teen is all the more remarkable. Arguably the prom queen of all prom queens, Carrie White is both innocently endearing and terrifyingly vengeful—a whole lot for Ranson to sink her teeth into, and her vision of Carrie is authentic and fully modern. One of Stephen King’s best stories, the abused high school girl whose telekinetic power unleashes an explosive wrath hasn’t been all wrapped up in a musical since the 1988 Broadway production. But this is an entirely new show, also starring Marin Mazzie as Carrie’s fanatical mother.

Ranson is focused on her own Carrie, while also respectfully aware of other actresses’ interpretations (most importantly Sissy Spacek’s), and she’s making it contemporary and fresh by sorting through the human emotions in a classic horror story.

AGE: 22

HOMETOWN: New York, NY

ON PLAYING THE LEGENDARY ROLE AND HORROR ICON, CARRIE: I have always been a fan of the movie version, and Sissy Spacek is so incredible. So I’m just trying to focus on my own version of the character and finding things in Carrie that I’ve felt in myself, and just trying to approach her from an emotionally truthful place as possible.

ON THE BOOK AND MOVIE THAT CAME BEFORE HER: I read the book for the first time when I got involved with this project and I’ve been involved with it since 2009—November. So about two years I’ve been working on this role. So I read about it about two years ago.

[Spacek’s] take on the character is definitely in my head. Before I got the role and I just knew of Carrie it was her that I would think of. Now I’ve just been trying to put all that aside and put other actresses’ imaginings of the role, as amazing as they are, trying to put them aside and focus on my own version of this character.

ON BULLYING: We’re definitely telling the story from a very emotionally truthful standpoint, so the show is about this girl who is horribly abused and bullied. It definitely is a huge factor in the way that we’re telling the story now and the seriousness of that. And we are aware, in our staging, of bullying in society today and that it is kind of a story that is more relevant to tell now more than ever. More than it was back in the ’80s when the musical was done, and more than it was when Stephen King wrote the book in the ’70s. It’s such an issue, so we’re doing it from a very emotionally truthful standpoint in that regard. We’re more aware and now with the Internet it’s even more intense for kids, so I think that people are really going to see the timeliness of it when we do it.

BALANCING CARRIE’S SWEET TENDERNESS AND HER HORRIFYING FURY: She’s a very unique character to be playing because she is extremely weak in some parts of the story and is completely abused and walked all over, but she does find her power and peace. I mean, they are all very human emotions. She finds her power that comes along with her rage and ultimately exacts her revenge through her rage and through the powers that emerge when she becomes a woman. So it’s a pretty exciting role to be playing in that way that it’s an all ends of the spectrum.

THE NEW MUSICAL PRODUCTION: It is its own animal, apart from the book or the movie or the older version of the musical, and our director Stafford [Arima] is just a very imaginative, visionary person. It’s going to be told in the truthful but imaginative, kind of surreal at times, and it’s going to be very different from any story that people have seen before.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, PUBLIC EXPECTATIONS: Well, we are very excited that so many people are excited for us and that there’s so much anticipation about this show. It’s a great thing to have going into a show knowing that people want to see it and know what we’re doing, but it is going to be very, very different from the original. So I just hope people are going to go into it with fresh eyes and ears and be open to a whole new experience and a whole new telling of the story.

WORKING WITH MARIN MAZZIE: Marin is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. She’s very easy to be around, and we are very similar in a lot of ways so she’s just kind of a dream to work with. I grew up loving her, from when I saw Kiss Me, Kate when I was a little kid, and she’s really just a dream to work with. You have to have a lot of trust going on to do a mother/daughter dynamic that’s as dramatic as Carrie’s relationship with her mother, so it is very helpful and wonderful knowing how safe I am working with her.

In Carrie’s relationship with her mother, there is tons of love there, but it is also an obviously abusive relationship, so finding that dynamic and not making it into a scary abuser-and-abused relationship has been really interesting and important in telling a truthful version of it.

LANDING THE ROLE AFTER NEARLY TWO YEARS OF UP IN THE AIR PRODUCTION: I was really thrilled. I mean it’s kind of a dream role to take on as an actress and a dream director, dream cast. It’s just really been exciting and challenging and very fulfilling.

CARRIE BEGINS PERFORMANCES ON JAN. 31 AND OFFICIALLY OPENS MARCH 1, 2012. FOR TICKETS VISIT MCC THEATER