AGE: 26. BREAKOUT: Made her Broadway debut in the Alan Cumming-led revival of Cabaret in 2014. UP NEXT: Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman; playing Ophelia opposite Oscar Isaac in Theater for a New Audience’s new production of Hamlet.
COLLEEN KELSEY: What was it like moving from Scotland to New York at 17?
GAYLE RANKIN: I had a ridiculously idyllic childhood. I think back and am like, “Wow, I was so naive, in the best way.” When I’ve known something is right, the actual doing of it is not scary. It’s like being onstage or performing. After it and before it, there might be a lot of fear, but the act of it is never scary for me.
KELSEY: What was the coursework like at Juilliard?
RANKIN: You’re there all day. The first half of the day is classes, the second half of the day is rehearsals. You’re always rehearsing for something, like a Chekhov play. We had a clown class. It’s not really about the circus or mime; it’s like therapy. Everyone cries, but it’s funny. It’s about being vulnerable. My clown’s name was Crazy Old Rabbit.
KELSEY: What was your first job?
RANKIN: I was cast to replace Merritt Wever in the Tony Kushner adaptation of The Illusion. It was insane, because I had five days to learn the part, and it was like Shakespeare; it’s very wordy, but it was so cool.
KELSEY: Have you ever been starstruck?
RANKIN: I sometimes get starstruck when I meet people who I didn’t necessarily know what they look like, like directors or DPs, if I’m a huge fan of theirs. We’re so overexposed with celebrities; I don’t necessarily get starstruck. I get stupid, like, I clearly want them to like me.
KELSEY: Do you have any dream roles?
RANKIN: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. If you put me in a box, I’m a character actor. The thing that keeps popping up for me—it sounds really cliché—but I want to play something really physically challenging, something extremely demanding and strong.