Andrew Leeds of ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’: “Don’t let your nerves hide who you are”

Practice. Get good at what you do. And part of what you do is audition. So also get good at that. People want to work with nice, positive people. Don’t let your nerves hide who you are. Show people what you can do. Somehow, somewhere, show them. They need to know that you’re great before they can […]

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Practice. Get good at what you do. And part of what you do is audition. So also get good at that.

People want to work with nice, positive people. Don’t let your nerves hide who you are.

Show people what you can do. Somehow, somewhere, show them. They need to know that you’re great before they can hire you.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Andrew Leeds who currently stars on NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airing weekly on Tuesday nights. He has also appeared on such shows as Barry, A Million Little Things, Veep, Silicon Valley, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, American Horror Story, Bones, Shameless, Modern Family, The Morning Show and in the feature film Office Christmas Party. Andrew also has a big background in musical theater, having down Broadway musicals, such as “Falsettos,” “Teddy & Alice,” and toured with “Les Misérables”. Andrew is also a Main Company member of The Groundlings Theatre in Los Angeles.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Clearwater, Florida. My dad was a lawyer and my mom didn’t work at the time, but later went on to become many things before landing on realtor. My sister was the cutest thing in the world. I was very shy and when I was three my mom enrolled me in a musical theater performing group at the Largo Recreation Center. It was a program run by Gidget Cross and Jason Fortner. I was hooked after one class. It never really got me over my shyness completely, but it did help, and Gidget and Jason taught me so much about musicals and it quickly became something I was really passionate about.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was seven, a new musical called “Teddy & Alice” came to Tampa, Florida to do a pre-Broadway tryout. They needed to hire a local understudy for the kids in the show and I got the job because I was polite. I didn’t have to read or sing for the woman casting this position. When the show was about to close, they were packing things up and I said to my mom, “I want to go to New York with them.” She told me to go ask the producer — a woman named Elaine Shimberg. And so, I did, because I was seven and I didn’t know any better. Mrs. Shimberg asked if they had ever even heard me sing. When I replied, “No,” she told me to come down to the orchestra pit at the half-hour call to do so. I sang “Lambeth Walk from Me” and “My Girl.” Fifteen minutes later she told me I could go with them. We went to New York and I took over for one of the kids. My recollection is that he was let go for biting another kid. The show closed quickly, but I then got cast in “Les Misérables.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made many, many mistakes. Like the time I decided to eat pretzels in an audition and nearly choked to death because my mouth was so dry, I couldn’t swallow, and pretzel dust was flying out of my mouth. I learned not to eat pretzels or really anything in an audition. Come to think of it, I should have already learned that lesson because years prior to that I ate a very soft peach while wearing a dental retainer in an audition. The peach got stuck in the retainer and I couldn’t swallow it, but I pushed through the scene. I don’t think anyone in the room was paying any attention to my acting because they were so curious to see if I could finish. At the end, I looked up at the producers and only one person said something. It was Jason Alexander and he said, “I’m guessing that’s not a very good peach.”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently working on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and A Million Little Things. I love Zoey’s because I get to sing and dance and the concept is so exciting to see unfold every week. Plus, I get to watch my fellow actors sing their faces off. A Million Little Things is a great family drama and I got to play a really interesting character; unlike anything I’ve done before. Soon, I’ll be directing a pilot that my sister wrote that I’m really excited about. And I will be thrilled once I can get back onstage at The Groundlings.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Why do you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I don’t think I’m going to say anything profound here or something that hasn’t already been said, but I think diversity is important because the more we are exposed to different cultures and different types of people, the more we can hopefully accept and respect the ways we are different and also recognize how we are also the same. Diverse storytelling can hopefully lead to a greater understanding between people.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

1) Practice. Get good at what you do. And part of what you do is audition. So also get good at that.

2) Accept who you are and bring that to every role you play.

3) People want to work with nice, positive people. Don’t let your nerves hide who you are.

4) Show people what you can do. Somehow, somewhere, show them. They need to know that you’re great before they can hire you.

5) Write. Or do anything creative. Don’t just wait around for auditions. Create in other ways.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I would tell people to also remember to live a life out of this business. Keep creating and keep living, because the only way we can create is if we experience and live. At least that’s what I think. I could be wrong!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would try to inspire a movement where everyone really looked out for everyone else to the best of their ability.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are way too many people. I am grateful to my mother, who drove me around to auditions, when I was a kid, and put her life on hold for me so I could pursue what I loved. My sister for inspiring me with her amazing comedic talents. Lindsey Kraft for creating things with me and always knowing exactly how I should play a scene. My friend, Dave Lampson, for teaching me to write. My aunts and uncle who have always been so supportive of me and made it possible for me to visit New York anytime I needed. So many of my friends in the business who have given me advice or help. Austin Winsberg for hiring me to be on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and for giving me a reason to sing and dance on tv. And also — my fellow past and present Groundlings. I learned so much from that school and from performing there and I am forever grateful for that. You asked for a particular person… well this is what you get!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

What a tough question. There are so many people I’d love to have lunch with. Not a huge fan of breakfast with people. But I’d say I’d really love to have breakfast with my family more than anything. Or James Lapine. Or Stephen Sondheim. Or Bruce Norris. Or Bob Iger. He seems great.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @andrewleeds

Twitter: @leedsandrew

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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