Q&A: Evanston native nominated for Tony Award

Sammy Caiola

Evanston native Jessie Mueller was nominated for a Tony Award this month for her performance in the 2011 Broadway revival of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” Mueller, a graduate of Evanston Township High School and Syracuse University, acted in several shows in Chicago before landing her first gig in the Big Apple. On June 10, she will compete against four other women for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. She took some time to speak with The Daily about the nomination and her childhood in Evanston.

Daily: “On a Clear Day” was your Broadway debut, and you’re already up for the most prestigious award in the industry. What was your first reaction when you found out about the nomination?

Mueller: It was shock, I think. Everything sort of stopped, so I could maybe try to clear my brain space and take it in. But I’m not sure that happened for a couple of days. It still seems unreal.

Daily: You played Melinda Wells, a fictional jazz singer from the ’40s. How did you connect to that decade and that character?

Mueller: It was so fun to sing that music ’cause I’d always loved it growing up. I also just love the character because she was so hopeful. In the play she was just this force of life and hope and taking things in the moment. I felt like, “Oh yeah, I believe in this. This is how I’d like to live my life.” I don’t always. But it’s a joy to be able to go out and do that kind of stuff every night and feel like you’re putting something good out there.

Daily: Harry Connick Jr. is a music industry legend, a winner of Grammys, Emmys and Tony award nominations. What was it like to play his love interest?

Mueller: He’s really one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Not only is he an incredible artist … he has this amazing work ethic and that was really inspiring to watch. In my consideration, I look at him, and he’s just as this level which is kind of unbeatable, but he never stops working. I kind of can’t say enough good things about him.

Daily: Any funny moments or stage bloopers from this show?

Mueller: I had a terrible bad actor moment where I should have been reprimanded. Harry and I were in what you call a freeze. This probably 30-second freeze – which maybe doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re staring at someone for 30 seconds and you’re supposed to be frozen