It's no surprise Condola Rashad is one of Broadway's hottest rising stars. Entertainment's in her blood (mom is award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad, dad is NFL legend and sports commentator Ahmad Rashad). One could say Condola's been in show business her whole life. Even before then. She made her first TV appearance during season three of "The Cosby Show," when her mom (who was then playing TV's reigning wife and mother, Clair Huxtable) worked during her pregnancy. Fans may recall Phylicia's baby bump was hidden by clever staging -- Phylicia held bags of groceries or read in bed on her stomach, with a hole cut out of the mattress. In the years that followed, Condola, now 26, grew up in Mount Vernon and hung out with mom on the "Cosby" set. She studied theater at the California Institute for the Arts, then hit New York, making her 2009 Off-Broadway debut in "Ruined." She then earned Tony nominations for strong performances in "Stick Fly" (in 2012) and "The Trip to Bountiful" (last spring).
Now, she stars as a certain star-crossed lover opposite heartthrob Orlando Bloom in "Romeo and Juliet" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. She chatted with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
Must be tough saying Juliet's familiar lines like, "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?"
It's just a matter of-uh ... trusting Shakespeare, in a way. Knowing that even though the line's been said a million times, there's a new way to say it -- it's a different time, I'm a different actor. If I say it right now, it'll be new.
Bummer for you -- having to establish chemistry with the likes of Orlando Bloom.
Yeah. What's funny is that we didn't have to force it. We had a connection from the minute we met ... a sense of comfort with each other. Which was cool. We both loved the work. And he's such a great guy.
It's his Broadway debut -- did you show him the ropes?
He occasionally asks things, like, "Is this normal for a tech rehearsal?" Because they can be brutal. But he's finding his way beautifully.
This production features an interracial love story, but it's not really a "West Side Story" thing, is it?
Race may add to the tension, but it's not the reason for this family feud. It's really great to know we have interracial characters but the story isn't about that. Our director, David Leveaux, was asked why he cast a black Juliet. And he said, "Our Juliet is black because ... she's black." [She chuckles.] He didn't cast me because I was black. He wanted to see me play the role. And I'm black, so he was like, OK, we'll just run with that.
I'm curious about your childhood. Do you recall when you realized your parents weren't ... typical?
I always knew they were known, from when I was little. But I also knew they were the same as everybody else's parents. I remember people knowing them, stopping them. That's normal to me. But I also remember my parents coming home at the end of the workday. My mother cooking dinner for the family, like a lot of other mothers do. She was no different.
Did you catch the acting bug from Mom?
I did. My mother took me everywhere when I was little -- and directors let me stay at rehearsals. I was well behaved and would sit and watch. And ... I fell in love with acting. I fell in love with what goes on behind the scenes -- the craft. There are certain actors who fall in love with the fame side. I'm not saying that's bad. It's just not my thing. I watched my mother take a character from a page and create something. I think the best actors are the ones who -- beyond anything you think of them -- just want to tell you a story.
What about Dad's genes? Are you athletic?
Actually -- I am. I ran track, played soccer. I was athletic in high school. I didn't really start acting then. I'm actually a musician first and foremost. I was trained classically in piano for 10 years. And now I have a band.
What's your band called?
Condola and the Stoop Kids. It's fun. Our goal is a fall concert.
And you're releasing an album.
Yes. It's alternative
rock-soul, basically. We think we have something special. It's very lyrically driven. I wrote all the lyrics, and some music I wrote by myself, some I conceived with producers. We recorded the album through the summer.
Any other projects in the works?
All I can see is as far as "Romeo and Juliet." That's my whole world right now.
Not a bad world to be in.
So who's releasing the album?
Um ... it's indie. Yeah ... we are a very indie band.