Jenn Colella Wants to Make Kindness Cool
Every night when Jenn Colella walks in the stage door at the Schoenfeld Theatre, she says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“I want the doorman to hear me,” she says. “I want it to reverberate from the walls.”
Colella stars in “Come From Away,” the musical about how Gander, Newfoundland, embraced stranded airplane passengers on Sept. 11, 2001, and in March, the show will become her longest Broadway run. Her previous stints in Urban Cowboy and Chaplin lasted months, while High Fidelity was only open for a week. (“If/Then” made it a year.) Colella holds each experience dear, and whenever she passes a Broadway theater where she’s performed, she places her hand on the door and sends love to the building’s current resident.
Last year was full of personal and professional highs for Colella, from opening “Come From Away” on Broadway to earning her first Tony Award nomination. (She still has a text chain with the four other women in her category. “We became sisters through that process.”) Although it’s been busy and stressful, you won’t find Colella griping. “There’s no way I’m ever going to complain about my job, because I know how many people want to do what I do,”
Colella’s positivity is infectious. Sitting in her dressing room, she looks cool and calm in a T-shirt and jeans. While her chiseled features and spiky hair could be read as harsh, Colella exudes a warmth that immediately makes you feel like you’re one of her closest friends. She recently tattooed the words “kindness” and “gratitude” on her triceps, inspired by “Come From Away’s” message of acceptance and love.
“I want to be an ambassador for kindness, the way this show has taught me to do,” she says. “Kindness has always been my religion, but this show makes me have to live it.”
Those are powerful words from a woman whose job it is to perform a musical every night about a terrible tragedy in the wake of an election that left the country divided. Colella’s big moment is the 11 o’clock number, “Me and the Sky,” as Captain Beverley Bass, the first female captain for American Airlines.
Colella has formed a friendship with the real Bass, who has seen the show upwards of 60 times. Although a conservative Texan and a self-proclaimed polyamorous liberal might not seem likely friends, Colella hopes their relationship can be an example for how people should listen to each other.
“We have to really start to flex our forgiveness muscles, and we have to find compassion for each person,” she says.
Colella has signed on to stay in “Come From Away” through May, and the show’s momentum has not let up. The cast recording was just nominated for a Grammy Award, and a film adaptation of the musical is in the works.
“Robin Wright will probably play my role,” she says of the film. “If they want to come back around to me for that, I will talk to them.”
Colella lets out a laugh, and it’s clear she has no ego in the business. All she wants to do is bring herself to the table and lead with love.
“I spent a lot of years trying to be something that I wasn’t,” she says. “The difference in me is what makes me so extraordinary. I’m more content with who I am and I care less about what other people think. I know better who I am in the world.”
Styled by Jake Sokoloff
Pick up a complimentary copy of “The X Magazine” with your next order of concierge-delivered tickets in New York City, or buy an issue at CultureLivesHere.com.