At the end of her sophomore year of high school, Lynn Collins was faced with a choice: stick with the popular kids or spend her summer preparing for the school”s production of Hamlet.
That”s how Collins described a key turning point in her life. Though she”d discovered a talent for reading Shakespeare aloud in her English class, Collins wasn”t involved with her Houston, TX school”s drama department because of the time she put in as class president freshman year.
When she lost in elections for sophomore class president, the drama teacher “cornered me in the hall, in between classes one day, and he was like ‘This is the best thing that could have happened to you because we”re doing Hamlet, and I”d like you to play Ophelia,”” Collins recalled. The drama teacher then said, “I just want you to commit to it and let go of being popular and all of that because you have a real chance if this is what you wanna do with your life, and I can help you do that.”
Committing to theater for the rest of high school led Collins to Juilliard and then to an acting career with such films and TV shows as John Carter, True Blood, and 13 Going on 30. She got to do some Shakespeare onscreen alongside Al Pacino as one of the Bard“s greatest heroines, Portia, in the 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice.
Hamlet was also Collins” first professional gig out of Juilliard. She played Ophelia again, this time opposite Liev Schreiber”s Hamlet – both actors appear in HitFix”s video series celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare. (This Saturday marked 400 years Shakespeare“s death.)
Another early professional Shakespeare production for Collins was Romeo and Juliet at Los Angeles” Ahmanson Theatre, directed by Sir Peter Hall, founder of Britain”s renown Royal Shakespeare Company.
She returned to the role of the star-crossed lover for our Shakespeare 400 video project.
Collins delivered us an impassioned reading of Juliet”s monologue from the final moment she is hopeful for a happy future with Romeo in Verona. This comes just before the Nurse tells her that Romeo has killed her cousin Tybalt and is banished from Verona. “Gallop apace,” Juliet implores the horses that carry Phoebus, the sun god, to his “lodging” in the west. Nightfall will bring the arrival of Romeo at her room, where they will consummate their secret marriage.
Watch Collins” reading in the video below:
For more of HitFix”s Shakespeare 400 series, watch the video below for actors” reflections on the Bard”s influence in their own lives, including how much Romeo and Juliet meant to Lost actress Maggie Grace as a teen. And keep up with the video series as we add more content over the next several days here.