Introducing the soulful breakout lead of Apple TV+’s soaring new series Little Voice.
We’ve consumed enough screen time of Sex and the City to know that New York is the place to fall in love. With what? The city first – hear the way it pulsates and the music it makes. Embark on a romance. Start a life-long relationship with yourself. Discover your footing. Find your voice.
And that’s exactly the journey that young aspiring singer-songwriter Bess is navigating in Apple TV+’s brand new musical romance series Little Voice – but conveyed with more relatability and undeniably with more heart. Played by coruscating breakout talent, actor Brittany O’Grady, Bess works odd jobs (dog walker, bartender, you name it), while dealing with heartbreak, juggling complex relationships with her friends and family, and also trying to pursue a successful music career.
Little Voice serves as masterful musician Sara Bareilles’ screen semi-autobiography – with the Grammy winner penning original songs for the soundtrack, and O’Grady belting them out with heartrending conviction. With previous credits including formative TV series Star, alongside Queen Latifah and Lenny Kravitz, she manages to be endearing, charming, as well as a soulful powerhouse.
With the show out now, we caught up with O’Grady to talk about identifying with her character, instantly clicking with Bareilles, and learning Mandarin in lockdown…
How has lockdown treated you? How have you been staying creative?
Lockdown has been something I am constantly adapting to. I have been embracing living in the moment, appreciating my loved ones, and my connections to others even though we cannot embrace and be in each other’s presence like we used to. I am feeling incredibly lucky my loved ones are safe and healthy. I’ve been able to continue piano and singing lessons throughout the year and just started taking Mandarin classes to continue to improve on my less than basic Mandarin I learned in college.
Congratulations on Little Voice – tell us what drew you to the character of Bess King?
Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how grateful I feel to be a part of this heartwarming show. When I first got the audition for Little Voice last summer, I received the scene in the pilot where Bess bombs on stage. Her nervous banter was something that I identified with immediately. Definitely have had those experiences where I overexposed myself and looking back has made me cringe. I identify with the fact that your nerves can also come from low self esteem and serve as a self sabotage.
How much did you relate to her as a character? How similar are you?
Bess is the closet character to me I have played in my career so far. There was a thin veil when it came to portraying her and her emotional vulnerability. They were so raw. It was as if I had the freedom to truly feel and react authentically rather than reacting the way I believe I should in order to please others. That was the most cathartic part for me. She feels deeply and fights for who she loves and will not compromise her authentic self for the industry.
Jessie Nelson has said they auditioned “literally thousands” of women before they realised you were the one – what do you think it was that clicked with you?
I truly believe Jessie, Sara, and I connected on a spiritual and energetic level. I instantly felt a sense of comfort and connection with them as creators I’ve never felt with anyone I have worked for. They are strong, courageous, and genuinely kind women with a passion for humanity. They operate from the heart and with so much vulnerability. We trusted each other in making the story and felt so much care for the way Bess was portrayed, even through the audition process and then proceeding to filming.
And was the experience of auditioning in front of Sara Bareilles nerve-wracking, especially as a young artist?
It was! But she was so kind. I was surprised how comfortable I felt with her as a person. As a musical genius, I was definitely terrified the whole time.
How was it recording the music for the show? Which song do you love the most?
The energy in the recording studio and being able to sing with Sara and her team was magical. I definitely felt a lot of pressure, (recording for television shows are often time sensitive in my experience) but their patience made it feel like such a safe space for me to get the work done. I learned so much. My favourite to record was definitely “Simple and True”.
At the heart of the story, it’s all about courage and authenticity – why is it important for these kinds of empowering narratives to be told?
I find that authenticity is something that brings a lot of vulnerability to the forefront which is usually seen as a weakness. I find that it takes an immense amount of courage to be your authentic self. I find that people being authentic to who they are creates life changing opportunities and potentially a chance for growth in ways you never even imagined. Or connecting to people around you you never thought you would. That is the whole essence of Sara’s songs and her musicality.
And it’s also about finding your footing in your 20s and imposter syndrome, which is so universal for everyone – what do you hope viewers will take from the show’s message?
I feel like the show taps into emotional stakes that feel so intense for people in their twenties. I hope that viewers find themselves feeling less alone in that journey and can identify with the characters. Maybe even validating passions and that urge to pursue your dreams.
The show serves as a love story to New York, and is also about love – What research did you do before filming? Did you draw from any of your own experiences?
Before filming, I spent a lot of time learning the music and learning guitar. It was a quick process and we only had a couple of days of prep before we started shooting. I definitely found myself drawing from my own experiences to connect to the feeling of self doubt, rejection in pursuing a career, and emotional conflicts within romantic experiences.
Do you think your previous work in Star helped with your role in Little Voice?
Absolutely. Star was an incredibly demanding show that had so many elements outside of the story that made the show operate (recording music, dance rehearsals, rehearsing scenes). It was my introduction to the music industry and my first experience making music in a recording studio. It definitely helped me be able to juggle the demands needed to create the character of Bess.
And you’ve posted videos on your Instagram of you singing – has music always been your first love? Is this something you’d love to go into fully in the future? Or do you hope acting and singing will always be intertwined for you as it has been so far?
Music was always something that I felt in my heart. I always felt my voice was an instrument and a gateway to self expression that also helped me tell stories. I always looked up to actresses like Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne, Rita Moreno, Diana Ross, Eartha Kitt, Julie Andrews etc… Oh, the list goes on and on. That would definitely be a dream for me. Being able to perform for others while also being able to incorporate my love for acting. Definitely a dream of mine to do movie musicals. Maybe an album! I am open to anything.
What’s next for you? What else are you excited about in 2020?
My door is open to the future. Nothing in the works or planned at the moment. Just started having auditions come through. I am excited the show has touched many hearts and brought a little bit of light in such a difficult and uncertain time.