Michael Iskander (photo: Courtesy of “Kimberly Akimbo”)
Interview by Joey Sims
How often does an actor’s very first stage credit take them all the way to Broadway?
That’s the unlikely and wondrous journey Michael Iskander traveled: he currently appears in the acclaimed new musical Kimberly Akimbo at the Booth Theatre. Born in Egypt and raised in Southern California, Iskander first hit the scene at the 2019 Jimmy Awards, where he won a special recognition scholarship. Though he dove right into auditioning, Iskander also took a day job in clinical research and made plans to become a doctor. But then Akimbo came calling.
Iskander plays Aaron, part of the show choir quartet who become Kimberly’s friends. The cheery teens get roped into a criminal scheme by Kimberly’s aunt Debra (Bonnie Milligan). On top of that, each member of the quartet is in love with another, though, sadly, the crushes do not line up, and Aaron’s love Delia (Olivia Elease Hardy) has eyes for another.
Iskander spoke with The Broadway Blog about landing the role, discovering the character of Aaron, and his plans for the future.
I believe the off-Broadway premiere of Kimberly Akimbo, at Atlantic Theater Company, was your New York stage debut. How did you land the role?
It was my first ever gig! That was a long process. I first auditioned for the workshop back in 2019, then I kept sending new tapes every six months. Eventually I had a callback over Zoom, and then I flew out to New York to audition in person. I was living with my family in Orange County at the time, and working in clinical research.
So I flew out, and I really didn’t think it went well. After auditioning for two years I was like, “I don’t think this is gonna work out.” And then I got the call in the airport, the next day, that I had booked Aaron.
Did the creative team have strong ideas going in for each member of the show choir, or was it more discovering as you went?
For me it was discovery. They didn’t know who Aaron was gonna be; he could have been interpreted many different ways. He was this very anxious, very geeky kid who was just in love with [Delia]. At the Atlantic, Aaron used to say, “I don’t even like show choir!” He didn’t really belong anywhere. He was just going to show choir for his love.
What kind of changes happened for the teen quartet between the Atlantic staging and Broadway?
Initially at the Atlantic, we used to have the quartet be very excited about Debra’s plan. The four of us were like, “Yes, let’s rob a bank!” Very excited about it. To give them more realism, now the quartet are divided. Some of them are very excited to go along with the check washing, and some are very scared.
And Aaron is very much in the scared camp.
Well initially he’s just like, what is this? Aaron is always a beat behind. But Delia is all for it, and Aaron has to impress her at all costs. Even if it means going to jail.
Do you have a favorite moment or song in the show?
My favorite song is “Father Time.” Alli Mauzey is a beast, I love her.
Let’s finish up with a few rapid-fire questions. What’s your favorite spot for a post-show bite or drink near the theater, and what do you order?
Glass House Tavern, and my favorite thing to get there is the chicken tenders.
If you weren’t a performer, what might you be instead?
Many different things. I would be a doctor, or an astronaut. Or an agricultural engineer. Or a farmer!
You mentioned that you were working in clinical research before you landed this role. So that’s something very different.
My original plan was to be a doctor. I think I specifically wanted to be a neurologist? Yeah, I love science. Science is great. So in high school, that was the plan. I started doing theater kind of by accident. But then things just started happening, and I found myself maneuvering towards acting, almost by miracle.
My last question is actually, “Ten years from now, I would like to be…X.” So, will it still be acting?
Ten years from now, I’d like to be in a movie. But thirty years down the line, I’d love to be in med school.