Zach Rand ’16 is an actor and singer. He started his career at a young age in community theater, and by the time he was nine, he was cast as Gavroche in Les Misérables on Broadway. Since then, he has been in numerous other musicals, TV shows, and movies including Mary Poppins on Broadway, the 2011 film The Woman, and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. He also sings in PHS’s all-male a cappella group The Testostertones. Currently, he is working to raise awareness for the disease his sister Chloe died from, pulmonary hypertension, through his Breathless on Broadway campaign. He plans to study either a performance art or writing in college, and intends to continue acting regardless of his eventual major.
What made you want to start acting?
It’s kind of complicated; I initially had no intentions of being an actor at all. It was my older sister [Liv] who was like, ‘I want to be on stage all the time,’ and she was cast in a show at the local theater in the town that I used to live in. The show was The King and I, and there were like 40 kids in the show. They didn’t really think it through until they had 40 kids in the show, but [there wasn’t anybody] to watch the kids. So like last minute they were like, ‘Hey how ’bout you do this?’ to my mom and my mom was like, ‘Uh, ok’ and then my mom ended up working in the theater for like 10 years, and so I pretty much grew up in the theatre. And then one day when I was seven I was like, ‘Let’s give it a try!’ and that’s just kind of how it happened.
When did you decide to pursue acting in larger Broadway productions rather than community theater, and how did you find success?
It was kind of just like a natural progression of things. I did a lot of shows locally, and then it happened very quickly. We met this vocal coach in town, and then she was like, ‘Oh I have a friend who’s an agent.’ … She called the agent and had me sing to the agent over the phone … Then the agent was like, ‘I think you’re really talented. You should come to my office and meet me.’ Then I met her and she was like, ‘Alright I’ll represent you’ and then … By the time I was nine, I was cast in my first Broadway show. I was very fortunate that it happened so easily for me.
What made you want to start doing movies and television in addition to theatre?
I’ve always been interested not just in musical theatre but in other forms of acting, and movie and TV provided a very different platform to do that on. And on top of it, it was kind of the natural progression of my career. For every child Broadway actor who’s a guy there kind of is that line where you’re too old to play the little kid but you’re too young to play the teenager or the adult part. There’s a period of time where it really just stops for Broadway actors who are teenage boys. And it really just made sense then for me to try other stuff and I was again fortunate in that I found the right projects right away and got into it super quickly.
How has balancing school and acting been difficult?
It’s gotten more difficult as I’ve gotten older, because not only have I gotten more schoolwork but I’ve gotten more demanding acting jobs and stuff like that. It was a lot easier when I was in elementary school and I could finish my homework in 15 minutes and then go to work. A lot of times though they provide a tutor on the location. More often than not it’s someone who’s actually taught at a school but got bored of doing that and so they went and looked for some other type of work. So usually in my downtime on set or backstage I’ll be doing schoolwork. So it balances out pretty easily and I’ve been doing it for almost nine years now so I kind of got the hang of it.
What is it like working with well-known actors and actresses like Elina Lowensohn (Schindler’s List) and Nolan Gould (Modern Family)?
So the weird thing with me is that I, unlike most people in this profession, have no idea who anybody is; anybody big or anybody famous. And so when I meet them it’s just like working with a random person, it doesn’t make any difference to me. Then later on I figure out that they’re some big name star, they’re on a really well-known TV show, and that’s cool, it’s really great but … They’re just normal people and it’s just like if I was working with one of my best friends.