BY CARY GINELL
Veronica Dunne and Austin Miller are both just 19 years old, but each has already embarked on promising roles in television, in addition to their long list of credits here in Ventura County musicals and plays. We continued our discussion of what lays in store for each of them as they move on past their high school years.
VCOS: Did both of you graduate high school at the same time?
VERONICA: Yes. I graduated from Oaks Christian.
AUSTIN: And I graduated from Santa Susana.
VERONICA: I was going to go to Carnegie Mellon to major in musical theater this year, but I ended up booking a show, and that led to another show, which led to another show, so I’m deferring from Carnegie Mellon.
VCOS: Do you still intend to go?
VERONICA: I think that’s more of a safety net. I signed a contract with Disney that takes up pretty much the next five years of my life, so I probably won’t be going. But just in case, you know, you never really say never in this business. I was going to do Mamma Mia! on Broadway in New York, but I had this revelation about all the girls who were up against me. They had all graduated from musical theater programs and I had only graduated from high school, and I ended up getting the part. Now, in no way am I discrediting what an amazing opportunity it is to continue growing in college, but I just felt that I could take classes here in order to grow instead of spending all that money and putting myself away for four years only to come back to do the exact same thing that I’m doing now without all the time and expense.
VCOS: In the shows we’ve seen you in here, you’re usually cast as a character with a bubbly personality, like in Footloose and Legally Blonde, but do you have a “dark side”?
VERONICA: Yeah! I think that if you saw Cabaret by Young Artists Ensemble, you saw that. I think that although Sally Bowles has a bubbly front, she’s a very dark person, and by the end of the show, she definitely was in a very dark place. There are other shows that show my dark side, like in Sweeney Todd I played the Beggar Woman, which is a really, really dark part. I also did a show called View From the Bridge, which is an Arthur Miller play, and that was pretty dark as well. But I definitely do have a dark side.
VCOS: Is that more of a challenge for you, to go against your basic personality?
VERONICA: Honestly, no. I think it’s actually a release because I am really bubbly and happy and perky, and even Austin can attest to this. Whenever I sing “Still Hurting,” it’s so therapeutic for me, and I never half-ass that song, ever, because it almost feels good, because my life is crazy as well. I go through lots of things and I AM going through lots of things, so to be able to have a release is great for me. I remember coming to rehearsal one day and I was going through a lot, and I sang that song and I turned to Austin and said, “I’m really happy that we’re doing this.
VCOS: Austin, I know you have a dark side, because I’ve seen it – when you did Edgar Allen Poe.
AUSTIN: Don’t tell anybody (laughs). That’s about the darkest I’ve gone.
VCOS: You have an amazing versatility in all of the different parts you have done.
VERONICA: He’s amazing. I’ve been watching Austin for a very long time and even watching him in rehearsal I can see it. The first time I was blown away by Austin was in Sweeney Todd. We had to come up with our own characters who had their own mental disabilities and he came up with this character who was an actor who thought he was…
AUSTIN: Let ME tell this! My character believed that he was starring in the premiere performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. And every night was opening night. It’s important that we greatly respect each other’s talent.
VERONICA: I’ve been in awe of him for a very long time. He continues to blow me away and every time we’re in rehearsal, there’s some new choice or new joke or even a look or a phrase and I’ll say, “Wow. Oh my God!” He never stops surprising me, and every time I come to rehearsal, I don’t think he can get better and yet he does. I think we push each other to be better every day. And it’s so great to work with a performer who just keeps topping himself. And you just want to top yourself as well, right?
AUSTIN: Yes. And we are so close that it may seem that it would be difficult to have a connection between Jamie and Cathy, even though we only look into each other’s eyes once in the show, but we connect so much that it’s so easy to pretend that I know this character that she’s playing.
VERONICA: I see him every time I’m singing to him, even though he’s not there, I know exactly what his facial expression would be, so I have an immediate reaction on my face.
VCOS: Do you two see yourselves doing other things together in the future?
VERONICA: Hopefully, yeah. Always.
AUSTIN: Always. I don’t know, what do you want to do next?
VERONICA: I want to do more Jason Robert Brown. I think he’d kill in Parade.
AUSTIN: Parade would be a blast.
VERONICA: But this is a great outlet – going to set every day and doing TV and film, I love television and I love sitcoms, but it’s great to be able to walk into that room and know that I can just come back to my roots with someone who I respect.
VCOS: And Austin, your sitcom is what?
AUSTIN: It’s called From Here On Out which takes place on Here TV, which is a cable network, the first LGBT network on cable. It’s a funny, cheesy, silly, raunchy sitcom. That’s the best way I can explain it.
VCOS: Let’s be honest. Isn’t that kind of beneath your abilities?
AUSTIN: Oh, no, not at all. It’s great. Absolutely! This is the first thing I’ve ever done on screen, my first camera work. It’s so different from theater. My character is Taylor Newcombe; he’s the president of Here TV who inherited the company from his parents when he was very young and is a bit of a jerk. It’s silly and it’s fun.
VCOS: And Veronica, do you have a regular thing going with Disney now?
VERONICA: Right now, I’m reoccurring on a show called Kickin’ It, which is on right now, but the bigger news is that I did a pilot for the Disney Channel called K.C. Undercover as a series regular, one of the lead girls, actually, and it’s going to premiere in 2015 at the beginning of the year. And we just found out it got picked up, so that’s pretty coooool!
AUSTIN: Time will tell.
VCOS: Well, just mention me when you get your first Tony.
VERONICA: Or Emmy or Oscar (laughs)
AUSTIN: Yeah, why pick? Why can’t we have them all?
Veronica Dunne and Austin Miller star in The Last Five Years, which plays for only two performances this weekend at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts. For dates and showtimes, see the VC On Stage Calendar.