(Featured image courtesy of Emily Assiran)
If you don’t immediately recognize the name Mattea Conforti, we’re sure that just hearing her speak will ring a bell. Lending her performing talents to Frozen on Broadway and her voice to the film sequel (now the tenth highest-grossing film of all time), the release of the soundtrack on Spotify and the film on Disney+ has likely made Conforti’s voice familiar to countless people across the world.
TV Wasteland talked with Conforti about the world of Frozen, her Broadway career, and her regular role in the upcoming second season of NOS4A2.
Growing up, Mattea “never really had any experience with singing or acting,” as she was focused on her dance career. However, as she began to explore different talents, she realized that she loved being on stage in any form, so theater acting became her primary avenue.
Conforti made her Broadway debut in 2015 in Matilda the Musical as the genius titular heroine. She specifically recalled that show’s friendly environment and her fellow young stars, who created an especially “fun” experience both on stage and off. Not even two years later, she landed a role in the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George alongside Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford. “Even though I was the only kid on that play, I felt like I fit in with the other adults there.” Even though Gyllenhaal is usually thought of as a very serious actor, “his silly side is a very fun side to be around,” as he provided some levity to the entire process. Of course, working with the same people for eight shows a week (not even counting rehearsals and all the other extra time that goes in) can create some really special bonds between cast members. “Finishing the Hat” is one of Sunday’s most famous songs, sung by Gyllenhaal’s George, and it gave Mattea the inspiration for one of her favorite behind-the-scenes memories, where, like the song, she actually knit Gyllenhaal his own hat.
Conforti remembers watching Frozen for the first time, and while she admitted that she would have never expected that she would be in the position she is today, it did feel a little bit like fate. She has a sister, and the depiction of the sibling relationship in the first film really struck a nerve, as they felt as if they were seeing themselves up on the screen. Flash forward to a few years later, and Mattea is now premiering the role of Young Anna in Frozen on Broadway. “It’s really fun to open up a show, because you don’t realize how much work goes into it. You can play around with stuff.” Since it was a new production that was so malleable, “I would like to see what kind of different responses I could get from the audience.” In a medium where so much of the same routine is repeated each and every night, Conforti found many different ways to keep each show fresh. She expressed her amazement at how much goes on behind the scenes that audience members don’t even think about but influence the entire way they experience the production.
For the film Frozen II, Mattea switched roles, now taking on the part of young Elsa. In terms of what differences or similarities there were between the two girls, she said that “Anna is definitely more free-spirited, careless, definitely a little more crazy, but they both have such a kind heart. They both care so much about each other that it was easy to transition.” There were slight differences in the way that the two then-princesses were to be played, but at their core, they were virtually the same, so it wasn’t difficult to switch from one sister to the other.
But of course Frozen II isn’t the only screen presence Conforti has had over the years, having appeared in projects like the star-studded 3 Generations and the popular DC comic book adaptation Gotham. “When you’re performing on stage, you really only get one shot to convey a message to the audience. All of your movements have to be bigger or more over-exaggerated… so that everyone in the theater can read what you’re trying to say to them.” Film affords more opportunities for tweaking technique and shifting choices until the actor and director are truly happy with the performance. You can also find ways to relax between takes, whereas you need to be in character all the time when you’re on stage in front of a huge crowd.
One of Mattea’s biggest parts has been on Power, the Starz crime drama in which she has portrayed Elisa Marie from 2017 to today. The material was very heavy, but she found it as more of a great challenge than anything. “It was fun to express my acting range and how well I can convey a message.” She also has fond memories of the environment, as she was treated on the same equal level as everyone else. Especially in a more intense show like that, it can be strange to have someone younger on set, but it sounds like Starz and Power were a welcoming place for Mattea to exercise her work.
On June 21, the second season of NOS4A2 will premiere, in which Conforti will be reprising her role of Millie, the daughter of Zachary Quinto’s villainous Charlie Manx. Mattea praised Quinto as “a true professional” who was able to help everyone else achieve their A-game as he always brought his own to the table as well. Though, like Gyllenhaal, he could always have fun as well, often bringing his dog Skunk to set.
“Millie is more serious than cutesy innocent princesses, but she’s definitely more involved in reality. Millie knows what’s going on behind the fantasy of Christmasland [the twisted world of her father’s imagination], and she knows how to deal with that.” While she’s still a kid and acts like a kid with all of her friends, she also doesn’t hesitate to step up and become a leader when she needs to.
One of the most notable things about Millie is her look. With her pale face, dark veins, and needle-like teeth, even taking a glance at her makes it obvious that she’s a far cry from the inhabitants of Arendelle. The teeth were retainers, and even though they were custom-made to fit Mattea’s mouth, “they can be a little bit hard to talk in sometimes… but it’s very fun to have those teeth in.”
But of course, Conforti’s life isn’t all production. She still attends in-person public school, though often just in the morning, and afterwards she heads to whatever production she’s working on at the moment. Just like any student, she admitted that she often wasn’t too excited for some of her assigned readings, but if she was on set with Zachary Quinto, as he would constantly ask her about what she was learning, and it would often help to know that they could discuss the book together the next day.
Right now, Mattea’s focusing on online school and “wishing the best for everyone that’s lost a job on Broadway.” The ongoing situation regarding COVID-19 has essentially brought the theater world to a standstill, everyone unable to perform without the most important component of a theatrical production: the audience. Conforti hopes that everyone will be able to find a way to regain their jobs soon. She also has a special, secret new project coming up that will be doing some reshoots as soon as circumstances allow.
NOS4A2 will be airing its second season every Sunday on AMC this summer. It seems that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Millie in season two, and “she’s going to be taking you on a lot more adventures, which will lead the viewer to guessing about what she will do next.”