Ilana Levine is a true New Yorker. She’s the host of the hugely successful podcast Little Known Facts. If you have a favorite actor or actress she’s probably interviewed them. She’s a Broadway kid…maybe you saw her alongside Kristin Chenoweth in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. This is a great talk. Let’s get into it!
01. What’s your typical morning routine? How do you get your day started?
I have to have coffee! I love coffee so much it is often the last thing I think about before I fall asleep. So, I wake up and make coffee and then my husband and I sit on the couch and drink coffee and use this time to catch up with each other once the kids are off to school, before we both head off into our days.
02. You’re an actress and a podcaster, but it seems like first and foremost you’re a lover of Broadway. When did that come about? And what made you fall in love?
My mother was a huge lover of Broadway. From a very early age I can recall cast recordings playing in our house. I loved to sing along to them and she always brought us to see Broadway shows. That was how our family celebrated any special event and it still is.
03. You’re well known for being in the show You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown…What did that show mean to you? How did it feel when you first got the role?
That show did and still does mean absolutely everything to me! As someone who grew up celebrating every birthday by going to see a musical it never, EVER occurred to me that someday I would be in one. That entire experience still feels like a dream. I have talked a lot about how much every member of the cast and creative team has remained like family to me. We were a family from day one but I haven’t talked a lot about how many times I turned down the audition for that show. I had never done a musical before, although at that point I had already done a few plays on Broadway.
The casting director called me and convinced me to come in. He said that the creative team knew I was not a musical theater performer but that the director, Michael Mayer, had seen me in a play many years prior and felt strongly that I could play LucyVan Pelt. I decided to take a chance. I have never worked so hard on anything in my life. It felt like I was preparing to compete in the long distance track event in the Olympics, having never even jogged before. Somehow the part became mine and it is to the credit of everyone involved that I became a confident member of that ensemble. It was glorious from day one. The most generous, talented group of people. I would give every one of them my kidneys if they needed them!
04. I know you’re still working in movies. Do you still like performing? Do you have any long term goals to do more in that field?
I recently worked on a film with a dear friend of mine called Making The Day and it was pure joy. Also, I am in this season of the HBO series Divorce. Sarah Jessica Parker is an old friend and I am sure she had a say in my getting to be a part of the show. She is my hero.
05. Let’s talk about NYC. What do you love most about living there? Is it ever difficult?
I love love love living in Brooklyn. It is the perfect blend of urban living and small village life. My neighborhood is filled with fascinating people, there is a French Immersion school next to a methadone clinic next to a five star restaurant next to a mom and pop rice and beans place. It’s all here and we are all living side-by-side and you can hear four languages in the space of two blocks. It can be intense at times but with everything going on there is still the local crossing guard who lets me know that she saw my son get to school safely. We all look out for each other and care about each other.
06. Little Known Facts is so well done and informative. What made you want to do a podcast?
The truth is that this opportunity was handed to me by a friend who had a hunch I could be good at this sort of thing. I had never imagined myself as an interviewer but in retrospect it all makes sense. Being an actor is a lot like being a journalist. Every part is a deep dive into the world and life of your character. You spend so much of your time in rehearsal asking questions. Who am I playing? What do I want? Why am I behaving this way? So in a way I have been preparing for this job all my adult life. I have always been curious about people and it turned out that between my inquisitive nature, my sense of humor, and my desire to make my guests feel safe and comfortable…I have been able to create an environment where they feel safe to share things about their lives, personal and professional, that they have not shared in other places before.
07. You’ve had so many amazing guests on your show. Do you have a favorite guest? Or maybe a favorite moment?
I really don’t have a favorite! 150 episodes in and I truly love every single guest and that each episode has it’s own unique story, but I will say in the world of “you never forget your first.” I will always be so grateful to John Slattery. He was my first friend to come on the show.At that point all I knew is that I had been offered a studio to do a podcast and it was up to me to figure out what direction to take the show in. John came in and we ended up talking for so long it became a two-part episode. When we were done he told me that I reminded him of Howard Stern. He said that there was something about my hosting style that made him feel free to talk about anything, but also that he was in safe hands, and that I had a really natural ability to steer the conversation so that it never got off course. I was so flattered and heartened by his vote of confidence and it gave me the permission to keep going. I will never forget that.
08. Are you working on anything new right now that you’re excited about?
I am so thrilled to share that I am about to start making a filmed version of Little Known Facts for a new streaming network that will be announced soon. Little Known Facts the series! This is exciting and scary!
09. What is currently inspiring you and in what way? (book, movie, song, podcast, anything really…)
Oh, this is a tough one! There is so much incredible content out there but I guess I will always come back to documentaries. I love love love that medium. American Masters on PBS – I grew up watching those with my parents and they still make incredible content deep diving into so many people who have been impactful in every aspect of our lives.
10. How do you end a typical day? What do you do to unwind?
I spend time with my kids. I still will lie down with them at night and we talk about their day or whatever they want to talk about. Things that make them happy or things they are anxious about. My mom used to say, “You are only as happy as your unhappiest
child.” It’s true. When they are feeling ok and balanced, then so am I.