Photo: Robyn von Swank
Tawny Newsome realized she was funny early on, while growing up in Northern California. “I was both a painfully nerdy, rule-follower type and also a clown,” she says. “Teachers were never sure whether I was their star student or an absolute pain.”
After graduating from The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, she joined the ensemble at Second City, quickly making a name for herself on the Windy City comedy scene.
She moved to LA in 2016, landing roles on shows such as Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, The Comedy Get Down, and Brockmire, as well as a gig cohosting the popular, thought-provoking podcast Yo, Is This Racist? She’s even had time to sing in a band, Four Lost Souls.
This is a star-making summer for Tawny Newsome. In May, she made her Netflix debut in the comedy Space Force, playing helicopter pilot and budding astronaut Angela Ali alongside Steve Carell and John Malkovich.
“Malkovich used scented markers for all of his lines,” she recalls of the quirky actor. “Every episode had a different scent and corresponding color. Episode 4 was lemon; episode 6, watermelon. His binder was beautiful, and my scripts were always in a mangled pile in my giant purse.”
The Next Frontier
This month, Newsome boldly goes where no actor has gone before: a Star Trek comedy.
The animated Star Trek: Lower Decks (streaming on CBS All Access) follows the unglamorous lives of the support crew on an insignificant Starfleet ship. Trekkies have been breathlessly documenting every detail of the show, and Newsome hopes they love it as much as she does.
“It is so, so funny,” she says. “The day they let me have the rough cuts, I binged all 10 episodes. I sent an email at 2:30 a.m. to our show creator, Mike McMahan, that simply said ‘Question’ in the subject line, and the body of the email was just an all-caps, throwaway Klingon line that had me in tears laughing. He responded immediately, and we chatted excitedly for 30 minutes like schoolkids too amped up to sleep.”
Walk This Way
When she has a break from her myriad projects, Tawny Newsome loves getting outside, especially on solo walks in far-flung locales.
Next on her list is “the gnarled forests of Yakushima,” an island in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture.
Her first such trip was along the cliffs of the Rota Vicentina, in the Alentejo region of Portugal. “I met a German mother and daughter on that trip, and we all walked together one of the days,” she remembers. “I was quickly picking my way across a tricky, rocky crossing, wearing this overly heavy pack, when the mother called out to me, ‘Tawny, wow! You are quite a fine alpinist!’ I mean, a German giving props to an American for being a good mountain walker? I’ve been living off that compliment for years.”
Next up: Mandy Moore’s Big Return to Music