Fox’s latest live TV musical, Rent, features a slew of actors and singers we’ve seen belt it out before. Vanessa Hudgens has been singing since her days as a Wildcat in High School Musical. Jordan Fisher and Brandon Dixon Victor have both been to Broadway and back in Hamilton. Mario and Tinashe both have multiple studio albums. And then there’s Kiersey Clemons, who plays Joanne in Rent: Live and whose name definitely rings a bell, but if you can’t quite figure out where you’ve seen her before — was it singing, or acting? — it's actually both.
She’s no stranger to the big (and small) screen, and can most certainly carry a tune. Clemons is actually trained as a singer, and her role as Joanne in Rent is the perfect place to really showcase those talents. She told the New York Post that when she first told her mother she wanted to be an actress, her mother instead enrolled her in singing classes that were, “like opera.”
Before ever making it to the big screen, Clemons appeared in a handful of Disney Channel shows, some of which did require her to sing. Back in 2013, she had a recurring role in Austin & Ally, where she played Kira Starr, a fellow tween recording artist. Also once upon a time, she starred in a Disney Channel Original Movie as a world-famous snowboarder, and if that’s not a huge badge of honor, I’m not sure what is.
Her film debut and breakout role was in the critically acclaimed 2015 movie Dope, where she played Diggy, and then went onto star in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising as Beth. But it wouldn’t be until Hearts Beat Loud, which debuted at Sundance in 2018, that she really got to showcase her singing chops. In the movie, she plays Sam, who forms a band with her dad (Nick Offerman) and sings the title track of the movie, “Hearts Beat Loud.” And yes, that’s really her singing in the movie, no voice double required.
“I really enjoy music and singing, and I enjoy musicals,” She told the L.A. Times of her role as Sam. “There are a lot of actors who can sing and singers who can act but I know for so long I've always done both. And they wanted the vocals to be live so I think doing musical theater helped with that and being trained vocally probably had something to do with it.”
Even though Rent premieres Sunday, we’ve still yet to see (or hear!) any snippets of Clemons singing. Fox did release an a cappella version of “Seasons of Love” sung by the cast, which includes Clemons, and it’s definitely worth a listen.
That means we’ll just have to wait a few more days to really hear Clemons belt it out as Joanne with songs like “Tango: Maureen” and “Take Me Or Leave Me” — but we can rest assured that Clemons has the chops to handle the classics.