Patti Murin opens up about Nerds, social media, and her marriage with Colin Donnell

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The story of how Nerds went from being a highly-anticipated musical to shutting down during a tech rehearsal is one that has been speculated, discussed, and reported on by every theatre outlet. The musical, which was slated to start previews April 1 and officially open on April 21, came to a surprising halt on March 8. Patti Murin, who was set to play leading lady Sally in the production, joked that the musical lives on as part of “obscure theatre trivia.”

But despite the musical’s unfortunate and unexpected end, Murin has plenty to smile about.

Murin is back at home in New York City after living in Chicago with her husband Colin Donnell as he filmed the medical drama Chicago Med, which airs its first season finale tonight at 9pm on NBC. Murin confirmed that her quirky pathologist Dr. Nina Shore will be making an appearance in the episode.

While remaining tight-lipped about any big future stage roles and skirting the rumors she might be playing a princess from Arendelle (does anyone want to build a snowman?), Murin spoke candidly with Stage Door Dish about the untimely end for Nerds, as well as her campaign to end bullying on message boards and her strong social media presence.

I want to talk about Nerds and what happened afterwards for you.

Oh yeah, it was a really shitty situation. It all came together so last minute, but sometimes it happens like that – it’s last minute and a theatre becomes available. We didn’t really think twice, when you’re called and it’s like ‘Do you want to do this Broadway show?’ you’re like ‘Absolutely!’ I love the cast, I love the director, I love the writers, I love everyone working on the show. I love the creators, the designers even were people that I’d wanted to work with for a long time. It was exciting. I know there’s people out there saying ‘oh, they should have known’ and it’s like actually we shouldn’t have, because this isn’t something that happens. When we got canceled it was crappy. It was crappier for some people than others – for some people it was going to be their Broadway debut and some people it changed their life around. I was in Chicago with my husband and my dogs. Everyone made changes in their lives. People had turned down other jobs, which is the nature of the business. You always have to take a risk with every show. When it comes down to it, nobody died. It’s awful that a few people could disappoint so many other people so much but it’s what happens I guess. Now we’re just a part of random, very obscure theatre trivia! We had [Broadway historian] Jen Tepper at our final run through the day after we got canceled and it was like obviously she needs to be here! So we felt like someone was recording this. It was a bit of an adjustment period for everyone. I think the hardest part is that everyone was so disappointed for us, so every time you see someone they’re like ‘I’m so sorry’ and you have a sound bite that you spout off. Mine was just ‘You know, no one died but it’s really disappointing.’ So I went to Chicago and sort of laid low there. It was easier to be there because I didn’t have to keep facing it. I have to say auditions have been a little bit harder because there’s this voice saying ‘I should already have a job’ but you pick yourself up and that’s that.

So after Nerds you took on the message boards, which I loved. Can you talk about what sparked that and did you expect the rallying of people and even Rob Diamond [BroadwayWorld editor-in-chief] to make changes so quickly?

I did not expect him to respond so fast – it was like within a half an hour before people even picked up on it. I know that a popular opinion on the message boards is that I did it because I was sad about my show being closed, but I did it because my show got canceled and I had nothing to lose. Another popular opinion is that I was just mad about people saying things about me. But the reason that I only cited quotes about myself was because I wasn’t about to go sifting through the message boards searching for mean things said about other people and print them on my own blog. This was my thing and it was my decision to make a stand. I could have asked people if it was okay if I printed things about them, like Lesli Margherita who has been incredibly supportive, but that’s just putting it out there even further. For me, it’s about me and that’s fine. That’s why I didn’t put any comments except those about me.

I’m sure many actors would have been fine with it because the support from the industry has been tremendous. When I pushed ‘send’ on that I was like okay this is going to be controversial. And it was. But the good that came out of it, at least the steps in the correct direction were worth it. I asked people to come forward to me and talk directly to me themselves. Some people took me up on that and we did either a Twitter DM or Facebook message or on my blog. The six main people that are still talking about my on the boards have not come forward to tell me who they are. So I don’t have a human to humanize those things, it’s just an idea of a person. I can’t really care that much if I can’t picture a person.

We’re never going to fix the internet and I don’t want people to stop debating but I want them to stop being so nasty to each other. You can get together and do that on your own, but don’t tear other people away. Rob actually said that there are people that used to post who have come back now that it’s more moderated and a safer space. There’s a difference between stating your opinion and stating something as fact about a show being good or not, or people being good or not. I cried once but that was it.

I want to talk about Colin. And, as a sidenote, Violet is one of my favorite shows.

We had only been together about eight months when he did that. We took a road trip together from LA to NY six months into our relationship and even though we had already said I love you, this was when we felt like, ‘is this gonna fly?’ Ten days in the car together, just us. For both of us, that was when we knew it was going to be fun. So talking about Violet it feels like we were already married then.

So what has married life taught you?

This is not my first time at the rodeo so I think many of my lessons were learned from my first marriage. When I realized that Colin was the one, I didn’t have a need to get married because I knew that marriage wasn’t the ‘be all, end all.’ Going into our relationship knowing that marriage was not the thing to be shooting for or aiming for, was the best lesson I learned for this. When he proposed I said ‘of course’ and we planned [the wedding] in six months and it was a great day but I kept saying how I didn’t want it to be the best day of my life. It’s like calling college the best years of your life, because then you’re done at 21. I wanted it to be a wonderful party. Our wedding song was ‘I Choose You’ by Sara Bareilles and we did a verse and a chorus from that song but then we cut to ‘Everything is Awesome’ from the Lego movie.

If you two could work on any project together, what would it be?

I will say right now, if anyone ever actually completes a Princess Bride musical that would be absolutely perfect for Colin and me. Of course he’ll probably be off doing his fancy TV show but that is the one that I’ve always wanted. It happens to be both of our favorite book and movie from way back in our lives. Our sense of humor is just that story – fairy tale but humorous.

What can you tell me about your appearance on Chicago Med?

I was on episode 10. I am Dr. Nina Sure the pathologist at Chicago Med, which means I do autopsies and I work with dead people. So I had a brief scene with Nick Gehlfuss who plays Dr. Halstead and I had just autopsied lots of body parts. And I’m going to be on the season finale, which airs May 17. One of the characters on the show, Dr. Sarah Reese [Rachel DiPillo], is matched with the pathology department.

What would you say to people who have not seen the show?

If you liked ER, then it’s going to be the show for you. It’s a hospital show but it’s not Grey’s Anatomy and it’s not soapy. I watched Grey’s Anatomy for years, I watch Scandal and Nashville, but ABC is so good at that soapy stuff. NBC is really good at keeping it real. It’s about the cases and the staff. I think it’s pretty great. It’s a pretty good hour of television. If you don’t start it from the beginning you’d be okay. You could just start watching one night.

Let’s talk about ‘Party with Patti’- what happens after this year? What is now your favorite un-traditional holiday?

Well, National Wine Day, of course. I’ve really loved the holidays that have allowed me to connect with other people. I’ve made some new Internet friends from it, which is really exciting. There’s too many food ones, I’m going to put that out there. I’m allergic to a lot of things and I also don’t eat fruit for dessert. I’m not willing to bend the rules of my life to celebrate things. Yesterday was ‘Butterscotch Brownie/Blondie Day’ and I went to like four different places and couldn’t find one!  I also really liked the month of April so there were a lot of them about dogs. It gave me a great opportunity to tie in the rescue that I work for, Muddy Paws Rescue. is a lot of things to celebrate and I was very ambitious. There’s going to be times in the year when I can’t participate and I want to get back to when I can plan ahead and really celebrate. Next year, I believe – don’t hold me to this – I think I’m going to make a list of 365 things that I like and celebrate one every day. I don’t know if I’m going to plan ahead but I want to encourage people who have been following me to do the same. Make sure every day you have something that is for you. Like Massage Day, I like massages! So I think that’s the plan.

I want to talk about social media, your blog and now your podcast. Tell me about why it’s important for you to be so active on social media? 

I really like social media. I don’t like Snapchat because there’s no immediacy or interaction, it’s just watching peoples’ lives from afar, and you can’t really interact. I find the vast majority of people on social media are really lovely. Maybe once a month I come across a comment or something mean. It’s usually a mean comment about me on one of Colin’s Instagram photos. But he’s really good about blocking people if they say anything mean about me. Same thing goes for me with him but no one’s said anything mean about Colin. I know there’s the issue of face-to-face connection, but I don’t think [social media] has stopped any of that. When you do finally see that person there’s not that weird moment of getting to know each other again. You feel like you know them. As long as that’s what the majority of people are using it for, I think social media is helpful. The Skimm, which is a daily newsletter that my cousin introduced me to, is great. There’s a whole Facebook group of ‘Skimmbassadors’ with thousands of people in it and whenever you have a question or need advice, there’s just this whole world of new information.

The podcast is something that Matt at BroadwayWorld came to me with. I did the first one with Andrew [Rannells] and I was in NY and it was 10:00 in the morning and he was in LA where it was 7:00. He was a champ, that’s a good friend. I think the next couple of episodes will be figuring out formats and sections and features I’m going to do every time. I feel like the next one has to be a Tony related one because that’s huge. The nice thing is you don’t all have to be together and it actually works better if you [and your guest] are not together and you’re Skyping. And you can have multiple guests, which is nice. Matt takes it and edits out all the ‘ums’ and ‘ohs.’ It was sort of a ‘why not?’

I love the work you’re doing with Muddy Paws. What connected you to them?

I started volunteering with a rescue last year that my friend and fellow actress Kate Loprest had been fostering for. One of the women who worked for that rescue decided to branch off and start her own rescue, which is Muddy Paws. It’s such a big endeavor and so brave. I wanted to get involved as much as possible so even when I wasn’t in New York I ran their Twitter and did work from afar. Now that I’m here I can start working events again, which is great because you get to snuggle puppies! They’re really great and when I go on the website I can’t believe how gorgeous these dogs are. If it were up to me we’d have a farm, fostering 10 dogs at a time.

Last question: If you were not an actress, what would you be doing?

I think if you asked me this question 10 years ago I would have been like ‘a mother?’ I would probably be a writer, a features writer. I wouldn’t want to be a fiction writer because I can’t begin to think of how people dream up a book. I would want to be a features columnist for a smart magazine like New York Magazine. You get to have opinions, but also throw a little sass in there. But I’d probably end up being like a TV writer or something!

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About Samantha S.

"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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