by Priyanka Gokhale '08
Come January 27, Blair alumni who tune into the premiere of Spartacus: Vengeance might be pleasantly surprised when they see the familiar face of Cynthia Addai-Robinson '98 (imdb), who plays the role of handmaid Naevia. It’s been 14 years since she sang and danced as the orphan Annie on the Blair stage, and Addai-Robinson’s latest gig is one of the many she’s had as a professional actress.
A 1998 graduate of the Magnet program, Addai-Robinson excelled at math and science but felt her calling in after-school activities in the performing arts. “In school, I was on the quieter side as a student,” she says. “These shows sort of gave me the context to be a bit louder. [The stage felt] like a safe place for me.”
Addai-Robinson’s love for drama – which she says developed even before high school – was reflected in some of her favorite experiences during her years at Blair. She felt in her element during presentations in front of her peers, as that skill set came naturally. “There were other students who dreaded that part,” she says.
Despite her natural gravitation towards theatrics, though, Addai-Robinson didn’t consider pursuing theater in college until she attended a summer program at the Carnegie Mellon University after junior year. “Once I sort of saw how theater worked in a college setting I was pretty sure that that’s what I wanted to do,” she says. When faced with the task of choosing a college during senior year, she went with her gut – and her mother’s blessing – and decided to matriculate at New York University.
With the culture of the Big Apple came an intense, conservatory-like education and an in-depth focus on method acting at the Lee Strasburg institute. Despite a few classes here and there for general education requirements, Addai-Robinson focused her undergraduate career on learning about the art of theater. Upon graduation, she found an agent and began to parlay her institutional education into the real world of acting. After auditioning for and taking roles in various plays and commercials, she decided it was time to head west. And so, with a few years of professional experience under her belt, she headed to Los Angeles in 2006 to “take it a step farther.”
Her CV is impressive – since 2006 she’s had the opportunity to play roles in shows like CSI:NY and Numb3rs. In some roles, her math and science background has come to play in unexpected ways. “Being able to say medical jargon in a convincing way is a skill set on its own,” she laughs.
Now, Addai-Robinson is moving into her new venture with excitement for the future and her first long-term role on a show with a devoted fan base. She herself is looking forward to seeing the finished product, a culmination of half a year’s worth of filming in Auckland, New Zealand. While in the Southern hemisphere, the Spartacus team worked in sound stages to create the show’s dramatic, 300-like aesthetic. This spring, she’ll return to New Zealand to film the next season.
But despite a busy work and travel schedule, Addai-Robinson has been able to make time to stay in touch with old friends from high school. “The nice thing about being in the Magnet and doing that program is that I’m still really close with a lot of classmates of mine,” she says. “I think it’s really lovely that I have this really diverse group of interesting friends…I feel really proud to be part of that group.