A lucky break
McClinton stumbled into the role while she was still studying for her bachelor's of fine arts.
"I went to a drama conservatory — Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh — and the program was incredible," McClinton said. "It really prepared me for the professional world, and when I did a showcase at the end of my senior year in New York a bunch of casting directors and agents were there. The 'American Idiot' casting people saw me and brought me in to audition. I just went in there and did what I needed to do. They were so supportive, and it was actually the most creative process I've ever been a part of when it comes to auditioning. I just felt really free and supported, and I could be myself."
McClinton said she was a Green Day fan prior to auditioning.
"I had heard of the show, but didn't know too much about it," she said. "In school, a bunch of people said I would love it. I knew I would be a fan of it; I got the cast album right away [during the auditioning process]."
McClinton said she has met Green Day band member Mike Dirnt, but hasn't met Billy Jo Armstrong or Tre Cool yet.
"Hopefully we will in San Francisco," she said. "That would be awesome."
McClinton said preparing for the show was an incredibly immersing experience for her.
"Honestly, preparing for it, you have to bring so much of yourself to these characters, because these are such real people; you kind of have to use yourself. It's very uniquely yours, which is what is so special about these characters.
"At first I did all this text work to figure out her entire back story. But at the end of the day, you have to make it yours, and bring yourself into it. So [the character's] falling in and out of love and dealing with drugs became uniquely mine, and I got to use all of myself; and that's why it's so liberating and powerful to play this character every night, because you're playing yourself. But whatever you're feeling that day, you have to bring into work. This show does not honor sickness. Even if you're having the worst day ever, you can't fake it and say, 'I'm going to be happy now.' You have to bring your real emotions and be yourself."
If You Go
What: "American Idiot"
When: May 29 through June 3
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa
Cost: $25 and up