Interview with Tony nominee Cynthia Erivo
Cynthia Erivo just recently won the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Musical" for her portrayal of Celie in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. She is one of the hot favourites to take home the Tony Award for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical" this weekend.
She is currently making her Broadway debut in the role, but has previously starred in the UK in Sister Act, I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Henry IV, Dessa Rose, Songs for a New World and the original Menier Chocolate Factory production of The Color Purple.
We caught up with one of Broadway's hottest stars to talk about her astonishing Broadway debut...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Cynthia, firstly you are rocking a fabulous hairstyle! And secondly, congratulations because you are dominating this Awards Season on Broadway. You must be over the moon?
Cynthia Erivo: It’s a complete whirlwind! I didn’t expect to be nominated for so many things. I didn’t know that people would respond in this way to my character and to the show. I’m so thankful and I’m completely overwhelmed and I’m having the best time. It feels like a constant party! But I still wanna make sure I can do the show properly, so I’m trying to balance everything.
THM: Well, to be honest with you, Cynthia, I did expect you’d be getting all these nominations and wins…
CE: (Laughs) Well, thank you…
THM: And you recently had a big cast change with Heather Headley coming in and assuming the role of Shug Avery from Jennifer Hudson. How has that affected the cast?
CE: Well, I’m really good friends with Jennifer now, so it was hard to lose a friend. But at the same time, we’ve gained someone who is wonderful. Heather is phenomenal in the role and it’s amazing to be on stage with her. She’s a legend. She’s brilliant! I feel really lucky to have been able to work with both of those people. I don’t know how many people can say they’ve been able to work with both Heather Headley and Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks on the same stage. It’s an anomaly that doesn’t ever happen. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime thing to be able to say that these are the people I have worked with and I’m so grateful for that.
THM: So you’ve worked with [Director] John Doyle over in London and again here on Broadway. As a white, British male, how do you think he has been accepted by the African American community?
CE: I think he’s been accepted completely just because he has a really wonderful way of making the show about human beings. We’re all human beings and we’re on the stage telling a story of human beings. We do right, we do wrong and sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. We’re all just trying to live the best way we know how. I think that is what John wants to represent on stage most of all. I think it’s admirable when someone just wants to tell a story. He’s so brilliant at doing that, so we’re all open to him. And he’s my friend now. He’s held my hand right through this whole thing. It has meant the world to me for him to have been here and for me to be able to do this and experience this with him.
THM: Yours must be one of, if not the toughest sings on Broadway right now. How do you personally manage to keep going eight shows a week? Aspiring musical theatre actors take note!
CE: Know your limits. If it’s time to be quiet, be quiet. Hydrate beyond belief. Steam. Eat the right things. I know people think I am crazy because I work out so much, but actually that’s the thing that really helps a lot – keeping your body healthy. If you can’t do a show, don’t do the show. You will probably end up doing more damage to yourself than good. You just have to know when enough’s enough and do the best show you can until then.
THM: And will you be able to fly back to London and see your other half [Dean John-Wilson] in the West End premiere of Aladdin?
CE: I think I will. Hopefully I can give myself the chance to get over there. I’m really proud of him.
THM: Well, I’m really rooting for you, Cynthia and I want to wish you all the very best for the Tonys!
CE: Thank you so much. That means a lot.