Interview with Tony winner Jessie Mueller
Tony winner Jessie Mueller, who picked up the coveted award for originating the role of Carole King in Beautiful, is now starring in the lead role of Jenna in Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson's musical adaptation of Waitress at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Her previous Broadway credits include her Tony-nominated turn in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, her Drama Desk-nominated performance in The Mystery of Edwin Drood and she also assumed the role of Billie Bendix in Nice Work If You Can Get It in 2013.
I caught up with Jessie to talk Broadway and all things pie...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations Jessie on your Tony and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical! You must be on cloud nine right now?
Jessie Mueller: Yes! I’m feeling good! There’s a real buzz in the air! And It’s a busy day – I’ll be off to do a matinee shortly.
THM: You’ll be running through the streets to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre carrying those high heels in your hand…
JM: (Laughs) Oh yeah, I’ll be taking these off, girl! My running shoes are going back on. They’re here in my bag.
THM: Now, I saw the wonderful musical comedy ‘Waitress’ a couple of weeks ago and the first thing that hit me, of course, was that mouth-watering smell of hot Apple pie as I came into the theatre.
JM: And that was for real! That was a real pie…
THM: How delicious! And whose idea was that?
JM: Shall I just say it was mine?... No, it wasn’t my idea. They had been talking about that for a while. I’m not sure if it was [Producer] Barry Weissler’s brainchild. I was thinking it was gonna be a Yankee candle or something like that and I was afraid we’d burn down the theatre, but no, it is a real pie baking away in the lobby.
THM: Well it really gets you in the mood for the show to come. And I’m no expert, but you look like you’ve got your baking skills down to a tee. Did you always possess such culinary skills or is this a newly discovered talent?
JM: Well… Spoiler alert! – all you really see me do is roll out crust, but I’m glad that the illusion is there. I do do a lot of expert stirring though. Some of it might be air-stirring and some of it is real stirring. I used to bake quite a bit with my Mom when I was a kid, but I wouldn’t say I was an expert baker by any means.
THM: My colleagues at the London Theatre Guide tell me that the most highly rated TV show in the UK at the moment is “The Great British Bake-Off” with Mary Berry.
JM: I’ve seen it!
THM: I think you should strike while the pie is hot and campaign for a West End transfer of ‘Waitress’ after its Broadway run.
JM: Oh I would do that in a heartbeat! If I have anything left in me, I would love it. I have friends who are in a show over in London at the moment and it’s always been a dream of mine to work over there. Maybe it will happen this time.
THM: And what a beautiful score by Tony and Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles! I can’t wait to get my hands on the cast recording!
JM: We just finished recording it yesterday! But I don’t know when it’s coming out. I know it will be soon though because they kind of fast-track these things. Because we’re in the middle of Awards season, they especially like to send it out to the voters. Basically we opened the show and then the following Monday, we recorded the album and I just finished adding a few things yesterday. So it’s coming soon. And, in the meantime, you have Sara’s album which is, you know, also not too shabby! (Laughs)
THM: Different but equally as good vocals?
JM: Right!... Whatever! (Laughs)
THM: I feel like ‘Waitress’ is one of those shows that doesn’t just appeal to regular theatregoers, but also to tourists visiting New York for the week. Would you agree?
JM: Exactly! I feel like it’s one of those shows where anyone and everyone will come and it’s very relatable. To me it’s just about very real people. It’s about human stuff that is very connectable. The story is accessible and the music is accessible. It’s a show that you can just come and get lost in and it’s a really fun ride. It’s definitely got something for everybody.
THM: Fantastic! And finally the world wants to know what Jessie Mueller’s favourite pie is?
JM: I like Chocolate Cream pie.
THM: I love me some hot apple and cinnamon crumble with custard. It’s a classic and I’m sticking to it.
JM: Crumble? That’s a very British thing, right? And we don’t tend to have hot custard. We’re not so good at that.
THM: Well, when I’m back in Tottenham in London and you’re doing your West End debut, you can pop over to my flat and I’ll make you some Apple Crumble and custard.
JM: (Laughs) Let’s do it!
THM: Well, it’s been lovely to talk to you, Jessie, and I wish you all the very best for the rest of the awards season!
JM: Thank you so much, Thomas!