Anika Noni Rose: Living The Dream

  Tony Award winner and Dreamgirls co-star Anika Noni Rose has embarked upon a new era of success through the hit motion picture. For Anika, playing the third member of the trio meant she had to work harder than just studying the material from the 1981 Broadway musical on which the film’s foundation was based. […]

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Tony Award winner and Dreamgirls co-star Anika Noni Rose has embarked upon a new era of success through the hit motion picture. For Anika, playing the third member of the trio meant she had to work harder than just studying the material from the 1981 Broadway musical on which the film’s foundation was based. Her talent, beauty, poise and character helped her exceed critics’ expectations, and she’s determined to keep the flow. Anika’s work on Broadway has included roles in Footloose, Aida, Carmen Jones and Caroline, or Change, with the latter garnering her several awards, including a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. After a few small film roles, she landed the part of Lorrell Robinson in Dreamgirls, and the rest is history in the making. The Connecticut native and American Conservatory graduate recently spoke with us about her budding career, the rumor of her becoming Disney’s first Black princess and all the great things happening since Dreamgirls. Alternatives: The movie Dreamgirls was an instant success. How has the movie changed your life overall? Anika Noni Rose: I think that mostly it has allowed me to touch and be in contact with people that I never would have been in contact with or have as a fan base. I have gotten letters from South Africa, Ireland, India, and Japan. It is amazing how many people were really moved by the movie and that’s really special because it is hard to do that in any other medium. So, it’s been really wonderful. AHHA: During the filming of the movie, was there a particular cast member that you became the closest with? Anika: I think Sharon Leal. That’s my girl. I loved the girls. We all got along really well, but Sharon and I are like on the phone and I’m hanging out with her little boy. It’s hard because everybody has such a hectic schedule. It’s hard to be in touch with anybody. Beyoncé for example – forget it. She can’t be in touch with herself. She has to leave herself a note. Jen calls every now and then. She’s running all around. AHHA: What scene was hardest for you to play? Anika: I think the scene in the mirror in the dressing room, because I was looking at myself in the mirror. It is the worst to look at yourself while you’re performing. Maybe for someone else it is good, but I don’t ever look in the mirror while I’m practicing or anything. Then, you are criticizing yourself. That was the one that I felt was the hardest to execute. AHHA: Even though you have a lot of other acting experience, people associate you these days with Lorrell. What parts of Lorrell are most like you, and how do you differ from her? Anika: I think I’m very different from her, from my voice to my life experiences. We’re very different. I can be really silly. I was a little goofy, and I can be silly and goofy when I want to be and when I’m feeling free. I can absolutely relate to the desire to succeed. Also, feeling like that you a bigger than the walls that are holding you. I grew up in a small town. It wasn’t a big performing arts town. There were bands and stuff like that, but there was no school of performing arts to go to. I get that desire to stretch out and go see the world and go get big. Not necessarily big as a star, not in a celebrity way, but to expand yourself and be a performer and create on a large scale level. AHHA: It’s being reported that you are making Disney history as the studio’s first Black princess. Is this true? Anika: I have to say, and this is going to sound disappointing, but I know that’s its being reported but I haven’t signed a thing. I’m reluctant to talk about it, because there’s no dry ink or anything. Thank you for all the people who been excited for me and sending me wonderful letters, I thank you so much, but at this moment I am not able to touch on that. AHHA: You were actually born in Connecticut. How hard was it for you to break into the industry coming from a small town? Anika: I didn’t find it difficult because my parents were very connected. I saw Alvin Ailey when I was a little kid. I saw the Nutcracker. I experienced things so it wasn’t anything that felt foreign to me. So when I decided that it was something that I wanted to, I had their support. They didn’t ask if I was sure or if I wanted to major in accounting. I never felt held back in that respect. I was very blessed in that way. AHHA: How do you feel about Black Hollywood and Hollywood? People usually say that these are two separate entities. Do you feel that way? Anika: That’s hard to say, because Dreamgirls was my first big Hollywood picture and it was so across the board and branched out to so many people that I didn’t have that experience. Now when I watch movie and awards shows and I see a movie that has 25,000 people in it and not one person of color, that, to me, says something very intense. When I see a movie that takes place in New York and they don’t have not one Dominican, that’s just not real. So, in those moments, it does feel separate. But, the experience that I have had, it has not felt so much so. AHHA: What aspect of production do you prefer as it relates to your roles? Film, television, or live musicals like Broadway? Anika: It’s a toss up between Broadway and film, because there are things I like about each of them. I love Broadway because it is so live. There is no going back and there is no fixing it. You are what you are at that moment and you either do it or you don’t. You make it or you fall. That’s an amazing rush and a wonderful way to stretch yourself and keep growing as an artist. Film has different challenges. It is amazing though – I have something that I actually get to see. I don’t get to see Broadway. Part of that is really great, because you’re critiquing yourself from the honestly of what you feel inside. They’re just different entities, but I like them both. It’s amazing to sit in the theater and have people jumping up and down and talking to the screen as if you are truly there. That’s an amazing experience, and that was my Dreamgirls experience. I’ve never stopped doing live performances. That’s what keeps me grounded and real, and true as a performer. AHHA: What role has been your most challenging? Anika: That’s a hard question for me to answer, because they’re all challenging in different ways. Maybe I haven’t yet come across the thing that is most challenging for me. I don’t know. If I was eloquent and really smart, it seems I would have something to say. AHHA: You attended the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, but before then you graduated from Florida A & M University. Was that a big transition for you? Anika: It was because at ATT, I trained as an actor. Before then, I trained in theater, which is whole different thing. In a conservatory you specify, and I specified in drama and acting. That is crucial. The wonderful thing about theater, I developed a really strong respect to the people that are working around and for me. It’s one thing to be working on stage, but baby, if the lights go out, can’t nobody see you. If you pi**ed the wrong person off, your parents are going to be real tight. Everybody there is doing something to make the performance what it is. They are all doing something to make it easier and better for me. AHHA: Do you worry about being typecast? Anika: I don’t worry about being typecast, because I refuse to do that. I refuse to play the same role every time. That’s boring to me. For some people, that’s filling, fun, and exciting but to me, I feel like I wouldn’t be fun to be around. I would be bored. I think for me it is important to be able to turn myself in a different position and another direction when I’m performing. So I always search for something that is somehow different from the last thing that I did. AHHA: Would you go back to Broadway? Anika: Absolutely. I’ll go back to Broadway. I don’t know when and I don’t what it will be, but I definitely plan to go back. I don’t feel like I’ve ever left. I just took a small hike. AHHA: Are there any other areas of entertainment that you would like to venture off into? Anika: I would like to record. I think at some point I would like to direct. I also would like to produce. I don’t know when. I’m not putting a time line together. AHHA: Any last remarks you would like to say to your fans and your supporters? Anika: Yes. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for recognizing the work that I’ve put in. Thank you for supporting me, because I couldn’t do it without you. AHHA: What’s coming up next? Anika: I finished two movies right after Dreamgirls [Razor and One Part Sugar]. I also did Starter Wife which premieres on USA Network May 31. That was great. It’s very uplifting. I think it’s empowering for women and anyone that has been in a relationship that has confused them and allowed them to forget who they are. It’s a ridiculous cast and a phenomenal performance. Hopefully everyone will enjoy it.