Ep5 – Nikki M. James (Book of Mormon – 2011)

In This Episode

Read Full Transcript

Unknown Speaker 0:00
Hi, I'm

Unknown Speaker 0:00
Nikki, M James and you're listening to and the Tony goes to

Unknown Speaker 0:07
raise money with a

Unknown Speaker 0:17
special guest.

Unknown Speaker 0:22
Have you ever dreamed of winning a Tony Award? Did you ever practice your Tony acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror? Did you grow up watching the Tony Awards every year? Do you have a collection of Tony award shows on VHS tape that you refuse to throw out? Well, then this is the podcast for you. Every week I interview your favorite Tony Award winners. And together we go down memory lane as my guest share intimate and never before share details about their Tony experience. By the end of every episode, you're going to feel like you just went to Tony. Welcome to the Tony goes to. I'm your host, Ilana Levine. welcome today's Tony winner, Nikki m James.

Unknown Speaker 1:07
And the Tony Award goes to Nikki m James.

Unknown Speaker 1:18
Tony, come on over. I didn't expect to be standing here tonight. And I tried to write a speech but I felt silly.

Unknown Speaker 1:31

Unknown Speaker 1:32
I just have to say that I would love to thank Trey and Matt and Bobby for writing the most incredible show. The funniest, the most beautiful, heartfelt musical is changing the face of American musical theater, my love. I want to thank and Scott for producing this show and, and working so tirelessly hard to make this an incredible experience. And Casey and Steven arenas for those late night phone calls when I was scared and terrified that I wasn't going to be able to do it. And for introducing me to Liz Katelyn, my incredible voice teacher who saved my life and my voice and to my co stars Josh,

Unknown Speaker 2:10

Unknown Speaker 2:11
and Michael Lewis and everyone over the Eugene O'Neill eight times a week. We're saying wrap it up, but I will not leave the stage. And I also want to thank our ensemble. They are all leading ladies and women and I am proud to share the stage with them. Who did I forget a million people, my friends. I just need to say my mother is here with me tonight. There's the thing, a story about bumblebees, physicists couldn't figure out how they did it, how they flew. And we all know that they do. We've seen them do it. And they did it because nobody told them that they couldn't. And because of sheer will and determination. And I come from a long line of bumblebees. And I am so proud. My brother, who is my hero who was in the balcony. I love my friends and family. And I'm really grateful that nobody ever told me that I couldn't do it. I couldn't fly. And I am this award. This gorgeous award is my puppy. Who isn't here with me tonight. But he sits on my shoulder every night.

Unknown Speaker 3:16

Unknown Speaker 3:18

Unknown Speaker 3:19
Are you there?

Unknown Speaker 3:21
Tears? Yeah, I don't know. I've heard it so many times. I always think maybe this will be the time that it doesn't make me doesn't move me to tears. But it always does. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 3:31
What is it that you think unleashes that emotion each time?

Unknown Speaker 3:37
It's when I think it's when I talk about the the bumblebee story when I talk about my family. And I just, I remember, you know, standing on that stage and looking out there and just seeing the faces of people who supported me my entire life and in my in my highest moments. And also, most importantly, in my lowest moment. It's an Of course it's like, I imagine in that moment, it's sort of like you become all the versions of yourself, you all of a sudden are the little girl who's singing in onstage in front of people for the first time, the first time you're experiencing the magic of communicating through air and space, you know, this weird thing that we're able to do which is to make vibrations in our own body and send those vibrations into this into air and then somehow it is caught by other people's ears and then trans formed into something that is making them feel something and that's so powerful. And then I'm the 13 year old girl who would watch the Tony Awards with her best friend eating Smarties and Tostitos and memorizing the lyrics to shows that we would maybe never see and I was that 15 year old girls. Sleeping on the street outside rent. so in love with, with the community of people that I was meeting and the 19 year old girl who was making her Broadway debut and a show that was a huge flop and the 22 year old girl who was graduating from college with debt and being totally unsure of where was going to be and then you know, the girl who was six months prior to winning that Tony Award selling lipstick at Barney's, you know, to buy Christmas presents for my family. And then it you know, it's you it's one of those moments that if it was a film would be like a flashback. It was just all of them. Yeah, it's all of those moments wrapped up into one wrapped up into one and then the emotions are so I mean, I'm an I'm an okay actress, but I'm not that good. very real. Everything. The Miss, you know, I misspoke. And your stumble on your words, and you say the wrong things, because it's so everything is going very fast and very slow all at the same time. It's like, you know, the feeling you get when you get to the top of the roller coaster, and it feels like it takes forever for the drop to come. And yet at the same time, it feels like that drop is so sudden, even though you've been anticipating it. So yeah, it's like, the whole thing is just overwhelming. Still still.

Unknown Speaker 6:25
That description, I think, Well, I was gonna say it should be recorded, but it is getting lucky for us. Because it's like, it is so clearly related, like the emotion of it, the science of it, but the entire experience. So, Nikki m James one atony in the Best Featured Actor in a Musical category, in 2011. For the Book of Mormon, I just to catch everybody up. And I guess what I want to ask you is how this show that, you know, when you describe your life, it's impossible to imagine that there's one moment that changes everything. This was obviously a big career moment, but everything leading up to it and after it are all part of like the narrative that is your life. But we're going to focus on this spectacular moment where the world got to celebrate with you and have all those feelings. And so I wonder, how did this role of novel lunghi and Mormon come into your life?

Unknown Speaker 7:38

Unknown Speaker 7:39
it's funny because you say like this thing, this moment, that sort of is this career changing moment or life changing moment, this you know, it's a it's a marker on the on the road on the continuum. But I think it really started many, many, many, many, many years earlier, when I was doing a reading, it was my very first equity job. I was 14 years old, it was 1995. And now everyone knows how old I am, which I'm not shy about because I look amazing.

Unknown Speaker 8:09
This is audio only.

Unknown Speaker 8:12
You can do a quick Google search that I'm staying young looking. But I'm so in 1985, I did a reading of a musical at the playwrights horizons called the gingerbread house that was directed by Kathleen Marshall. And it was my first little professional job. I got to do half days at school and drive into the city with my mom and Bobby Lopez was the music intern on that show. And he has said years later that when working on this piece, he had remembered me from that but then also had kind of followed my career and seen what I've been up to. And it was in his mind. I was in his mind for this role. And then luck would have it that the musical director Steven arenas, he and I had worked on the Broadway production of all shook up in 1995 in 2005. And Stephen and I actually grew up in the same old hometown. So I think it was they were doing a reading of this new musical they they weren't at a place where they were doing a far and wide audition search, you know, they were getting together the creatives and saying who do we know might be damped down for coming into a room and hanging out with us. And this was back in 2008. So it was a number of years before we opened on Broadway. And I just got a phone call that said hey, do you want to do a reading of this musical by the guys from South Park? that we can't tell you what it's called? We can't tell you we can't send you a script. And you'll have to sign an NDA. You know, all of those things. What sounded like, do I get insurance weeks? Yeah, sure. Whatever. I'll do it. And that little reading for the untitled musical. Turned into what we now know is the Book of Mormon and I did that reading. I joined the second time they did a reading of the show. So I wasn't in every single iteration of the piece. But that was in December of 2008 or nine. Yeah, I think December of 2008. And it was

Unknown Speaker 10:17
memory of that, like the very first time. I mean, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are super well known at that point. Whether you were South Park fan, or or not. You've heard of you've heard of the brand. Was Casey Nicholaw, already involved at that point? He wasn't actually the director.

Unknown Speaker 10:38
Yeah, actually, in that in those early days, we were working with a director, Jason Moore, who had done, Jason had directed Avenue Q. I had not worked with Jason at all at this point, either. So it was Jason, who was directing it at the time. I think probably because of his relationship with Bobby Lopez. And Jason, we're we did maybe three or four readings together before, before Casey joined the company. And Casey had the exact right. You know, it's one of those things where there isn't something you could take out of the puzzle to, you know, if one piece was missing, I don't think the show would have been what it was, I think Jason was the exact right director in those developing stages. But once it was time to get it on its feet. I think having a director, choreographer helm, this piece really helped to have the cohesive feel of the fantasy that we were building. But yeah, you I think you were saying, like, you walk into this room, and like, what do you think?

Unknown Speaker 11:37
What do you do? Well,

Unknown Speaker 11:39
so they played us, you know, there were, there were a few other actors in the room who had done the reading before me. And you could tell that there's this thing that happens, every time a new person joined our little family, we would do a sing through or they would play the demo. And the first two songs are two by two. And, you know, and what, hello, and they're sort of very cute, funny, you know, musical theater, kind of old school musical theater songs, you know, they're pretty traditionally structured. And then hasa, diga, comes on in the beginning of hasa, diga feels very real, like kakuna, Matata, or under the sea. It's got this like bit of this, like sort of drumbeat, and this, you know, feel this sort of fun feel. And then they say, a few God. And I just remember my face, my jaw just dropping to the floor and thinking, I don't. I mean, they said it was irreverent. But I've never said the F word on stage before, like, This is crazy. But also felt really, you know, it's like, I was 20. In my 20s. We were, I had nothing to lose. And the fact that it was dangerous was the thing that was probably the most exciting part of it. You know, it was both sexy and scary to be involved in a piece like this. And then as the show progressed, you know, they even they kept on whatever we thought the line was, in the beginning, they would find a way to cross it and you just get comfortable on the other side of this new line. You're further down. You're further out field than you ever thought you would be. But there you are.

Unknown Speaker 13:10
And we're Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells around at that time or not yet.

Unknown Speaker 13:18
So Josh was and Rory was, okay. And a good number of our ensemble members. Andrew, like Casey was the was one of the last pieces. And, and I've known Andrew for a long time, he was a you know, theater kid kicking around the same time I was, he was in hairspray. And at that time I was doing all shook up and i a lot of friends in that show. And Andrew Did you know Jersey Boys and people I knew and we were in each other's realms. And I remember it was Daniel Reichert had done a number of readings. And Daniel was amazing. And Andrew, I mean, Josh, and I, Rory, we all felt that that was our crew, like that was our trio. And when we heard that they were thinking of, you know, possibly replacing Daniel and or at least exploring their other options. And then we heard it was Andrew Rannells, of course we were excited, I was excited, because I knew Andrew and I, this was a huge opportunity for him. And I know that he has a voice that's, you know, from some other planet and a sense of humor that is beyond all and but we were, you know, I don't know, like the you know, like we had this gang and now they're changing and within minutes of that first time, he started singing I believe I, I feel like either this is a real memory or a or i've i've manufactured it but I know that we you know Josh, Rory and I, when Andrew was added to the mix, we knew that this show had finally become the show that it was meant to be. He was perfect. He is elder price is Really amazing. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 15:02
What are some early memories that you have? You know, you created this role? You are your, your imprint, emotional and creatively, are as much a part of her as Trey and Matt and Bobby and kcrw. Yeah. Was there room in the room to weigh in on things that felt good or not good? Like, what was the creative process in making this girl feel real, like really not a caricature? And not an idea, but like a deeply human person that that was ultimately the centerpiece of this show that at first seems to be about these guys. Right? Like, what? Like, maybe this is a two parter. And when did you realize like, Oh, this, this character? Like, this is very much a centerpiece of this show? Well, I

Unknown Speaker 16:03
I don't think I registered it until probably I won the Tony Award to be totally honest. The way

Unknown Speaker 16:10
not only that, when you were nominated. Right? Yeah. That felt nice.

Unknown Speaker 16:14
Yeah, that felt nice. Um, but I honestly think that Well, firstly, the first part of your question is that Trey, Matt, Bobby, and Casey. And Steven, they were, they really were, they trusted me. And they were building this on my body. And so and in my voice, literally. So there was some issues with sort of keys I struggle with, you know, having like all women a break at the top part of my register. And the Salt Lake City really sits right, the less end parts of Salt Lake City really sit in my brake, but it's a rangy song. So we can't take the key down to make the end part more comfortable without, you know, losing the quality in in the beginning parts of the song. And so we we played around with that we played around with how that would be delivered at the end, you know, this. And I thought, what if, on that high note, instead of it being like some big belting moment, if it if it feels almost like a prayer at that last part, it sort of lifts and into a different quality. And Bobby was like, oh, let's try it. I don't know, I never thought of it that way. And I did it. And he had tears in his eyes. And he was like, that was exactly how the song was supposed to end. And now maybe not if another singer was singing it, but certainly with what I was bringing to the table. And so that feels really nice to not to know that you're not having to fit anybody's mold of who this person is. Also, the texting device, which is an ongoing sort of joke about Wi Fi, misunderstanding, you know, cell phones, text in devices, she she picks up a typewriter. And, and she's she thinks that she's gotten this texting device, which with which she can communicate with her friends. And she can like she writes a letter on the Taipei writer and then delivers it to her friends. It's a very sweet, it's a kind of an innocent mistake that she's making, which is also making a commentary on sort of just the ways in which technology moves throughout the world. And things that we take for granted are things that people who are less fortunate than us maybe haven't yet experienced, etc, etc. But that sort of came about, because I had this idea, which wasn't really built in that novel. langi was, if we were considering the book of arnauld, this new religion that we create by the end of this of the show, if Nava lunghi was one of the apostles, you know, she was john. So she was the whole time writing down all the things that elder pride on elder Cunningham was saying, and then those that her sort of journal entries, her notes, then become the book, the Bible for this new religion that we've created. And, you know, Trey and Matt were like, that's actually a really great idea. And I came up with it. I just thought it would be a prop. I said, hey, what if I have like a notebook that I'm walking around with a pencil and you know, every time you know, Joshua says something, I write it down. I'm taking notes. They're like, that's a great idea. And then a few days later, he came back with the texting, texting device idea. So they took this sort of idea that I had and then turned it into a bit so I really do feel like that part of the show that is absolutely a contribution that I made. And those kinds of things so I think they they trusted the people they cast they were open to exploration, and the stakes were really low. Like none of us thought that this show is gonna go on to win a lot. or nine Tony Awards, wherever many Tony Awards we won, we didn't think it was going to be, you know, we thought we were going to make this show that people were going to make a fuss about and maybe we'd make it a year, we had no idea. So everyone was just willing to play and be creative. We felt young. We weren't, we didn't have a model. You know, we, we weren't trying to reinvent anything. In as far as the theater world is concerned, we were just trying to make the best version of this thing that we had, that we were falling in love with.

Unknown Speaker 20:31
And then Joshua's idea that originally with the novel lunghi, you know, elder Cunningham has a lot of problems Pronouncing novolin Ds name. And so, in the original script, every time he said it, he would just mispronounce it. And Josh had this idea. He was like, What if, in addition to mispronouncing it, I just say other words, you know, like other words that are either the same syllables or start with and like, just like, you know, people's inability to like, you know, the joke there is, is a lot of times people's inability to, you know, really recognize that pronouncing someone's name correctly is a sign of respect. It's sort of a joke, an ongoing joke, he can't hear it. So that's when Josh came up with the nazima, and then Nicaragua and nakatomi Plaza, and he would, they gave him kind of free rein for a couple of months to just say, whatever comes out of your mouth, we'll, we'll we'll yea or nay later. And you know, you'll have like a working list of 10 or 12, things that will let you say, you know, that was really it felt like we were really, we were being heard. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 21:41
I want to talk about the fact that you grew up loving theater so much. And because we are friends and have talked before this particular moment, I know that there were certain performers and performances that really touched you. Like, I remember you telling me that when you saw Audra McDonald and carousel, like, that was a really incredible moment for you to see someone who looked like that, in that incredible version of the show. And I guess I wonder if you could talk about knowing what that meant for you. What this must have meant for you as a performer to know that there were a lot of people in the audience seeing you there, and getting to see themselves reflected back at them. Yeah. Can you talk about that, and what that experience was for you and what it meant to you.

Unknown Speaker 22:37
It's something that is still like, so I have been in love with, with American musical theater. From the time I was five years old, I saw cats, and I grew up close to the city. And I was a weird kid who wasn't interested in popular music ever really. So cast albums, any cast album, I would rent them from the library, cassette tapes and CDs. And I would, you know, my small little video store in my town, you know, video library, which was next to the Chinese food restaurant, in a in a small, little, like, strip mall, you know, I would rent any movie musical. And they had, I would watch anything from any era. And that was the thing I love. But part of the thing that was really missing, and I don't even know that I knew it was missing, because it was such, that was the world we lived in. There wasn't a lot of representation, you know, culture. You know, the arts, the movies was very white centered and white focused. And I didn't know that I, I didn't even occur to me really, that I didn't have a hero who was had my same skin color and had my textured hair. I think until I saw Audra, which I think that production was 1993 or 92. I was like, 11, or 12.

Unknown Speaker 24:07
Mm hmm.

Unknown Speaker 24:07
And I just thought like, Oh my goodness, this production of this show looks like the productions of the shows that I do. But not like a lot of the productions that I've seen. And that it meant something to me. She means that to so many people, she opened so many doors by playing characters, both written to be played by African American performers and, and groundbreaking roles that were not written to be played by actresses of color. So, but it's almost impossible to ever get to a place in your life. For me anyway, where I would ever consider that I was in. Even in the same you know, stadium As Audra or some of these you know, Diane, Carol, some of these actresses, Alicia ons, then. So it surprises me still, when someone says, You made me realize you saw, I saw myself for the first time and I get messages like that both while I was doing the show and now with social media being what it is, you know, I get little DMS on Instagram. I'm all I'm still surprised and moved and deeply humbled. And, and then I also register that there's still so far to go, I hate the struggle really continues and that that's becoming even more, not clearer, but talked about. And so I'm so excited and interested to see what the actresses who are coming out of these conservatory programs or not going to conservatory programs, people who are working both on Broadway and outside of Broadway in incredible regional theaters and, you know, represent a rep, rep companies throughout the country, what kind of works and what kind of boundaries and doors they're going to kick down. So yeah, I feel I feel not worthy of when people say, you know, you've you've, you've done this thing for me or you've you've opened my eyes to something because I was just trying to make it through my eight shows a week and and still have a voice on Sunday.

Unknown Speaker 26:27
You know, you and many people thank Liz Kaplan in their acceptance speeches. And I wonder if you can talk about because you That was a very heavy singing show. And eight shows a week is a bear. And I want to know, when you thank Liz Caplin, what is it? What What is the magic that she brings along to her teaching and coaching? Well, Liz

Unknown Speaker 26:58
is like an incredible listener, so much of the voice. You know, when people say the phrase, you know, you know, I have I caught you know, something emotions get caught in your throat. It's such it is so connected to your emotional well being. And there are times in your life where you can be I'm sure anybody listening to this who's ever saying can be in their closet or in their shower and singing notes and feeling amazing and free. And then as soon as you know, it counts. And there's an audience, all other kinds of functions of your body start to influence your ability to be free and be connected from without interruption, your breath starts to get shorter and more shallow, your heart rate goes up, your mouth gets dry, you know, all these sort of physiological things sort of get in the way. And, you know, we're head cases, singers, performers, actresses, because what we're doing is just so vulnerable and naked. There's such a small room for error. So I have always, like I said earlier, I, I'm a singer first, that's how I came into the world of theater. I love to sing. It's like a gift that I've been given, but I don't have you know, Shoshana Beane's range or the sort of strength I have an anatomy just the way my body is built, where my my voice is, is more sensitive to fatigue than some other performers. And I am not shy to say that I work really hard. But then if you add on top of that any level of anxiety and fear about that thing, it's going to be that much harder. So I feel like one of the things that Liz does better than anyone is, is really help you feel confident. And in addition to just being having a good ear, both for the voice, but then also for what what people are really saying, what's really happening here. She's really innovative, she will come up with all kinds of tricks, because it doesn't matter. She's like, doesn't matter what works, as long as it works, you know, we're doing chakra glasses, you know, where you're wearing, like, orange colored glasses, because that's the frequency of the note that you have to sing. But she's just such a woman who is giving so much love to her students. And and, you know, I can call her any time. And so she really did, and that's why I said like, she she saved me but she saved my voice and she saved me by by by being a person who was just in my corner. And, and then, you know, truth be told, I continued to have to work really hard to stay vocally healthy, you know, with vocal rest and being very sensitive about what I eat and how much I sleep, all those things. You know, we're singers are athletes. And she really helped me understand how to how to how to have fun again. How to be trusted enough that I can have fun. You know,

Unknown Speaker 30:12
I think so much about that show, I saw Mormon many times. And it always felt to me that it was a show about having faith. And that you were at, you were at the center of that like, like you, to me represented sort of the best parts of faith, which is innocence and love and questioning, there were so many things that you brought to it that I thought were just remarkable. So I wonder. So that was my takeaway. What What did you think Mormon? What do you think it is about? And and what does it mean to you?

Unknown Speaker 31:02
You know, I have to say that, what I think it's about changes a lot. So when we first did the show, you know, I do think the show is about hope. I do think the show is about faith, I do think the show is about letting go of expectations, and meeting people without, you know, bias and preconceived notions, I do think it's about how even the most well meaning people can make pretty big mistakes. I think it's about lack of ego. You know, that's one of the big problems with elder price is his ego, his inability to, you know, his own his attachment to his own success. And goodness, is as part of the reason why he can't connect with these people. And then here's elder Cunningham, person who you know, thinks he's a total waste of life in space. And so because he, he doesn't expect that he's great or good. He is that out of the way, and he's able to connect with these people. And then, like, you know, then it's it is about racism. It's about colonialism. It's about all these like, sort of big theme, you know, sort of heavy topics as well. But I think at the heart of it, it's about hope. It's a sweet show, with a lot of, you know, curse words and vulgarity, but it's ultimately a very sweet show about how people can come together, and learn how to support each other to face, you know, the big the monster. And then in their case, it was this general who was, who was a warlord and who was, you know, terrorizing these people who'd become so complacent and afraid that they had forgotten that they have power to fight back. And that was 2008 and 2008. When we started doing the show, we had elected Barack, I don't know what any buddies politics are. But when Barack Obama was elected, he was elected on the platform of hope and change. And now in 2020, we're in a, we're in a world that's a little bit different than that, where we're feeling. Maybe we didn't get all the hope and change that we thought we we were going to have and, and maybe the lesson here is that it's not something that happens to us, it is something that happens because we make choices to make it happen. And you know, so that's what I think the show is about now and in a different way, it's about exposing how our complacency can cause can cause damage. And, and I do think novolin gi is is the crux right she is a person who believes so deeply that life can be better, that in a sort of naive way she she buys into a narrative that's that's not realistic. But boy is that the thing that gets her out of bed every day, you know, belief that, that there is a place where she will not have to suffer the the bad stuff that she's seeing every day of her life. But then she learns that there isn't a place you go to where that happens. That what happens is you change. You make choices, you connect with your community. You believe in something and not something outside of yourself, but something within yourself without even knowing by following elder Cunningham, she became a leader. And she didn't even realize that she'd become a leader. You know, she was so focused on leaving and taking her family, her community out of there, that she galvanized them, she brought them together. They started following her they started being together and and i think that you know, that's ultimately what the show is about. And then through that lens, we're doing this satire, right, so we're really, we're really pointing a finger at stereotypes and right tropes. And so we're, we're, we're by, by sort of illuminating those things or highlighting them on stage. We are. We're, we're, you know, the gotcha, gotcha is, the joke isn't on the Africans that they didn't believe the joke is on the audience who the whole time was thinking that these silly Africans were believing what, you know, elder Cunningham was saying, When ultimately they were saying, we believe in it, we believe in this community, because it's making our life better here. Not because you know, the stories are better or worse than any of the other religions or religious people who have come through. That's a long winded answer. So I don't know, maybe someone else would write a better synopsis? Deep answer,

Unknown Speaker 35:47
it's so illuminating. And I've wanted to talk to you about it, because it is a show that, you know, it's people have a lot of opinions about it and say, it's always great to talk to someone who was at the center of it and built it, and to hear sort of how something lands, when it's made and how it might change if it were made today, if you were doing workshop number one today, or maybe it would stay exactly the same. Like who knows?

Unknown Speaker 36:13
Yeah, who does know, who does know, that's the magic about theater, right? I mean, it's a very strange thing. When you make a movie, you make it in 1995. And then even if you watch it in 2020, it existed in 1995, it doesn't change, but your viewing of it, but both in theater, the world changes, the performance is changed, the performers change. And yet the piece itself kind of stays rooted in the time that it was written. It's a very exciting thing it asks a lot of the audience I think Book of Mormon is a show it's very, very funny. And if you just want to go in there and laugh and, and sort of let it wash over you and be shocked by the use of language and some of the words that we say and do great, but it's it's a I think it's a really smart satire, that's, that's got at least seven or eight onion layers underneath the the fact that it's like funny and body, you know, so if you're there for that, too, I think you'll find it.

Unknown Speaker 37:11
Right? Well, I can't help but return to how we began this conversation, which was your acceptance speech, which has so much of the faith and love and perseverance and confidence that your character in the show has inside her as well. And the bumblebee imagery is so incredibly beautiful. And you have remained unstoppable and focused and vulnerable and honest, in all the ways in which you know, you share so much of yourself as a performer. And it really is, you are something to behold my friend, your beacon, and you are incredibly gifted. And I feel so lucky to have had you on the show today. Thanks. Just so lucky. And before I say goodbye, I'm going to ask you a couple of questions about the night that that launched this whole conversation. And I want to begin with Who did you bring with you to the Tony Awards

Unknown Speaker 38:19
that my my mom was my date. She was sitting next to me and my manager who'd been representing me my whole my whole career who still represents me. She was sitting next to my mom and I had 10 friends and family in the balcony that they bought tickets so my mom was my date but the first time I saw my other friends and family in the building was when I got on stage and turned around. I could see them up there in the in the balcony. It was awesome. Wow.

Unknown Speaker 38:50
What did you wear?

Unknown Speaker 38:52
I wore a volley dress VA Li that I found on some crazy dress hunt type situation and I was wearing my very first pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. And some borrowed diamonds from Jacob the jeweler.

Unknown Speaker 39:12
And where is your Tony as we speak?

Unknown Speaker 39:17
Well, my Tony Ward lives on a shelf above my television in my living room and I have my little pin my nomination pin as well there and I have the the envelope, which is more like a booklet right behind it.

Unknown Speaker 39:36
Nicki m James, thank you for being on the show today. And thank you for being just extraordinary in every way.

Unknown Speaker 39:43
Thank you so much. This was a nice trip down memory lane memory lane. Appreciate it,

Unknown Speaker 39:48
of course.

Unknown Speaker 39:52
And the Tony goes to is produced by Alan Seales for the Broadway Podcast Network, the music and lyrics for the theme song Written by Georgia for Mussa theme song Orchestration by Alexander stage alien episodes are edited by Derek Gunther. Thank you to parody bill for the graphics. And please don't forget to go to the iTunes Show page and rate and review the show. Thanks for listening excerpt from the Tony Awards used with permission of Tony Awards productions

When Nikki M. James was in kindergarten her teacher invited her to sing in a school performance. It was obvious to everyone that she was exceptionally talented but what became clear to Nikki, even at this young age, was that she found her passion. That love of performing a song became her obsession and then she found Broadway! She dreamed of being a professional actress and of one day winning a Tony Award. Sure- lots of people practice their speech in the bathroom mirror but Nikki is one of those extraordinary talents who actually made it happen. Losing her father at a young age made her all the more focused and devoted to her craft and then a play reading when she was still in high school was the beginning of something that would change her life forever even though she didn’t know it at the time. Her performance in that reading stayed with one audience member- Bobby Lopez ( one of the creators of The Book Of Mormon) and many years later when they were casting for the workshop of the show he thought Nikki would be a great fit. He was right! And what luck for all of us who got to see Nikki be brilliant  in her Tony Award winning role and her performance on the Broadway Cast Album is one of the greatest ever.

Hosted by Ilana Levine, Produced by Alan Seales, part of the Broadway Podcast Network.


You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This