Exclusive - Cynthia Erivo Extended Interview

June 27, 2016 - Cynthia Erivo 06/27/2016 Views: 8,126

Cynthia Erivo reflects on her Tony Award-winning role in "The Color Purple" and compares working as a theater performer in the U.S. to her native England. (9:19)

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Tonight's guest isthe Tony Award-winner

from The Color Purple on Broadway.

Please welcome Cynthia Erivo!

(applause and cheering)

-Welcome. Welcome.How are you? -Hi.

-I'm good, thank you. -Goodto see you. Good to see you.

-Hi.-Take a seat. Welcome.

-Right.-Welcome. Oh, this is you.

-Yeah.-This is you. I am so...

So, I'm proud of you.

Like, I've known you forever.

I was lucky enoughto see The Color Purple.

I got to come out there, I gotto chat to you at the show.

And... and honestly, I criedthrough your performance,

but not like sad cry.It was like...

-You know that happy cry...-Yeah.

...where you're just like,"I'm so happy... for you."

-(laughter)-"I'm so happy for you."

How many tears have youelicited from...?

You see people cryingevery single night.

Yeah, every single night. Yeah.

-Grown men, kids.-(laughter)

Women, everyone.

Um, yeah, I just think that,

um,there's a really wonderful room,

a really wonderful vibein the theatre

that allows peopleto just be...

-Yeah. -...to expresstheir feelings as they come.

People are literally sobbing,

throwing their hands upin the air,

getting upwhen they need to get up.

It's like... it...

Sometimes it feelslike a rock concert.

Sometimes it feels like church.

It just is oneof those places.

It really isa beautiful feeling.

-Yeah.-And, I mean, rightfully so,

the experiences you've receivedfrom it have been tremendous.

I mean, you won the Tony Awardfor best actress.

-Yeah. -Congratulations on that.-(applause and cheering)

-You know what I mean?-Yeah.

And then... and then,the day after that,

you got to have lunchwith Oprah.

-(laughing): Yeah.-(laughter)

-It sounds so ridiculous,isn't it? -What...?

What made you more nervous?

Was it like the Oprahor the Tony?

-What were you more...?-Um...

I think the Tonymade me more nervous

'cause I've met Oprah alreadybefore that.

-Oh, look at you. Look at you.-So... -(laughter)

-"I met Oprah before."-You know, I just...

Yeah. No. Um, yeah, she's...

She was really lovely,and I'd met her before.

-And she was thereon Tony night. -Yes.

So that's probably what made meeven more nervous

'cause she was in the crowd,like, on the first row

as I'm singing to her facelike that.

-(laughter) -It was...quite something. Yeah.

Quite something is, I guess,the least way

I could describeyour performance in the show.

It is phenomenal.

You've also comeinto a story from...

-You're a UK performer...-Yeah.

...that has come outto play a Southern gal really.

-Yes. Yeah. -And do you likedoing the Southern accent?

You were amazing in it.When I first saw it,

I did not knowthat you were not Southern.

I didn't knowyou were not American.

(with Southern accent): Well,you know, it's hard to do.

You know, when yousetrying to change it up, it's...

-(laughter) -You got to listenand make sure you authentic.

-Oh. Oh.-(laughter)

Look at that. Oh.

(applause and cheering)

Yeah, well, someof that Southern charm.

Southern charm.

It's a...it's a huge production now.

-Yeah. -It's, you know,voted, you know,

one of the best revivalswe've ever seen.

You've playedtwo Whoopi Goldberg roles.

-Yeah. -That's a strange creditto have.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.So the first one was

Sister Mary Clarencein Sister Act.

Um, I did thatfor 15 months in the UK,

around the whole of the UK, andthen, got this shortly after.

So, it was sort of likeone after the other.

It was just kind of awesome.

And I've met her, as well,which is brilliant. Yeah.

Where do you see yourselfgoing after this?

I heard a rumor that you wish toplay one of the male lead roles

-in Hamilton. -That would be cool.

-Yeah, which is somethingthey... -If it could happen.

-Well, which is somethingthey do. -I don't know.

-(cheering, applause)-Lin-Manuel...

-I don't know.-like, he does whatever.

He'd be like,"Yeah, let's do it."

Would you play Burr?Who would you play?

I would like to. Leslie keepsthreatening me with it, so...

Leslie is the man thatcurrently plays Aaron Burr.

-Leslie Odom, yeah.You should do a switch. -Yes.

-You should do it one night onBroadway. -Can you imagine him

-playing Celie and singing"I'm Here"? -Just one time

-they should do a switch.Don't say anything, -Leslie...

and then Leslieshould play your character

-in The Color Purple, and then... -That would be...

I really want to see that now.I really want to sit

in the audiencewhen he's playing Celie.

It would be an amazing switch.You would do that as well.

Okay, so you would play,uh, that.

-In terms of roles,-Yeah.

I've read a lot of yourinterviews, and you talk

about how, I guess, how muchof a culture shock it is

coming to the U.S.and seeing how different it is

in terms of the rolesthat are allocated

-Yeah. -to actors out here--there's a disparity

-between what you can do versus-Yeah.

-what you are being offered.-Right. Yeah.

I just think that...I guess the experience

is different for me becauseI've experienced the UK,

and having experience hereI can sort of, um,

compare and contrastand see what the difference is.

And the fact is that I feel likethere's more of an opportunity

-to just do more here,to try new things. -Yeah.

There...especially in the theater,

there's more sort of,I guess, want to...

have fun, tell a story,

no matter whatthe person looks like

-Uh-huh.-or where the person is from.

So I guess we're slightly behindin London just a little bit,

and we need to catch upa little bit more.

I think it's changing now.

-Well, Brexit is gonna helpwith that. I mean... -(groans)

That's gonna move youin the right direction, I think.

-Oh, my Lord. -That's,uh, that's where you need...

-How do you feel about that?-Like I'm really glad

-to be here right nowfor a second. -(laughter)

-That's-that's how I feel.-You-you have a story

that I think links very much,it ties in.

-You are the childof Nigerian immigrants -Yeah.

to the UK, you are a storyof that success,

-Right. -a story of peoplepersevering to become more

than their circumstancesallowed.

Like... on a personal level,

what does a decision like thismean to you?

I mean, every ti...I always think about, like,

if my... if my mumdidn't get to the UK,

I probably wouldn't be hereright now,

to be honest with you here,on that stage on Broadway.

So it just, I feel likethere are a lot of lives

that will changenot for the better.

-Yeah. -I think it will stopa lot of this stuff happening.

You don't know that that...

kind of decision doesn'tjust affect you in the now,

it affects many years later.

And I'm... I'm sad for that.

Have you talked to your parentsabout it at all?

Have they said anything? 'CauseI feel like Nigerian parents

-would have a lot to say...-(laughter)

about this type of thing.

I haven't really, but I expectthat my mum would be like,

"Well, you better"-- 'causeshe's got this really soft

English-Nigerian accent--"Well, you know,

"just make sure that, um...

"you-you keep working hard.

"You don't...don't worry about it,

-because it's not your fault."-(laughter)

She's really...she's really super sweet.

She-she w... "You know,just keep it quiet. Just...

"You-you have-you have doneyour own thing, and you-you

"never know what you are doingmight, you know,

"just help people to...

And it might change sometime.You never know."

I feel like your mom is...either extremely sweet

-or the most dangerousAfrican mom around. -Right.

Because I wouldn't trustan African mom like that.

Just like,"Well, what have you done?"

-"What did you do today?"-"What did you...

-what did I tell you?"-I always felt like she was...

I-I genuinely felt, when I wasyounger, that she had, like,

cameras everywhere.That was in my head.

I had decided that she had putcameras everywhere I went.

'Cause she knew everything

-that you had done. -She kneweverything. Everything.

-"What did I tell you about..."-"So, that boy

"that you weretalking to-- um...

what's his name?"Um, don't-don't know, mom.

J... Just a friend."Oh, is it?

That's nice."

Before I let you go...before I let you go, uh,

I wanted to ask you one-one,uh, serious question.

Are you crazy?Um...

No, because, I-I... this is...You ran a marathon...

Half marathon.

Oh, I'm sorry-- half a marathon.

They're all marathons to me.They're all marathons.

-And thereafter you went to dotwo performances. -Yeah.

What were you think...Why do you do...

How do you work out so muchwith your schedule?

Which question do youwant me to answer?

Are you crazy?Are you crazy is the main one.

Um, well, the thing isI-I like to think of myself

as highly practical.The fact of the matter is

I wanted... I wantedto run the half marathon

and it fell on a daythat had two shows,

and I was notnot going to do the two shows,

so I did the half marathon,realized I had

about an hour or twobetween the shows,

I went home, got readyand went to do the two shows.

My niece, however, didn't reallyagree with me. I will say that.

So-so you-you... I mean,you do everything. You run,

you do push-ups before yousleep. Which is a strange thing.

Well, it... Yes.

Yeah. Um, it's a strange thing.

I mean, look... You look...You-you even said that

you want to play SerenaWilliams, and I could see this.

-You've got power.-Yeah.

-No, you got guns.-Thanks.

-(cheering, applause)-You got gu... Look at that.

You got guns, girl.

You got, like,you look like, like,

in an arm wrestling contestyou would be, like...

(cheering, applause)

Well, I don't...I don't think we have time...

I don't think we... I thinkwe have to go to an ad brea...

I don't think we have timefor the thing.

We have...Oh, we have time? Okay.

-Now, I must warn you...-Yes?

I bruise easily.

-Okay. -Okay, what is the rule?Are we allowed to hold the table

-or not? -You can...Flat palm on the table.

-Flat-flat palm on the table.-Yeah. Okay.

-Okay. Okay, you-you can...-You can count down.

-I can count down?-Yeah, yeah.

Oh, that's scary.Oh, that is scary.

All right, all right.Three, two, one, go.

(cheering, applause)

We're at a stalemate!

I'm not straining.

The Color Purple is atthe Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

Cynthia Erivo, everybody.We'll be right back.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)