Broadway star Brittney Johnson is opening up about her role in Wicked.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson opened up about how she wanted to be in Wicked ever since she enrolled in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Brittney Johnson Recalls Struggled To Get A ‘Wicked’ Audition
Although Brittney wanted to get into Wicked immediately after graduating, she couldn’t secure an audition.
“I graduated college and got my agent, and they were like, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, Wicked,” Brittney recalled. “But then I wasn’t able to get an audition — they never called me in.”
Instead, she found her first Broadway role in 2014 as a replacement for Motown the Musical. She covered nine different ensemble roles and even the show’s lead Diana Ross.
“It changed my whole outlook,” she said. “I learned so much about my capabilities as a performer and, just as a human being, what I’m able to internalize and execute.”
In addition to Mowtown the Musical, she also performed in Les Misérables, where she became the first Black woman to play both Eponine and Fantine. She also had roles in Beautiful: The Carol King Musical and Sunset Boulevard.
Brittney Johnson Makes Her Glinda Debut On Valentine’s Day!
It wasn’t until 2018 that she finally got a chance to audition to Wicked and became the understudy for Glinda. On Monday, February 14, Brittney Johnson made her debut as the first Black Glinda on the show. Although actors of color have played lead roles, like the witch Elphaba and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz himself, this is the first time that Glinda will be played full-time by a woman of color.
That’s not to be said that this will be her first-time playing Glinda on stage. In 2019, she stepped up from the understudy and took to stage in a performance that would mark the first time a person of color ever played Glinda in the show’s decades-long history.
“The impact that I’ve been able to make has certainly kept me there,” she said of her decision to stick with Wicked. “My desire to keep moving up in the ranks and eventually take over this role has also kept me here.”
Although Glinda (first portrayed by Kristen Chenoweth) has been perceived as “soft” and “gentle,” Brittney feels that this is a chance to overthrow the stereotype that has been “pushed on women for decades.”
“I am also very strong. I like to work out and lift. I prioritize strength,” she said. “I want to be an inspiration that you can be different in how you look and how you act, and how you present yourself to the world.”
Brittney Johnson Wants To Be An Honest & Authentic Role Model For Others
Brittney knows that there will be many young fans who look up to her, and she wants to take her new role model status seriously by putting her most authentic self out into the world.
“I want to always be honest and authentic, and genuine and who I am,” she added. “So part of that moving forward is saying: This isn’t a way that you can speak to people. This isn’t appropriate. That actually wasn’t a funny joke. Here’s why.”
She recognizes that, throughout her career, she has been treated a certain way due to the color of her skin. She says that her experiences in auditions throughout her career have taught her how to “present and handle” herself in front of others.
“There’s a specific way that as a Black person you learn to present and handle yourself, because there’s always people, whether they want to admit it, who are seeing you through some kind of filter or some kind of preconceived stereotypes,” she said. “So it was finding the balance between who the character is and, this would look ridiculous, so I cannot present myself this way as a self-respecting human being and especially as a Black woman.”
“People are looking and, I don’t necessarily think that they are looking hoping that I fail, but they are looking anytime that you’re the first or the only, to get a blueprint of what might this look like in the future,” she added. “I can inspire people a lot more as a full human who has experienced loss and hurt and offense, and has overcome it and is still able to be sunny.”