You Can't Stop the Beat! Hairspray Live Charms a New Generation! Tune In to NBC, December 7 at 8:00PM!
The network that amazed us with live versions of "Sound of Music," "The Wiz," and "Peter Pan" continues one of our favorite new Holiday traditions by bringing the music-filled, fan favorite "Hairspray" to life LIVE on December 7 at 8:00PM.
The star-studded cast includes Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Kristin Chenoweth, Derek Hough, Garrett Clayton, Dove Cameron, Harvey Fierstein, Ephraim Sykes and introducing Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad. With that much talent... how can it not be a rousing success?
Recently, Maddie, Dove, Ephraim and Garrett fieled questions from reporters and gave us a look at what it takes to do a Broadway show live on television! Here's what they said!
Q. So can you tell me what the best part of being cast in this role is for you, what it means to you?
Garrett: Well I've always wanted to do the show but I think what's really cool about this -- and we've all kind of said it -- we really have. I guess we're obsessed with each other as a cast. So it's kind of - we're all like super stoked that we get to work with such like fun, awesome, cool people.
Maddie: My favorite thing I think about playing Tracy is that she's like the ultimate underdog so everyone can relate to her. So I'm happy to be that for everyone.
Ephraim: I guess I'll go next. My name's Ephraim. Yes I know that. Why did I say that? I feel weird. I'm nervous. I think I'm excited to play Seaweed because he's so close to home to me. Like my first love has always been music and he also has a mindset that is about everybody, you know, everybody's the same, everybody's together, love, and he's able to bridge gaps of hate and misunderstandings and sort of find his way through, bring people together through music and dance, and that's what I love to do the most.
Dove: Well okay. So excited to bring up the rear of this. I - well - okay yes. I am super stoked to be a part of this production in general, speaking about things that are still extremely relevant in 2016 and more relevant than I think any of us could have even guess going into this. It became more relevant as production went on, you know, regarding everything going on politically and, you know, the way that things are starting to move these days. We're all very pleased and blessed to be able to speak on that in such a positive light in a way that keeps things going with a cast that is bringing the eyes of a younger generation towards that message.
You know, we definitely have a lot of stars in this but a few younger that bring a young demographic, which is beautiful - always a beautiful thing to pump out a positive message to, you know, to the generation that will become, you know, our new adults in a couple years. That's something that I think all of us are very excited for. And yes, definitely just in general this cast, I mean you couldn't get any better. So we never want to go home at the end of day and we're all excited to be at work at the start of the day. And what more could you ask for?
Q. Maddie, you've had the opportunity to meet with at least some of the previous actresses who have played Tracy, and I was wondering what advice they had for you?
Maddie: Yes, so about a week after I was announced that I got the part of Tracy, I was in New York and Marissa Jaret Winokur, who played Tracy on Broadway and got a Tony for the role, she reached out to me and said that she was in New York watching Matthew Morrison's play and she invited me to come over so we could just chat for a second. And that one second turned into four hours, and we just sat on this couch and she just talked and I just soaked it all up.
And she gave me a lot of advice actually. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was that Harvey is always right; always listen to Harvey. And she was so true about that. She was like, "You won't want it to be that way but it is that way. That's just the way it is."
I spoke with Ricki Lake, who was the original Tracy in the John Waters film. She told me like to always just say yes to everything to every opportunity. She said that sometimes like you'd say yes to things but then like she's wake up the morning of and decide not to do it. And she said that really bit her in the butt. So just to always say yes to everything to everything. They gave me a lot of good advice. And they're going to make cameos in the show.
You're all - all of you seem to be living a dream right now, and Maddie in particular you seem to be living like a Cinderella story. Can you just describe for us, each of you in turn, your audition process, how you got the role and how did you - Maddie, how did you hear about this to begin with since you attended an open casting call, and just kind of relive it for us how you each won this role.
Totally! So I was in New York for two years for college and I saw an open casting call that I saw an ad on Facebook that there was going to be a big open audition for Tracy for Hairspray Live. And this was one of my dream roles, so I really wanted to do it but I was also really, really nervous because it was my first professional audition. So it was my first audition outside of school.
And I decided at 3:00 am the morning of the audition to get up and get ready and go do it. And on the sheet - on the ad, it said that you should also prepare a short portion of Good Morning Baltimore, so I prepared my short portion on the subway ride to Telsey & Company, which is the casting agency where they were holding the audition in New York.
So I got there at 6:45 thinking that I was going to be one of the first girls in line because it started at 10:00, and I was 343 in line and there were over 1000 girls there by the end of the day. And I sang my short portion of Good Morning Baltimore and I thought I nailed it, and then they asked me to sing the end of the song, which I did not know so I made up a lot of the words. But they still asked me to do a callback a couple days later. And then four callbacks later, I got the part. So I am living my dream. I'm so thrilled and blessed to be a part of this amazing cast.
Garrett, why don't you tell us your story?
Garrett Clayton: So I had been poking and prodding my reps when I found out the show was even happening, and after - I kind of let the notion go that I was not going to be able to audition just because nobody ever thinks they're going to get their dream part. And they said that the - the production asked me to send in a self-tape. And so it took me about a week to make the tape that I was solid and felt good about sending.
And after about two months of hearing that I'm still in the mix, they set up a call back with the whole team behind it that ended up getting cancelled because somebody couldn't make it to LA, so I figured somebody else got the part. And then about two weeks after that, they e-mailed me the night before and said, "Can you come to a dance audition?" And it was with Brooke, the assistant choreographer, and we FaceTimed with Jerry and -- Jerry Mitchell, the choreographer -- and he watched me do a little bit of Nicest Kids.
And about two weeks later, they offered me the part, which is kind of a little bit surreal, because at the time I was - the night I found out I got it I was at A Chorus Line at the Hollywood Ball and I was just checking my phone on the way to the bathroom and my reps kept freaking out saying, "Call us" and Kiss Today Goodbye came on. So me, as like the big theater nerd that I am, had a little bit of an emotional moment because I was listening to Kiss Today Goodbye at A Chorus Line at the Hollywood Bowl when I got Link.
Q. And Ephraim?
Ephraim: Yes, mine is not so quite involved. It was really weird. I first heard about - well my agent came me a call I think it must have been early July or something like that, maybe even late June or so, like very early on saying that hey they would like you to send in a tape for Seaweed. And I was doing Hamilton at the time and I was just like a bunch of other parts. I was like I don't think - I thought there was no chance in hell that I'd be cast in this, honestly. I was like (unintelligible) like superstar name or like, you know, because I heard that Ariana Grande was going to be in it, I had heard that Jennifer Hudson was going to be in it, all these other people.
I was like - there's no way in this world that this is going to happen for me, and I don't even know if I can sing that high, because, you know, his song's like kind of crazy. So I actually turned it down at first. I was like no, I think I'll hold off because I'm in the middle of like, you know, a crazy eight-show-a-week and I don't feel like killing myself for something that I didn't think I would really get.
Cut to like literally maybe two months later, like early August and I get a call from my agent again saying, "Hey, Ephraim, casting really would like to see if you'd just send in a tape, just submit - they just want to see and hear you do this." Because I guess they were having a hard time finding somebody or like, you know, matching somebody up with tiny Ariana. So I was like okay well I guess I'll give it a shot. So I feel like because they asked me again, they would have to at least like consider me or have to at least like look at my tape and not just throw it out the window.
So I was in my living room. I had one of my best friends come over. I was like, "Look man, we've got one take for this because I don't know if I can sing it twice." (Unintelligible) I happen to collect records, like old records, and I have them hanging all over my wall. We were going to shoot it in my apartment. Badly lit. You guys have to see this audition tape; it's really terrible.
Yes so my friend shot it for me. I went ahead and just like screamed it out one time. He was like, "All right man, I think that was it," one take and sent in my tape with that song and the audition - and the audition material and sides. And literally like a week later, the day that I stopped doing Hamilton, I found out that I got this part and I collapsed. So that's what happened.
Q. If you could play any other character in Hairspray Live, who would it be and why?
Garrett: Let me see. You know what, if I in an alternate reality where I wasn't Link, I would say Amber because I think she has really funny one liners. And her character, not that she doesn't learn a lesson but she kind of just is happy with who she is and yells at everybody else about it. I think there's something to playing a villain and enjoying it and doing it well. And I think Dove has a really good take on the character that I think is really funny and fun to watch.
Dove: Oh, Gare Bear.
Garret: So that's my alternate universe.
Dove: I'm going to go next, because I want to. This is Dove. And I think I would either like to play Link or Seaweed, I'm not kidding, because -- and I've said this in like every interview -- I think that Link has - Garrett and I are just like, "You're the best," "No, you're the best." I think that Link has the biggest character arc out of anybody, if you think about it. Not many people really change over the arc of the show but Link has the biggest character arc, which I think is always one of the more appealing things as an actor.
And then in terms of Seaweed, I just think that his solo is so ridiculous and it's one of my favorite songs in the show. And I remember watching Ephraim do it, and he like goes into the splits and he's like running all over the place and like I just think that would be so fun. I love "Run and Tell That." That's one of my favorite songs in the production. Plus also like I want to play a guy, you know what I mean?
Ephraim: Well I'll go next. Okay go. No you go, Maddie.
Maddie: I would want to play Motormouth Maybelle because she has two kick ass songs and they're incredible and they're so powerful. And Jennifer Hudson's going - by the way is going to change the world just singing those two songs. I'm done. Thank you.
Ephraim: I think the other role that I would want to play is I'd want to play Link. I think that's such a cool part. I think it's such a cool role. Like...
Garrett: Yes, Link for the win.
Ephraim: Dove said, he has the - no seriously, he has this great, you know, arc. He's this really cool, sweet dude but he also has some great music that he gets to sing and he's a great dancer himself. And he - I would love to be flirting and playing around and exploring the chemistry with Maddie, or, you know, whoever the Tracy would be. I love Maddie, so I would love to be playing alongside her.
Q. What have the rehearsals have been like and if you guys have had any time to kind of just bond as a cast.
Dove: We've had so much time to bond as a cast.
Garrett: It's the best. When we decide to do stuff together, it's like wicked fun. It's so exciting.
Maddie: Yes, I've been in rehearsals. I did two weeks of rehearsals and -- oh this is Maddie by the way -- I did two weeks of rehearsals in New York and this is like my fifth week here, and literally every night after rehearsals for the past couple of weeks we've all gotten together and like watched a movie or had game night. We have had so much cast bonding.
Ephraim: This is Ephraim, and I second everything she just said. We like to go to each other's houses and meet people's moms together and play crazy games. We are bonding so much, and truly our relationships that - our actual friendships and relationships are transmitting straight to the stage and to the camera, I think.
Dove: Yes that's definitely something -- this is Dove -- that's definitely something that we've all really remarked on. And then especially because we have such a diverse cast in terms of sex and age range and background and experience. You know, it's not necessarily something that you would expect from this particular group of people just because it is so diverse.
You know, it's not like a sitcom where it's only four or five people and they're all sort of the same age or whatever, it's a very interesting fun, wide cast and we've all fallen madly in love with each other and we're, you know, FaceTiming each other, dinner every day, sleepovers, all that fun stuff. It's the best. It's exactly what you would want.
Ephraim: She's right. And it feels a bit like theater camp.
Garrett: It does. It feels like a really weird drama program where everybody is way too experienced and wicked famous. So we're all kind of having these weird moments where we take a step back, and I've noticed each person kind of like has a moment where they have to catch their breath and realize where they are and who they're with. It's really magical.
Dove: Mine for me was when Harvey Fierstein was teaching me how to accurately stuff my bra. You know what, everybody has their moment in life. That was mine.
Q. Ephraim, this question is specifically for you. So you were recently in Hamilton. It's one of the biggest musicals of all time. So how has that experience helped you prepare for this role now?
Ephraim: I think the biggest thing that it's helped out our director at Hamilton, Tommy Kail, was really an - sort of an advocate for how to just really show up and do what you do. We started - I started doing Hamilton early on like in a reading like back in 2014, so before it touched in the stage in any way.
So I got to kind of be part of it, witness it, and like watch it grow and like realize what I was becoming a part of. And especially by the time we got off Broadway, it had started really to develop this crazy name and following and people were really speaking out and all of kind, you know, press and, you know, the show started to hit in all time, you know, this high that we had never seen before.
And we were coming into rehearsals every day and going into the show every day and he is really good about wrangling us and like he made this comment that I'll never forget.
He was like, "Every day we have this duty to prepare a meal, like almost like potluck or something that. And our job every day is to simply come in with the ingredients that we have and create it fresh every day for this audience. Anything that goes outside of the show, who's talking about it, who's seeing it, who's saying what in the media, like none of that matters. Let's just keep showing up and telling this story as best we can every day, look each other in the eye, be in the same room, be on the same stage at the same time with everybody, and that, you know, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself."
So it's really been able to prepare me in a way that like, you know, it's something that was talked about far and wide and had so many eyes on it and is still being talked about, is still drawing, you know, lots of attention in a great ways. But my job was always just to simply show up and have the greatest time with the people that I love, have the greatest time with the people - and sharing moments with the people on stage truthfully and honestly.
So coming into this situation and knowing who I was going to be like cast alongside I was like - I was able to ignore it, just breathe, keep your feet on the ground, look everybody in the eye and have a good time with them every day and be willing to be honest and truthful in all your moments and let the camera pick up and do the work for you there, let the media and press and everybody else do their work, you do your job.
Q. You all come from different backgrounds, TV, Broadway, so what are you all the most nervous about when it comes time for the telecast?
Garrett: You know what's really funny is everyone keeps - I think the one common denominator that I've gathered from the interviews is everyone keeps asking I guess me specifically because I'm not everybody else and I haven't done many interviews, but I'm just assuming at this moment that a really common question is am I nervous for it being live. And me personally I've always loved theater and I've done a lot of it since I was young, and I've made it a point to do theater consistently every year of my life even when I left my BFA because I think it's important, and to me as a performer, it just feeds my soul and what I like to do.
And so when people ask if I've been nervous for it being live, I think it's interesting, and the way I've approached it mentally that's made me feel a little bit better, instead of getting nervous I like to think that when someone's on stage and you see them mess up and watching them either overcome it, not acknowledge or sell it, usually the audience is going to fight for you and actually think, "Oh wow good for them." Like, I like them more because they didn't let that stop them.
So the nerves I think for me it's just I want to make sure I have enough endurance for "You Can't Stop the Beat," but other than that I'm just excited to kind of, you know, get to do the show and I think we're all excited to finish camera blocking and actually get to run this beast of a musical. It's really exciting.
Q. A lot of awesome costumes go into this production and there's some pretty cool props. If you guys could take any one prop or costume home, what would it be?
Garrett:Maybe my blue suede shoes for "It Takes Two."
Maddie: Yes I would take Garrett's blue suede shoes.
Dove: Yes I think all of us would take Garrett's blue suede shoes.
Ephraim: No, I got this crazy, ridiculously extra blue suit that I want to just to hang somewhere like in this suit hall of fame. It's between that and my switchblade.
Dove: I think I would either take - well I want all of Amber's wardrobe because I'm one of those people that would wear strange - like I just - I would go to the supermarket in like full on 50s garb - or 60s garb. So I really love Amber's like baby blue dress and her yellow dress and all that. I don't know. I mean - yes, I would probably take - I really like all of Corny's wardrobe. I'd probably take Corny's outfits or maybe Ari's gum. I don't know, there's a lot, you know. A lot of good stuff. Ephraim, wait, Ephraim, don't you have like a comb at some point?
Ephraim: A comb? No, it's a real like switchblade. It's like, you know, they've dulled it, you know, like crazy. It would have been a switch comb but no, I get an actual switchblade and it's pretty cool. I've always wanted one.
Dove: Oh I know what I would take. I would take Kristin's crab crown.
Garrett: I'm going to steal Ariana's ponytails.
Dove: Yes, Ari's ponytails.
Garrett: I'm just going to be running around with Ari's ponytails on my head all weekend. Oh pigtails. She doesn't have a ponytail. In real life it's a pigtail - or ponytail.
Q. What was your relationship with Hairspray before you got this role?
Maddie: Okay, at the beginning. When I was like nine or ten I went over to my friend's house and I'd always call my mom if I was going to watch a movie with my friend that was over-rated G. Because I was like really sheltered.
And so I called my mom and asked her if we could watch this move called, Hairspray. And it was the original John Waters film and she said, "No, no, no, no because there's like so much making out in the show."
And so I didn't even see the original Hairspray until like two months ago. But I saw the 2007 film and I fell in love with Tracy's spirit. And I loved how funny the show was.
But our Hairspray, while rehearsing for our Hairspray we're not just focusing on like the funny and the campy parts of the show. We're really, really, really focusing on the real relevant parts of the show which is going to make our Hairspray unlike any other Hairsprays ever seen.
Dove:Oh Maddie; yes Maddie.
Ephraim: Yes, claim it.
Dove:My relationship with Hairspray - so this is funny and it's always great looking back on like real life circumstances and you're like oh my, god I can actually say that in an interview.
I went and I saw the 2007 version of hairspray in theaters, which means I was really young and I was doing theater camp every day for Les Mis. And I went with my whole little baby cast afterwards.
Dove: Yes, very little baby cast. It was like a children's production of Les Mis.
Garrett: That's so cute.
Dove: The most darling children you've ever seen. It was like these 11-year-olds dying.
Garrett: Oh (Javier).
Dove Cameron: Oh (Javier). But we all went to see - we all went to go see Hairspray because it was right down the street from our theater - our tiny, tiny little theater. And I loved it so much that I went back again that night and again the next week.
And I went out and I bought the poster -- like the gigantic like seven foot poster. And I hung it up on my wall. It was the only thing other than a Green Day poster up on my wall for like (unintelligible).
And I loved it so much. I was obsessed. I bought the soundtrack. It was my favorite musical forever. So this is a really cool thing for me, you know. My little baby theater camp brain is kind of exploding.
Garrett: My experience here -- I might be showing my age here -- but I'll live my life.
Dove: Live your life Garrett.
Garrett: I saw it when I was - when you saw it in middle school, I saw it as a sophomore in high school.
Garrett: And I loved the movie. And one of my friends - because I was in the Drama Club. And ridiculous enough, I'm like a big video game person, so I used to play Sims and World of WarCraft on my computer at night. And I would always have movies playing on my box set TV. Remember when that was still a thing.
And Hairspray was one of the movies that would play on loop while I was playing my games. And one of my friends from the Drama Club choreographed one of the dances from it that I was in. And when I was in my BFA for a year I chose, "It takes Two," as one of my audition songs.
So I've been very aware of the musical for a long time. And I've always wanted to do it. I've choreographed a couple of numbers for a production once.
SO yes, for me it's very much I'm getting my cake and eating it too, the way I get to be Link. I get to do it with this cast of this scale. So for me my whole, you know, my theater kid on the inside is just always doing jumping jacks because I'm so excited. This is Garrett by the way. I don't know if I specified that.
Ephraim: I was going to help you out and say, that was Garrett and I'm Ephraim. And my experience, my first experience of course was watching the John Travolta, Elijah Kelley movie.
And I'd never seen, you know, it on stage at all before, so I just got sucked into that and like I think I may have bought that DVD.
And it's crazy because I wasn't in theater growing up. I didn't - I actually kind of hated Broadway. But that was one show, I was like this one. This one is kind of funky. That's cool.
And later on after I had already started working on Broadway, my little sister is a singer and actress, and she was doing like dinner theater down like in Florida where we're from somewhere, so I got to go down there at one point and see her. So that was my first time seeing it on stage was when my little sister was a Dynamite somewhere, while serving plates during intermission.
So cut to now and getting to actually like put my hands on the material and like really get to understand it, you know my original understanding kind of was a bit more face value back when I first saw the film. And just understanding of course the race relations and the music of it and the comedy of it.
But to be in it now and to truly understand the message of individuality, I think has really kind of changed me as a person. But also just like my - sort of my understanding of the show and what it's actually saying is a lot bigger. I think it's even bigger than the race issue which we are of course experiencing today still in 2016.
And with the craziness of the election and all the things that, you know, continue to be very polarizing, but I think it's actually extremely timely. Because if we learn even past race relations, just about how to completely love yourself; the individual, like beyond your color. Beyond the - you know what I mean.
Truly celebrate yourself and that teaches you how to understand and celebrate somebody else who's completely different and thinks different, looks different, acts different, has different mannerisms. Not just like all based off of race, but truly who you are and who they are, and that makes it extremely special.
I hope that it kind of will open people's eyes in the way that it opened mine in that was. And especially because right now we've got to hold hands more than ever to be able to look each other in the eye and keep moving forward. Differences aside.
Don't miss Maddie, Ephriam, Dove, Garrett and the rest of the talented cast of Hairspray when they go LIVE on NBC, December 7 at 8:00PM!
For more on the Hairspray Live, visit http://www.nbc.com/hairspray-live