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‘The Wiz Live!’ star Shanice Williams: ‘It’s a roller coaster right now’

photo courtesy NBC

photo courtesy NBC

Shanice Williams may be living her dream, but soon after she learned that she would be starring in NBC’s presentation of The Wiz Live! as Dorothy, the New Jersey native was thrust into the reality of carrying a major production and sharing the stage with luminaries such as Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige and David Alan Grier. For the actress, her first major gig has definitely been a learn-as-you-go experience that she’s navigated surprisingly well. First and foremost, she had to get over any anxiety she had about her big name co-stars.

“It took a lot of ‘Shanice, they’re just normal people, just chill,’” she says with a giggle. “I wanted them to be comfortable with me and when I got into rehearsals I realized how chill everybody was and everyone was so welcoming. It was a lot easier than I thought.”

A big help has been the advice of both her director Kenny Leon and the legendary Stephanie Mills, the original production’s Dorothy who stars in this version as Aunt Em.

“They tell me to take everything one step at a time,” Williams shares. “Honestly, it’s crazy right now. It’s like a rollercoaster. So, I just live in the moment because I’m never going to get this experience again to do this show with these people. The most important thing is to stay humble, no matter what anyone says. You just have to remember that it’s all about the work.”

The 18-year-old has been enamored with the stage since childhood and she used theater as a way to build confidence and find her true self.

“I grew up an only child and I would always find ways to keep myself entertained,” she says. “I was always singing in my house and my grandmother’s house and just dancing around. When I got the reaction of people, I was like, ‘Wow, this is cool!’ I liked to perform and I knew that was what I wanted to do. And in middle school, when I got onstage, honestly—I always felt like I didn’t fit in when I was growing up. But I realized onstage that this was where I belonged. I saw my first Broadway show at a really young age and was like, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’”

She would become a drama standout at Rahway High School and won raves doing regional theater before she went off to college. After spending some time at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, Williams soon realized that her heart was back East.

“I went to college in Los Angeles for a year. I love L.A. but I love New York, too. I definitely felt like New York was where I belonged—when it’s warm! But the school that I was at, I wasn’t getting what I needed. That was the only reason I left,” she recalls. “Of course, there’s no real Broadway in L.A. So, New York was a little better for me.”

And now, the dreamer from Jersey has landed the role of a lifetime. There are pressures, but she doesn’t run from them.

“Going into your first job and having a lead role, you just learn a lot. You have to stay focused 100 percent of the time. There’s only one scene that I’m not in. It takes a lot to get your mind right and be focused 100 percent of the time,” she says.


2 Comments

  1. Mary Burrell on November 29, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I love Stephanie Mills as the original Dorothy from but looking at the new modern day production made for television. I loved the original soundtrack with Stephanie Mills. It’s a new day and a new time, so i guess i have to change with the times. I do remember going to the movies and see the film with MJ and Diana Ross, who i always thought was too old. Even with MJ as the scarecrow i was underwhelmed. But since MJ’s passing i had to view it with a new change of heart because i love MJ. But i am curious to see how this new production turn out.

    • BigMeach on November 30, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Keep in mind that this production will be based on THE PLAY version and not the movie. And I totally agree, the time has come for the passing of the torch to this new actor and let her forge her career with this vehicle as Stephanie was able to do!

      I am more than a fan, I consider myself to be a “family member” of Stephanie Mills andvthe joy I am feeling that she is able to pass the baton AND STILL was chosen to come back to the fold as “Aunt Em”…….

      I am SOOOOOOOOOO looking forward to this production. And, the soundtrack to this production is available for pre-order on Amazon.com