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Shanice Williams has the world at her feet.
The 19-year-old newcomer captivated America as Dorothy during NBC’s The Wiz Live on Thursday where she led a cast that included stars Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, Ne-Yo and, perhaps most importantly, Stephanie Mills, who originated the role on Broadway.
Here, Williams reflects on the whirlwind event, the advice Mills gave her and whether she’d reprise the role in next year’s Broadway revival with The Wiz producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
How are you feeling this morning?
I’m sleepy. I need to get some serious rest! (Laughs.)
How did you feel going into the live broadcast?
It was a lot of pressure but I always wanted to do this with my life. It was that feeling of a dream coming true. Going into it, I knew it was going to be hard work and life changing. I was like, alright, God gave me this opportunity and we’ll see what happens.
How did you feel the moment it was over?
I was telling someone that when crazy things happen to me, it doesn’t hit me until a while after. I walked off the stage and wondered why I wasn’t crying right now. But then I walked backstage and all my cast was there clapping and then the waterworks started. It felt good to know that all of our hard work was worth it and it paid off.
Who was your first call after it ended?
I talked to my mom, who kept saying “Shanice! Shanice!” She was at a loss for words; she’s really proud of me and watched with my whole family. They’ve supported me from the beginning and it was really exciting.
Did you hear from Bob Greenblatt?
He was there. He was very proud of everyone and gave us a great speech before it started and was there at the party after. It was good to see him relaxed and having fun. I knew we did our jobs because Bob seemed pretty happy. He said he laid out the path for us and told us [before it started] that it was all up to us to let this happen and make it a great experience.
What kind of advice did Stephanie Mills, who originated the role of Dorothy on Broadway and played Aunt Em here, give you?
The advice she always gives me is to stay humble, take everything one step at a time and live in the moment. By doing that, it’s helped me get through this journey in my life because everything goes by so quick. But when you take it one step at a time, you can learn from it and really cherish the moment.
We just spoke with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who hope that you’ll reprise the role on Broadway for them. Is that something you’re considering?
Broadway has always been my dream. I think it’d be cool to be in film and television but I never thought that would happen. Broadway is always what I’ve been training to do and what I’ve always dreamed about so that would be incredible.
Are you in any active talks to be in the Broadway performance?
We’re not sure yet; we’ll see what happens.
Craig and Neil were over the moon about your performance.
Yesterday, it touched my heart when I was talking to Craig and Neil and to see their facial expressions. They were there the day I was cast and I always just want to make them proud. To see their faces [afterward], they seemed so happy. I was touched that I could go out there and do what I had to to make them proud. They’re really excited and the ratings were great. I’m really happy we all pulled it off.
Have you spoken with them about returning for their next live musical for NBC? They’d love to have you back.
I just told Neil and Craig that I love them and would do anything they’re a part of. They’re like my family.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure yet. We have something in negotiations but nothing is final.
Is it TV, film, Broadway?
I can’t say.
What’s your dream job?
My dream job would be starring in a lead role on a Broadway musical. Once on This Island is one of my favorite musicals, so to have the lead in that would be great. Audra McDonald is my biggest inspiration so working with her in any show, that would make my life’s dream come true.
What do you think about the overwhelming response from critics and on social media to your performance?
I try to stay away form social media because it’s always positive and negative but everyone in my family and my friends are saying that they loved it. I’m happy that it’s actually bringing people together and we really needed that. That’s what I’m proud of.
Have you heard from Diana Ross (who played Dorothy in the 1978 film)?
I haven’t, isn’t that crazy that I haven’t heard from her? I really hope she watched it and enjoyed it.
Rewatch Williams’ performance of “Home,” below.
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