DIVA TALK: Chatting With Newsies Star LaVon Fisher-Wilson

By Andrew Gans
14 Jun 2013

Question: You mentioned how Medda is motherly with the boys, and you have two young children, right?
Fisher-Wilson: I do, I do. I just put my three-year-old to bed for a nap, otherwise this would be a crazy interview of me telling him to sit down and stop doing things. I have a six-year-old that's in kindergarten now, so he's in school right now.

Lavon Fisher-Wilson in Chicago
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Question: How do you combine the demands of motherhood with the demands of eight shows a week?
Fisher-Wilson: Oh, I'm tired. I'm tired! [Laughs.] You know what, it's rewarding. It was tough this year. This year was the first year my son went to school, so I had to get up at seven o'clock in the morning, Monday – Friday. And then you get out of these shows, you're wired from 11 to two. And, then it's time to get up with them. So coffee is my friend, coffee is my friend. But I do cherish when I'm getting up in the morning to go out with them, the morning time that I have with my six-year-old getting him to school. And my three-year-old, we spent this morning collecting rocks and jumping in puddles that were left from the rain. So the morning time is my time with them, so I cherish it because, of course, I've got a show I'm doing tonight, and when I get home they'll be asleep, so I cherish the time I spend. It's a juggling act, but I do cherish it, and I'm blessed I have a wonderful husband, who drives trucks. He drives local trucks here in Jersey, so he'll be home before I leave, and he picks me up from the theatre at night and the kids are all in their pajamas asleep in the back seat, so I have a great husband. Yes, I have a good system working!

Question: Tell me a bit about the Disney Channel Movie you're doing.
Fisher-Wilson: Yes, it's Teen Beach Movie. It's like High School Musical but on the beach. These kids get swept away with this magical surfboard that takes them from 2012 — because we filmed it last year — into the sixties and to this sixties musical movie that one of the characters watches all the time. The longer they stay there, the more that they become a part of the movie — they start to sing everything. They're in the water, but their hair never really gets wet. [Laughs.] I play Big Mama. Big Mama owns a burger shack on the beach, and this is where they come to eat their burgers and come to do their dance-offs. The bikers and the surfers, instead of fighting, they dance. It's just a cool place for the kids to come, and Big Mama's the nurturer. I've had a lot of nurturing roles for the past two years! [Laughs.]

Question: Was this your first film role?
Fisher-Wilson: It was!



Question: What was that like for you compared to doing stage work?
Fisher-Wilson: Well, you know what, I took a couple of classes last year about the difference because I am big. My presence is big and even the way I talk. So I would do auditions and they would say, "Ok, now we can bring it down and you can make it natural." I would say, "Child, this is me!" [Laughs.] I had to kind of learn that the screen is different; it's different than performing so an audience of 1,300 can hear you. It's about making it small. It's almost like you're at a table having a conversation with somebody and you only want them to hear what you're saying. I had to take that and put it on the screen, and it finally started working for me, and that's how I got this role. So it was about making things more intimate. And, I still have my big moments because Big Mama's a big character. But it was about playing to those couple of tables that I was talking to as opposed to what Medda does. So it was fun, it was fun, I didn't have to do a whole lot of takes, so that was really nice. They felt like I nailed it in maybe three or four takes, and the rest of the time I was in the background, kind of dancing and serving my food at the burger shack, and whenever a dance battle broke out, reacting to that. I went back and they looped in a few more lines for me because they thought I was hilarious, which is a blessing.

Question: Since the Tony Awards were just on, I was wondering did you get the chance to watch?
Fisher-Wilson: I did. I enjoyed. I thought this was a fabulous Tonys.

Question: Was there anyone you were rooting for?
Fisher-Wilson: I was definitely rooting for Billy Porter. I had done Jelly's Last Jam at the Alliance with him a couple of months before I got married. And we were able to be on stage together. I was Gran Mimi, and he was Chimney Man, the star of the show, and we were talking about when his time and my time was going to come and his to come back around. When I went to see Kinky Boots, I was just in tears. And I was like, "Child if you don't get this Tony, I'm going to have to go say something to somebody!" [Laughs.] I screamed [when he won the Tony.] I was screaming. I think I woke up one of my children. They were talking a nap.

Question: Are there any other projects you're working on?
Fisher-Wilson: I'm doing a workshop soon, Chix6. It's a wonderful women's empowerment story. It's a relationship based on a girl who is an artist and she's dating this musician, and he's abusive. She draws these characters, these female superheroes, as parts of herself that she's maybe too insecure to be. So the night that he breaks up with her, she kind of has this breakdown, and when she has this breakdown, we all come to life. The character I'm reading for is Mama Mazing, and she's the character that allows her to love her body, love her curves, love the size that she is and find herself amazing in her own skin. I come to life to tell that story for her, and in the end, because of all of us, it empowers her and she becomes her own superhero. … So I'm doing that and being a mom and trying to juggle what I've been juggling, which is Newsies, which is a blessing, and my family life. There's a new series coming out on Cartoon Network called "Team Tune," and I'm playing someone's mom, too. [Laughs.]

[For more information visit NewsiesTheMusical.com.]

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.