Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Interview: Uzo Aduba, starring in The Maids at Trafalgar Studios

Two-time Emmy winner Uzo Aduba is currently making her West End debut as Solange in Jean Genet’s powerful psycho-drama The Maids.

With the cast also including Zawe Ashton and Laura Carmichael, the production is helmed by Jamie Lloyd as part of his season at Trafalgar Studios. 

Uzo is best known for starring as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Netflix series Orange Is The New Black, a role which has won her countless awards (she is the only actress to win Emmy awards in both the comedy and drama genres for the same role). Orange Is The New Black’s 4th season is set to premiere later this year.

Uzo recently starred as Glinda The Good in NBC’s The Wiz LIVE, appearing alongside Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo, Amber Riley and David Alan Grier. She is currently in production for Ewan McGregor’s American Pastoral alongside McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning. 

Having made her Broadway debut in Coram Boy (Imperial), Uzo’s subsequent theatre credits include: Godspell (Circle in the Square), Translations Of Xhosa (Kennedy Center), Dessa Rose (New Repertory Theatre), Turnado: Rumble For The Ring (Bay Street Theatre) and Abyssinia (Goodspeed Theatre).

After last night’s gala performance of The Maids, I sat down with Uzo for a quick chat about what made her say yes to this show, what it was like to meet her two co-stars and why she wants to do more theatre in London…

As an audience member The Maids is so exhausting to watch – I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling right now?!
It’s funny because after doing the show I stay up until pretty late into the night. It’s very hard to unwind; my body is exhausted but my brain is still ticking away. I’m not playing back the show, but the frequency my brain was on is still there.

What do you do?
I stay up and watch a lot of re-runs of Sex in the City [laughs]! To come down from the show takes a really long time. It’s great that we’re now open because it means we don’t have to get up to go to rehearsal during the day time. Hopefully I’ll have some time to recalibrate my sleeping pattern so I can get myself back and ready. It takes a lot of energy, all of us on stage are giving our very best. 

The energy you share onstage with Zawe and Laura is incredible, what was it like meeting them for the first time?
Well Zawe sent me a message before I got here (Uzo resides in New York) so we started facetiming beforehand which was great. Laura and I really clicked right away, she’s got super energy and we just got on. It felt like it was meant to be – as soon as we got into the rehearsal room there was a strange familiarity even though I didn’t know them personally. It felt so easy!

And then you also had Jamie Lloyd in the rehearsal room with you…
He’s amazing! Did you see The Homecoming? It was gorgeous!

What is Jamie like to work with in the rehearsal room? Everyone says he’s very calm.
Yes! That’s what I was going to say, he’s very calm but not in a ‘I’m holding it in’ kind of way. That’s just how he operates. He’s an easy spirit and isn’t lazy one bit – he’s different. He says, “Let’s figure it out… we have time… don’t worry, why don’t we try this”. He has a very smart eye for people who would work really well together. We’d never met, but he somehow knew we would all click. He’s very open to ideas, it’s always nice to work with a director who is collaborative and interested in hearing your voice. That’s always great.

When you were approached about coming to London to do this production, what made you say “yes”?
Well there were two things… actually maybe three things. The first thing that made me say yes was that The Maids is a play I think any actor wants to add to their catalogue. It’s brilliant and one of the gems – if you hear it’s going on then you want to do it, just to see how you can put your own spin on it. My second reason – which is even bigger – is that when I moved to New York I always had a dream of doing a play in the West End. I mean… I almost dropped the phone when my agent called [laughs]! I screamed!

Is doing a play in the West End living up to your expectations?
Ab-so-lutely! Yes!

You’ll have to come back and do some more!
I mean… if you’ll have me?! I would love to, I have literally loved working over here. The audiences are amazing. I really do love it. I was so thirsty to do a play, this was just perfect. And then finally the third thing that made me say yes was Jamie Lloyd. There were other shows and plays I had been in talks for, but Jamie got on the phone and I just really liked him. After speaking to him I said “That’s the one I want to do”. And that was that!

These characters are so fascinating, what has it been like to get to grips with your role, Solange?
I think I still am getting to grips with her, and I hope that continues all the way through. Something I came in with when I was reading the script was the smirk Solange always seemed to have on her face when she was with mistress. That really sort or rang in my mind and created a picture I wanted to get to the bottom of. She’s so confident with mistress in that scene; it’s not just because she thinks she knows what’s coming – there’s something else in there. That was the beginning for me. 

So I guess figuring that out is going to keep things fresh throughout the run?
Exactly. I wanted to work that out, what is that smirk about? I want to get to the bottom of it. I want to stretch that question out as long as I can for the next three months. Something possess Solange throughout the play and that excavation is what I’m interested in. I want to keep digging and finding new ways to attack that question and this incredible role!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Maids runs at Trafalgar Studios until Saturday 21st May 2016.
Please visit www.thejamielloydcompany.com for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2-4: Marc Brenner

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