Post image for Interview: NATASHA YVETTE WILLIAMS (Now Appearing in TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL on Broadway)

by Gregory Fletcher on March 31, 2022

in Interviews,Theater-New York


NaTasha Yvette Williams is the newest cast member at Tina: The Tina Turner Musical on Broadway, playing Zelma, Tina’s mother. A juicy, dramatic role, Zelma is abused by her husband and later learns to fight back to survive. Her newfound hardened persona extends toward her daughter and, as often the case, the victim becomes an abuser. It’s a complicated role because it can’t simply be played as a one-note villain. The actress must have the acting chops to dig deep with multilayered actions and emotions, as well as put across such hurdles through song. Ms. Williams is the perfect fit. Outstanding in every aspect, she gives a powerful, memorable performance. Gregory Fletcher of Stage and Cinema was able to find out more about this stunning actress.

Gregory Fletcher: NaTasha, where were you born and raised?

NaTasha Yvette Williams: I was born in Rochester, New York and, shortly thereafter, lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But five years later, I was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina where I call my home.

GF: What was the first musical theater piece you ever saw? And at what age?

NYW: With the exception of pageants in church, I was about seven years old when I saw a piece called Green Pastures at the Ft. Bragg Playhouse.

GF: And your first Broadway show?

NYW: In high school, I went on a school trip to see The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe starring Lily Tomlin. But what really did it for me was seeing Ragtime shortly after my move to New York.

GF: Where did you first study and begin to learn your craft?

NYW: My first production was at the Fayetteville Little Theater when I was thirteen years old. Later, I went to North Carolina A&T State University where I earned a BFA, and then to Michigan State for an MFA. I’ve been studying in shows across the country and on Broadway ever since.

GF: Who have been your artistic mentors?

NYW: I have had so many. As a child, I learned how to sing listening to my parents’ old albums of Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Sam Cooke, Al Green, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone — to name a few. Once I moved to New York, I worked along some great women who helped usher me toward specific performance goals: Lillias White, Capathia Jenkins, Adriane Lenox, Kecia Lewis, LaChanze, and Audra McDonald.

Ebony Marshall-Oliver and NaTasha Yvette Williams in Chicken & Biscuits. Photo by Emilio Madrid.

GF: In this current Broadway season alone, you went from a laugh out loud comedy (Chicken and Biscuits) to the dramatic Tina, playing Zelma, Tina Turner’s tough-as-nails mother. How would you describe the differences between performing in the two extremes?

NYW: Believe it or not, the approach is actually very similar. Everything is rooted in truth, and each were complicated situations. The difference is the reception of the characters, but developing them started and took parallel paths.


GF: Musical-wise, you have the impressive resume of going back and forth between musical comedy and musical theater: Mama Morton in Chicago, Becky in Waitress, Mariah in The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and Sofia in The Color Purple. Is there a big difference for you in performing the two styles of musicals?

NYW: Style will dictate certain things: pace, groove, and feel. Performing makes me happy and when I find the joy in any piece then the story telling is natural and fun, and it all just feels good in any style.

GF: How was getting put in for Zelma different from originating the role?

NYW: Replacing someone affords you the opportunity of building on the foundation previously set. You get to explore how you fit into the machine that is already going forward. It can be a challenge because you don’t get as much time with the director and the actors, so building trust and the feel for the ensemble takes a little more time.

GF: You’ve had the wonderful experience of playing a legend when you appeared as Aretha Franklin in A Night with Janis Joplin. How does that differ from playing a character who’s not well known?

NYW: The pressure is a little greater when it’s a celebrated person. When no one knows who you are portraying, you can get away with a lot more. Whereas if the person is well known, you definitely know people are looking for some familiar nuances.

GF: Regarding your upcoming roles in Partner Track on Netflix and in the historic thriller feature film Alice, are either of them musicals?

NYW: No, neither are. I get the chance to just add to a story without singing. It’s pretty cool, too.

GF: What’s the longest role you’ve performed?

NYW: I guess, if we strung the time together, it would be Mama Morton in Chicago.

GF: What role do you hope is coming your way if it were up to you?

NYW: Writer/Director/Actor of a feature film called Beyond the Diamond!

GF: As a founding member of Black Theatre United, are you pleased with how things are progressing in the first season to follow the international BLM movement?

NYW: I am always happy with forward motion. There will always be more to do. But I am happy that conversations are being had and steps are being made to incorporate a new way to work that is intentional. A new way that strives to include and value me. Looking around and seeing more stories and creative teams with black people at the table is encouraging. The most important part for me is making sure that people understand that there is space for all of us. And we are all better with the benefit of learning and growing with each other, not by excluding each other.

GF: Beautifully put, thank you. “Learning and growing with each other.”


cover photo courtesy of Boneau/Bryan-Brown

Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 West 46th Street)
Tues and Thurs at 7; Wed, Fri and Sat at 8; Wed and Sat at 2; Sun at 3
for tickets, visit Ticketmaster (there is also a digital lottery)
follow NaTasha Yvette Williams on Instagram

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Eisenberg April 1, 2022 at 5:05 am

Way to go
I love it.
Does she do autographs?


Brenda Prothro April 1, 2022 at 11:56 am

Bravo, Greg!


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