Angelica Ross is ready to step into the bright lights of Broadway!
The "Pose" actress, 41, will join the long-running production of "Chicago" on Monday, Sept. 12 as Roxie Hart, a fame-seeking vixen who murders her lover and lands herself among the "Merry Murderesses" of Cook County Jail.
During an interview with TODAY in August, Ross said that she couldn't wait to start performing for audiences.
"I am super ready," said Ross. At the time TODAY spoke with her, she still had a "couple weeks" left in the rehearsal process. She added, "My spirit feels so ready for this moment, and I'm just over the moon."
This marks the first time that an openly transgender person has led the iconic show, which has been running on Broadway for more than 25 years. According to producers, this is also the first time an openly trans woman has ever led a show on Broadway. While trans, non-binary and gender-nonconforming actors have appeared more often on The Great Bright Way in recent years — including Peppermint in "Head Over Heals" and L Morgan Lee in "A Strange Loop" — it's still rare for these performers to be cast, especially in principal parts like Roxie.
While this leading role will be Ross' Broadway debut — a truth that may terrify others — she explains the moment has been a long time coming.
"I've always been an actor, since diapers. I've been in musical theater for a long time," Ross said. "For 12 years, before I even got into television, I did community theater. I'm prepared to meet this moment."
“My spirit feels so ready for this moment, and I’m just over the moon.”
ANGELICA ROSS on her broadway debut in 'chicago'
When asked what audiences would see in her interpretation of Roxie, Ross opened up about how she wanted to emphasize the "factors that aren't spoken."
"You can't hide the fact that when you watch me as Roxie on stage that I am a dark-skinned Black woman. No line needs to be changed, but a Black woman knows what it feels like to navigate a white environment," Ross said. "Whereas a lot of people might not really just even think about that ... I really do. I look forward to those moments where I come alive in a space, just as a Black woman."
"It's not overt," Ross continued. "It's just different ways of playing characters. Even as a Black trans woman, I'm not playing the role as trans, but I've had to navigate spaces where I've had to ... speak a certain way in order to be taken seriously, or professionally, or be listened to. So I'm just hoping to add these little colors that people will appreciate."
If "Pose" fans are looking for flashes of Candy Johnson-Ferocity, the wise-cracking, sharp woman Ross played on two seasons of the groundbreaking FX show, Ross said there will be flashes of that "energy."
"Look at the basis of Roxie," Ross said. "I think (there) is a little bit of Candy there. (They're each) a streetwise woman who has to navigate a space. I think people will have moments where they see that."
While Ross' reign in "Chicago" is only scheduled to last through Nov. 6, 2022, she's got other Broadway fantasies in mind. One of her dream roles, she said, would be to play Elphaba, the Witch of the West, in "Wicked." The musical is based off a book of the same title by Gregory Maguire, and details the witch's journey from childhood to when Dorothy arrived in Oz. No openly transgender performer has played the role on Broadway.
"I have the audio book ... and to hear the backstory of Elphaba, and to hear that she was born a hermaphrodite, it's like 'Oh my god, she's trans,'" Ross said. "She's trans, and has to deal with navigating relationships and dating in a green body, and all these things. So I feel like I would relate so well to the character and that I would bring a lot to that role."
Another dream role is Celie in "The Color Purple," which is based on a book of the same name by Alice Walker and is being turned into a movie musical produced by Oprah Winfrey in 2023. Ross said that Celie's 11 o'clock number, a powerful anthem called "I'm Here," would be a joy to sing.
"To sing 'I'm Here' and say 'As a trans woman, I'm here,' I think that would mean a lot universally, and would add another layer to the story," Ross said. "Just like 'Chicago' and Roxie, there are other roles that can really bring in a lot more diversity and vision by including actors like myself."
For now, Ross is ready to make history with this exciting moment when she takes to the stage at the Ambassador Theatre on Sept. 12.
She said, “I’m just ready to kick the door down and hopefully help people have a bit more vision when it comes to casting trans people in mainstream roles.”