Brittney Johnson is stepping into the spotlight.
Though Johnson has been an understudy in the hit musical "Wicked" since 2018, Johnson made Broadway history on Valentine's Day when she became the first Black actor to play Glinda full-time.
Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the role on Broadway, was so happy for Johnson that she gave her a little gift on opening night. In an appearance on TODAY on Thursday, Johnson opened up about the meaningful surprise.
"She sent me a necklace that said 'Toss toss,'" Johnson revealed; the phrase references a popular joke that Glinda makes in the musical's first act. "It was so, me. I didn't know that she knew who I was. Just getting a gift from her, it was so special."
The surprises didn't end there. Chenoweth also filmed a video message for Johnson that aired on TODAY.
"I just have to give a big shout out to my little queen, Brittany Johnson, for taking over the role of Glinda. I couldn't be happier," Chenoweth sang, referencing a lyric from "Wicked," before adding, "Congratulations darling. You deserve it."
Johnson adored Chenoweth's message. After fanning her eyes, she revealed why Chenoweth's words struck a chord with her.
"There's so much support and love from anyone who's ever played this role, anyone who's ever been in the show, people who love the show all over the world," Johnson said. "And you can feel it. I feel it and I'm just, I'm so grateful."
Johnson said that when she appeared onstage as Glinda for the first time, she was met with a very warm welcome from the audience.
“It was so incredible,” she added. “The reaction from the audience, the support that I’ve been receiving from the community, from all over the world, honestly, has been so amazing. ... The audience was so loud I couldn't hear anything. Everybody was just cheering."
Johnson said that that the thrilling entrance made her realize just how big her role was for the Black community.
“I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of everybody who came before me,” she said, “and building a new platform for other people to stand on my shoulders. ... I’ve felt (pressure) since I was in middle school. It’s difficult being the only or one of the only Black people, or the first — it’s difficult. I have felt the pressure to be a representative.”
Before Johnson took on the role of Glinda, she performed in Broadway’s “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and “Sunset Boulevard.” She was also the first Black woman to play Eponine and Fantine in “Les Misérables.”
While Johnson is the first Black woman to star as Glinda, she's not the only Broadway trailblazer: Emilie Kouatchou recently made history as the first Black woman to play the role of Christine full-time in "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway, and Johnson said that she had been inspired throughout her career by Audra McDonald, a legendary theatrical performer who has won a record-breaking six Tony Awards throughout her career.
"(Audra McDonald) was the first time I saw myself on stage and I think it was the first time I realized that I didn't really see myself on stage, when I saw her," Johnson said. "Seeing somebody just telling a human story, but in this skin, was so moving and life-changing for me."