Taylor Iman Jones queued up ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Satan Wears Prada.’ Then, the pandemic

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As a child, Taylor Iman Jones noticed “The Lion King” on the Hollywood Pantages Theatre thrice. She and her household as soon as sat within the first row of the mezzanine the place, in the course of the opening quantity, a colourful “chicken” broke off from its pole, flew from the stage and settled at Jones’ ft.

“I screamed — that factor may have landed wherever, and it landed proper in entrance of me,” she recalled excitedly, her expressions as vibrant as her iridescent make-up. “I needed to maintain it so badly, however then somebody got here up behind me and requested for it again. It was such a cool second of real-life theater, like a glitch within the matrix of this massive, spectacular present.”

We have been chatting within the higher foyer of the Pantages, the place “Hamilton” was scheduled to play an eight-month run. She had simply packed up her place in New York Metropolis’s Washington Heights and, dwelling in Los Angeles for the primary time and with out a automobile, moved into an house simply steps away from the venue. Hours earlier, she had examined out the manufacturing’s turntable stage for the primary time. Jones — billed as each the harmless Peggy Schuyler and the sultry Maria Reynolds — was the manufacturing’s solely new solid member.

Days away from opening night time, her largest concern was delivering the tune “Say No to This” for an viewers of two,700 individuals. “I’ve but to do it to the place I really feel proud of myself, as a result of I’m so nervous each single time I get to it,” she confessed. “It’s a really troublesome present to do. The language is heightened and particular and rhythmic. It’s like doing Shakespeare on steroids. Different casts make it look simple, and being a newcomer, I need to make everybody proud.”

Principally, she needed to impress her dad and mom, who’re primarily based within the Bay Space and hadn’t been in a position to witness any a part of her meteoric rise within the New York theater scene during the last three years. They deliberate to fly down later, as soon as the summer time climate cooled off and she or he was a lot settled into the function. After the run, she was to relocate to Chicago to star within the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of “The Satan Wears Prada.”

“It’s necessary for my mother to see me carry out right here, as a result of she’s one who all the time drove me down and introduced me right here all these years in the past,” she mentioned, tears forming in her eyes.

“Oh my God, I’m getting emotional. However that’s the way it makes me really feel. It’s extraordinarily particular to me. It’s a dream come true.”

Taylor Iman Jones

Because of the shutdown, Jones has been dwelling along with her dad and mom in Fairfield.

(Christina Home/Los Angeles Instances)

Jones by no means made her “Hamilton” debut. To curb the unfold of COVID-19, American theaters shut down on what would’ve been the manufacturing’s opening night time and have remained darkish for a yr and counting — the last word glitch within the matrix.

Amid so many unknowns, the 29-year-old actress safely visited her retired dad and mom in Fairfield, situated between Sacramento and San Francisco. Her journeys house grew to become longer and longer, so she vacated her Hollywood Boulevard house in September (although she hadn’t actually stayed there since July). She watched loads of TV reveals and films whereas sheltering in place however has not but watched “Hamilton” on Disney+.

“I really love watching completely different casts of ‘Hamilton’ as a result of each single individual in each single function places a spin on the story, each time,” she says over the cellphone from Fairfield. “However I used to be so, so shut to only with the ability to do it. If I wasn’t, then I believe I’d’ve streamed it with everyone else and cried and cherished it. It’s simply too onerous to observe one thing you need a lot.”

Taylor Iman Jones performs in Berkeley Playhouse's "Mary Poppins" in 2014

Jones, pictured in Berkeley Playhouse’s “Mary Poppins” in 2014, got here up within the Bay Space theater scene.

(Berkeley Playhouse)

Jones first auditioned for “Hamilton” upon shifting to New York Metropolis in 2016, after constantly main regional productions all through the Bay Space and finishing a nationwide tour of “American Fool” (when she first carried out on the Pantages stage for every week).

Inside two months of dwelling there she had booked her first Broadway gig: an ensemble function within the “Groundhog Day” musical. “They needed to inform me to cease carrying a lot make-up, as a result of we have been taking part in very regular individuals,” remembers Jones, who loves make-up and wonder. “I used to be like, ‘Effectively, my character does YouTube tutorials in her basement.’”

She was then solid in a principal function in “Head Over Heels,” a brand new musical comedy propelled by the Go-Go’s hits. “She had this irresistible guilelessness, which I appreciated since you so usually see performers who’re terrific, however actually it’s only a bag of tips,” remembers director Michael Mayer, who ushered the Broadway breakthroughs of Sutton Foster and Jonathan Groff.

“As an alternative, she finds an genuine connection to the fabric, and stays extraordinarily truthful about what she does or doesn’t know. And look, it was not a straightforward function, however she labored her ass off and delivered.”

Taylor Iman Jones in "Head Over Heels"

Taylor Iman Jones had her Broadway breakthrough within the musical “Head Over Heels.”

(Joan Marcus)

After starring within the off-Broadway musical “Scotland, PA” and becoming a member of the Kennedy Middle’s anniversary manufacturing of “The Who’s Tommy,” Jones nabbed the lead function in “The Satan Wears Prada,” originating the not-so-stylish assistant of a menacing journal editor (to be performed by Beth Leavel).

“As a Black lady, I’m already going to be completely different than what most individuals count on,” she mentioned a yr in the past of updating Anne Hathaway’s function within the 2006 film. “We need to inform the story all of us love, however for the viewers of right now. Illustration issues, and it’s cool that so many little women are gonna be capable to watch it and see themselves.”

Whereas in “Hamilton,” Jones was set to sporadically journey to Chicago for “Prada” workshops. She had hoped to spend her days off in L.A. auditioning for TV reveals and films and trying out the native drag scene. However with each initiatives on pause from the pandemic, the actress went on unemployment, “however that runs out ultimately.” And although she qualifies for medical health insurance, the hardest half is “whether or not or not you possibly can even afford it when you haven’t been working this entire time.”

Jones retains her frustrations at bay by staying busy: studying, meditating, taking dance courses and performing nearly from house. She’s additionally making an attempt out self-taped auditions for the primary time, submitting a whole lot, however hasn’t but booked something by way of them. “I’m grateful that I now know combine and edit on some pc applications, and I received a bunch of apparatus — ring lights, microphones, backdrops — to create with, even with COVID is over,” she says.

“However truthfully, I’m over it. I don’t like being my very own all the things: doing my very own costumes, make-up, hair, tech, lighting, camerawork, directing and producing, on high of appearing. I’m making all of those selections alone, and whereas it’s serving to me to be stronger in making these sorts of selections, the hope that you simply’re doing all of it proper is overwhelming, bodily and mentally, and simply makes me miss collaborating with individuals. And there’s nothing worse than belting your face off to absolute silence.”

Taylor Iman Jones

“I’m extra than simply an actor; I’m a daughter, a dancer, a trainer,” says Jones of her yr away from the stage.

(Christina Home/Los Angeles Instances)

Grasp courses — for Jeanna and Dani de Waal’s Broadway Weekends, Lindsay Mendez and Ryan Scott Oliver’s Actor Remedy and the Ballet Faculty in Walnut Creek, amongst others — are her most gratifying gigs, and she or he desires to proceed instructing courses remotely as soon as theaters reopen. However probably the most sudden good thing about the final yr has been the uncommon alternative to get to know her dad and mom, in addition to herself, higher than ever earlier than.

“Proper now, I can’t do my job, I can not do the factor I like probably the most,” she says. “There’s nothing I can do aside from wait this day trip — I can’t make something go sooner, I can’t return to work sooner. What I can do is hold making an attempt to maintain my expertise tight, and likewise take time to concentrate on issues I haven’t been in a position to each time I’m in a present. Like, I can sit and actually take heed to my mother inform me some story as a result of I actually have nowhere else to be!

“We’re so usually conditioned to outline ourselves by our jobs, to plan our entire lives and identities round them,” she says. “However I’m extra than simply an actor; I’m a daughter, a dancer, a trainer. And with all this time to essentially be by ourselves, I do really feel like a unique individual than I used to be a yr in the past.”

“Prada” has been rescheduled for summer time 2022, and “Hamilton” is tentatively set to play on the Pantages in October — which means that, if the nation’s vaccine rollout continues as deliberate, Jones gained’t be compelled to decide on between these two dream initiatives.

“The great factor is, each time ‘Hamilton’ is again, all the solid has to rehearse once more as a result of it’s been so lengthy,” she says with fun. “Which I would like as a result of, final yr, I needed to be taught it in just a few weeks, received to placed on the costume for what felt like the best cosplay day of my life, after which actually by no means received to do it once more!”

Although she left her “Hamilton” script within the Pantages dressing room, she is going to put together to return in different necessary methods. “There’s like no make-up in ‘Hamilton,’ so I’m gonna put on as a lot make-up as I can with out you seeing it, and I’m gonna hold going till they inform me to cease,” she says. “I’m making an attempt to be contoured as Peggy, and I’ll most likely attempt a delicate cat eye and a pink lip for Mariah Reynolds.

“I’m undecided but, however I nonetheless have a while.”

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