With more than two decades as an outstanding performer on TV and stage, Renée Elise Goldsberry has found success as a go-to character actor, elevating everything she’s worked on from One Life to Live to The Good Wife. But after starring in Broadway’s Hamilton, the Tony-winning actress has earned the opportunity to showcase her skills even further with a slew of projects that include a solo album and a stint in the upcoming Marvel series She-Hulk.
Goldsberry achieves another career high as the hysterically egocentric Wickie Roy in Girls5Eva, Meredith Scardino and Tina Fey’s ‘90s girl band revival comedy for Peacock.
DEADLINE: How was Girls5Eva gifted to you?
RENÉE ELISE GOLDSBERRY: I think that’s a good word, “gift.” I don’t know that you can say much more about a show created by Meredith Scardino (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and executive produced by Tina Fey (30 Rock). They also had already attached Sara Bareilles, so it was a trifecta for me. And then I read the pilot script, that was such a big, shiny, beautiful representation of what they were dreaming of. And I just loved it so much because it was just laugh-out-loud funny.
DEADLINE: Your character name of Wickie Roy is kind of amazing.
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: It’s so good. If I had known of it earlier in my career, I might be named Wickie Roy and I’d probably be that much better. I found out at the end of the season, when Meredith Scardino’s sister came to set to visit, that Wickie is the nickname their father uses.
DEADLINE: Wickie has such a special sense of self. Did you try to push for more beyond what was in the script?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: There’s always room to take it a little bit further. I remember having this idea that a person that is so desperately trying to be noticed amongst a group of people might hate having to always sing in a group. And the way that she could get some more attention is by singing a little bit longer than everyone else. So, yeah, they would let me riff a little bit longer than anyone else at the end of songs and let me be that obnoxious one. All of that stuff was already baked into the formula — they just let me play.
DEADLINE: What was the first table read like for you?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: Terrible! My own journey with Wickie kind of matched the character’s journey in that I felt really good about myself, being a part of the show and how great I was going to be. And then we did the first table read over Zoom, I left the meeting and waited for them to call and fire me. It was so challenging to find Wickie over Zoom because there’s that delay and I wasn’t able to give them any of the humor that was in their script. So, yeah, I’ll blame the medium of what my mom calls “telecons” [laughs]. Fortunately, they are forgiving and they believed that we would show up in person and do some justice to their brilliant script.
DEADLINE: What was it like to shoot this series in the middle of a pandemic?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: The four of us literally met on set in hair and makeup, and even then we had masks on. We were only able to take our masks off between action and cut, but let me tell you how happy we were. I think that’s why there’s such ridiculous joy in the scenes, because we were so happy to be able to look at each other without any Covid police coming up and saying, “Cover up.” It was lifesaving to be able to remember how good it feels to connect with people that are not my husband and children. And it was lifesaving to be able to come together, fall in love with each other and laugh.
DEADLINE: The number of flashbacks for this show is crazy.
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: That was really fun. The nature of the show is unique because we are ridiculously going back in time to do flashbacks, just because we said one line that acknowledged something that happened in the past.
DEADLINE: Do you have any favorite flashbacks?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: Every single time we got to go back and be 20 years old — once I got over the fact that I look nothing like I did when I was 20, and just keep moving. I did remember the joy and the optimism of that time. You know, where you actually believed that your dreams were all going to come true and how just being in a group of girls made you want to laugh. It felt really healthy to wear it for those few minutes.
But if I had to pick a particular gag, we spent a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out the appropriate level of comedy in a music video that came out on September 10th, called “Quit Flying Planes at My Heart.” We spent all this time doing our little dance moves with our flight attendant uniforms, and everybody else being really uncomfortable, asking: “Is this too far? Are we ready to laugh about this yet?”
DEADLINE: Which immediately brings to mind the amount of crazy songs Girls5Eva had to sing.
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: “Dream Girlfriends” was already one of our favorites because it had the most ridiculously hilarious lyrics in the world. They doubled down so hard on these songs. Meredith Scardino is a really great lyricist. If she was in any way shy in the beginning, she got over it because the hilarity when she and [EP] Jeff Richmond are left unchecked is just brilliant. If you haven’t listened to the full version of “The Splingee” you have missed something delicious.
DEADLINE: Did playing Wickie seep into your own personality after a while?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: I have a sneaking suspicion that if I let my children watch the show, they would be like, “What’s the big deal because that’s you anyway, minus the fact that you never, ever looked that good,” [laughs]. I’m going to be honest. I’ve been in a lot of girl groups in my life. I used to be on Ally McBeal with two beautiful women, Sy Smith and Vatrena King, being basically an “uh-huh” girl in matching outfits. And I was a Schuyler Sister.
No matter how lovely and sweet of a person as I believe I am, you are always thinking, “How can I get in the middle of these three girls?” I have always suppressed it because I love the other girls so much, and it’s just so unattractive to obviously be fighting for the spotlight. But when we were shooting the video for “Famous 5eva,” James, our choreographer, put Wickie in the back. And I remember thinking, “Oh no, Wickie can’t be in the back.” So by the end of the video, Wickie is at the front center with her hands in the air. Clearly, Ashley [Park] is the best dancer of the five of us, but Wickie finds a way to pose in the middle of that number.
DEADLINE: Did your work on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live prepare you for the roles you’ve taken on lately?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: Daytime was my best training ground. Your character is blind one week, then hunted by a serial killer. Whatever it is, the most important lesson that I learned in a soap opera, and it is definitely at play here, is how to always win at the rooting factor. At the end of the day, you are the only one responsible for the fact that the audience roots for you. So I’ve always learned no matter what I’m doing, I had to make sure that someone would understand what my character was doing. Even if she was doing something wrong, the audience would on some level love her.
And that has to happen for Wickie, because she’s so self-absorbed. It’s her fault this group broke up in the first place, and it could be so unforgivable. But you have to love her and root for her to figure everything out. And when she figures it out by the end of the season, there’s no limit to what she and this girl group can do. That’s what’s exciting about Season 2.
DEADLINE: Is that official?
ELISE GOLDSBERRY: It’s not official, but let me tell you, I am so proud of this company and this show. I would be so shocked. I mean, you’d have to come find me and take me out of a stupor if we weren’t doing a second season of the show. It’s just feels so good and wonderful. I don’t know why you would not continue to watch these women take on the world.
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