Queen Latiah in Joyful Noise
(© Van Redin)
Queen Latiah in Joyful Noise
(© Van Redin)
Since beginning her career at 19 with the breakout hip-hop album All Hail the Queen, Queen Latifah has become a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, an Emmy Award-winning television star, and an Oscar-nominated film actress, who has portrayed the iconic roles of Matron Mama Morton and Motormouth Maybelle in big-screen adaptations of the musicals Chicago and Hairspray, among other parts.

In the new film Joyful Noise, opening on January 13 and co-starring Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, and Jeremy Jordan, she plays a small town choir leader who sets out to win a national competition. TheaterMania recently talked to Queen Latifah about working with Parton, being a bad girl, and her future on Broadway.

THEATERMANIA: What is it about you and Dolly that makes for great on-screen chemistry?
QUEEN LATIFAH: She's the genuine article. I think that's a thing people get about both of us. They feel like they can walk up to us and hug us. I don't know what that relatable thing is, but we're just us. And so when we met we were just us. And it worked.

TM: How did you relate to playing a single mother of a teenage daughter?
QL: I come from that household. I know what it is to be a 17-year old and be independent and stretch out on your own. I didn't become Queen Latifah by going to school every day and being a good girl. I was adventurous. I was coming to New York City and cutting class and finding out what there was to experience in the world. And I didn't do it the right way necessarily. I can understand now what my mom went through. It's a tough situation to struggle to put food on the table and give love and keep humor and build up a child.

Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in Joyful Noise
(© Van Redin)
Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah
in Joyful Noise
(© Van Redin)
TM: Does that experience affect the roles you choose to play? QL: I always represent for the single mothers of the world. I consider that with my films. The woman who has a good heart and does the best that she can. I think this film really helped me let that woman have a voice and that's one of the reasons I wanted to do it.

TM: How does music inform your acting?
QL: Music has always touched me in a special way. From the time I was a little child and being in church and hearing the harmonies. Some notes just hit my ears in a certain way. As an actor you have to feel pain and cry. I just put on a Clark sister song or "Jolene" by Dolly and that will just get me in the mood. I don't have to think about it, it just hits straight to my heart.

TM: Do you have any plans to do a Broadway show?
QL: I've always thought about Broadway, but it would have to be a juicy role. I respect Broadway actors so much and I respect what they have to do. That singing, that acting and that schedule! That schedule is hardcore. In order to do that you really have to love, love, love it -- and have that time to dedicate to it. But if the right role ever came along, I would definitely consider it.