NeNe Leakes Is Playing a (Fictional) Real Housewife in Broadway’s Cinderella

The actress and reality star on dreaming big and dream casting one of her ”Real Housewives” costars as Cinderella.

Before it ends its run at the Broadway Theatre on January 3, Cinderella will have one final opportunity to make a Broadway dream come true. NeNe Leakes, an actress best known for appearing on Bravo's The Real Housewives of Atlanta (in addition to roles on Glee and The New Normal), is making her Broadway debut as Cinderella's stepmother, Madame.

Leakes is in good company. She follows a host of performers who have made their first foray onto the Great White Way in this production, including pop star Carly Rae Jepsen, current star Keke Palmer, and The View veteran Sherri Shepherd. But Leakes' long line of predecessors isn't keeping her from being nervous. "I'm just scared," NeNe admitted to TheaterMania. "I'm nervous."

Fortunately, the bold actress has supportive costars, little girls in frills, and a Prince Charming of her own to keep her grounded.

NeNe Leakes is currently starring as Madame in Cinderella on Broadway.
NeNe Leakes is currently starring as Madame in Cinderella on Broadway.
(© David Gordon) (via @NeNeLeakes)

How are you feeling about your Broadway debut?

I've never been on the Broadway stage before so it's all very foreign to me. However, all of the actors here have been supportive, making sure I exit the right door the right way.

But I have been through so many different things — television and different acting roles — that I feel like there isn't anything I can't do. You want to have challenges. If this were something very easy that I could just come here and you know, do NeNe, it wouldn’t be as rewarding.

What's distinctly different about this from other jobs you've had?

The first thing that come to mind is her wardrobe. Madame's wardrobe is more different than anything I've worn in a movie. So when I put the dress on I feel like I am the character. That was very helpful to me. Just to put the wardrobe on and become Madame…She's wicked, but she also has a heart. She's a woman who felt like she was dealt a bad hand at the beginning. And she wants more out of life. The way she's going about it to get more out of life may not be the way you would go about it, but she definitely wants more. She wants to live higher up, and she wants what's best for her kids.

Is Cinderella a story that's meaningful to you?

I think that every little girl wants to have a Prince Charming. Every little girl. As I sit here in the show every week it's full of little girls with their moms, and every time Keke [Palmer] walks out in her wedding dress all the little girls sit up and are like, "Wow! Look at her dress! I wanna be that!" They all want to be a princess, and they all want to find their Prince Charming. I've been that little girl, and I feel like I've found my Prince Charming.

If you were going to cast The Real Housewives of Atlanta as your daughters in Cinderella, who would fit which role?

I would definitely have Porsha [Williams] as a daughter. She could probably be a little Ella. Or, you know, she'd either be Ella or Charlotte, because I think Charlotte is a little airy. So maybe Porsha would be Charlotte. And let me see, last year I might have cast Cynthia [Bailey] as Ella, but this year she's a total mean girl so— and then I would have Phaedra [Parks] as a daughter as well.

Joe Carroll and Keke Palmer, Cinderella's Prince Charming and Ella.
Joe Carroll and Keke Palmer, Cinderella's Prince Charming and Ella.
(© Carol Rosegg)

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Closed: January 3, 2015