In her latest role, Patina Miller has some big shoes to fill. The Tony Award-winning actress is set to star as the Witch in Into the Woods, a production most theater fans will already be familiar with. In a recent interview, Miller is opening up about how she approached the iconic role of the Witch and the pressures that come with it.
Following Behind The Broadway Greats
Patina Miller became Broadway royalty in 2011 when she landed a Tony award for her role in Sister Act. Miller was universally praised for her dazzling performance and stellar vocals. Then, in 2013, her star rose once again when she landed yet another Tony Award for her role in Pippin.
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In the upcoming Broadway revival of Into the Woods, Miller is set to reprise the role of the Witch, the secondary antagonist of the beloved play. Many theater fans grew up on the American Playhouse recording of Into the Woods that aired on PBS in 1991. In that adaptation, Bernadette Peters helped create a clear blueprint of the Witch—something Miller is both grateful for and hesitant to rely on completely.
“It’s something that’s been done iconically by these wonderful women, and I wanted to do my own thing,” Miller tells Variety‘s theater podcast. “I tried to honor what Bernadette had done, but then try to figure out: Ok, what can I say now, so many years later?”
Not Patina Miller’s First Rodeo
Miller first took on the iconic role in a 2019 Hollywood Bowl production. However, the actress insists she has a new way of approaching the character this time around. It can be hard to tap into a character that appears so unsympathetic on the outside. It’s tempting to only look at these characters at a surface level, never really diving into their relatable traits.
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Miller isn’t afraid to do the dirty work of acting, though. The decorated actress was fully prepared to dig deep into her role, and what she came up with was intriguing to say the least. A core element of the Witch that Miller found herself relating to were her motherly instincts.
In the play, the Witch kidnaps Rapunzel as a child and keeps her hidden away in a tower. As a mother of a young child, Patina Miller says she understands the Witch’s motives on some level.
“I feel this strong desire to protect my daughter more than anything, and to shield her from all of the things in life,” she confesses. “There is this lioness within me that knows what the world is, how beautiful it is, but how horrible it can be. To watch this young person grow up with this brightness and joy, and to know what the world is—It makes you emotional. You’re excited for the journey, but you’re terrified. So for me, the witch is about tapping into that.”
She goes on: “At the heart of it, she’s just a mother who wants to be with her daughter more than anything and who wants to keep her safe. And in doing that, she does some really stupid things.”
Into the Woods is now playing at the St. James Theatre in New York City.