An Interview with Nashka Desrosiers
Posted on 12/11/2019
All Access sat down with Nashka Desrosiers who plays Nettie in The Color Purple! The Color Purple comes to State Theatre for 4 performances from January 30 through February 1. Listen in to learn about the character of Nettie, the Grammy®-winning score, and more!
Read the transcribed interview below
With Kelly from All Access and special guest Nashka Desrosiers from The Color Purple
Kelly: And we're back on All Access with State Theatre New Jersey. I'm Kelly Blithe and Broadway is big at the State Theatre, for those of you who don't know. Broadway national tours come to the State Theatre all year round! And we are so excited for 2020, kicking off the Broadway series for 2020 is The Color Purple, coming in on Thursday, January 30th through Saturday, February 1st. We are so excited, this is the first time the national tour of The Color Purple has been to the State Theatre, very awesome addition to the State Theatre's Broadway lineup! And with us today is one of the actresses from The Color Purple, Nashka Desrosiers! Welcome, Nashka!
Nashka Desrosiers: Hi, thanks for having me!
Kelly: Great! We are so excited! So tell us about the role that you are playing in The Color Purple and how you were able to land that role.
Nashka Desrosiers: Sure! So, I play Nettie. Nettie is, Celie's the main character, her younger sister. Nettie is the light, hope, and resilient faith of the show. Celie goes through this insane journey of losing those closest to her and then having to deal with a horrible home situation. Then, eventually finding her own voice, her own tribe, and eventually finding her family. And it's this amazing, emotional rollercoaster. I'm honored that my role is kind of the guiding faith theme throughout the show. How I got the role was a bit of a rollercoaster in of itself. I was actually put on as a replacement of their original girl who went to find something else and it was a last minute call I got, a random Friday afternoon being like, "Hey, can you be out here this weekend?" and I was like "Oh! Yes, sure!" and so that was me, packing up my life in about a day, and then flying out to Maryland and I've been on tour ever since!
Kelly: Wow, as one does, right? You're being called to be in The Color Purple, of course you pack up and you go for it! Of course, The Color Purple is based on the award-winning book and of course the movie that many people know with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah, of course, who helped bring The Color Purple to life on the stage. So tell us about, just remind us the plot of The Color Purple. And I know it's a little bit different for the Broadway show, but tell us about The Color Purple.
Nashka Desrosiers: So, The Color Purple is set in early 1900s Georgia, right? And it's a time of, women don't really have the voice that they have today. So the character focus is on Celie. She is this beautiful soul who her whole life revolves around her younger sister and just getting through the day and her faith in God. And throughout the show all of that gets stripped away. She loses her sister, she in turn loses her faith in God, and she is put in this environment working for her husband more as a worker than a wife. And she meets these incredible women, Sofia and Shug, who teach her to revel in her womanness and find her voice, stand up for what she wants, to not be a doormat and especially to not lose your faith in God even if things are going horribly right now and things are not going your way. And so, this entire act is Celie growing in front of our eyes and just her finding her new voice, her own tribe in the world, and eventually then reuniting with everything she thought she lost.
Kelly: Great, that's a great summary and of course the music is just exhilarating and it's a combination of genres, right? A little jazz, a little blues?
Nashka Desrosiers: Mmhmm, it pulls from everything. There's jazz, there's blues, there's gospel, there's African influences and beats. And what I love about it is that everything is so beautifully placed, right? Every song hits you over and over again. There are songs that make you want to get up and celebrate, there are songs that make you want to just melt into a puddle, then other songs that bring you right back up, and it's amazing how the music kind of lets you feel very much of the feeling, just from the instrumentation and from the laughter and crying onstage. It's amazing what the music does.
Kelly: Sure. It's kind of like an emotional rollercoaster that the audience goes through watching it. Do you feel that as being onstage, do you feel that together with the audience? Do you as an actor feel the emotional rollercoaster that you have to take the audience through every night?
Nashka Desrosiers: Oh, absolutely! I think especially, it's weird because you would think that after a while, like "oh, I'm used to this," like okay, but it will randomly sneak up on you, in a scene that you've done before, where it will still hit you hard, you'll still be crying like actual tears onstage that are not acting at all, and it's this incredible kind of responsibility that as the cast we've talked about how this is a show that we're very proud to bring to our audiences and we respect it and we honor the job we have to do of taking the audience with us every night, each night, and it's been amazing.
Kelly: Yeah, and it's really a beautiful musical. Everything comes together in it. And the costumes, too, right? Because you have to portray, the costumes have to match the time. And I always find that interesting about costumers that have to go back and kind of recreate that time. Tell us about the costumes in The Color Purple.
Nashka Desrosiers: Sure! It's definitely, it's interesting because this is the first show where we got a specific direction that none of the actors are wearing makeup at all onstage. Because that was the times, you know, women weren't dolled up and had a lot of makeup and lipstick on. And so, things like that, from our makeup to our actual wardrobe pieces are very, it's like small details. Like one of my dresses I wear has patches that you can see has been ripped but then re-sewn, and it has been taken care of because back then we didn't have money to keep buying clothes, of course, right? So you'd have to just mend whatever you had. But even just small details like that wardrobe has taken into account and it's incredible. It's these cute little old fashioned shoes we all wear. And everything makes sense. It's very plain. It's very calming, no one besides Shug, who is meant to be flashy and glamorous.
Nashka Desrosiers: Everyone else is kind of regular, everyday people. So, they're just wearing regular, everyday clothes. Nothing like astounding or nothing looks flashy about it. And the simplicity of all of it makes it that much easier to fall into your character and remember exactly what world you're in.
Kelly: Yeah, and it makes the character of Shug just that much more flashy and interesting, right?
Nashka Desrosiers: Exactly! Like, your eye, you can't help but just be drawn to her. In a scenery of browns and beiges, she is literally in a red-sequined dress, haha. Like, you're automatically like, who's this?
Kelly: Haha, nice, nice! We are talking about The Color Purple, coming to the State Theatre Thursday, January 30th, Friday, January 31st, and Saturday, February 1st. You can get your tickets at STNJ.org. Now, you are from New Jersey, or lived in New Jersey, is that what I'm hearing?
Nashka Desrosiers: Yes! So I was born and raised in West Orange, New Jersey. So I lived there for most of my young life and then we, the family, moved to Florida, I was there through college and then I just had to get back to Jersey. I felt it in my bones. Florida, I love it, but it wasn't where I wanted to be. So yep, now I'm back in Jersey, it led me to this incredible journey of now being on tour!
Kelly: Well, those of us who are long-time residents of New Jersey certainly understand the never leaving New Jersey, haha! But in a sense you do leave New Jersey, right? You are on the tour life, which is always fascinating to me, the actor's touring life. How does it work out for you? Do you have rituals or things that you go through while touring that keep you kind of connected to home?
Nashka Desrosiers: Absolutely! So I'm very close to my family and my loved ones, so I'm always constantly facetiming when I can and giving them blurbs like "hey, today we're in Colorado, look where I am, there's mountains here!" And I think that's been important for me to always have at least a constant of having people from home that I can talk to. And I think what's also kind of great is our cast isn't huge, right? So everyone has become my family. We see each other every day, all day, so that's like a thing, haha. We all get along, it's great. And we all kind of formed our own unit and our own family on the road. We have like a dad figure, we have the person who makes sure we're all dressed warmly and everyone has snacks, and it's been this really cool environment of the places change but the people I'm around don't. And so that's been comforting!
Kelly: I love it, I love it. And did you always know that you wanted to be an actor or performer?
Nashka Desrosiers: I knew that I wanted to do something that made people smile or laugh or just feel something since I was a kid. I was the kid that put on shows for my family or make dance routines and force my younger sister to participate in them. So I knew I always wanted to try to make someone smile, make someone laugh. I did try to be quote-unquote normal, I tried to, I had a brief stint in human resources for a year, that was interesting.
Nashka Desrosiers: I learned a lot about myself. I learned that that's not what I wanted to do, haha! So it was right back to acting and singing and then that led to my first real job as a cruise ship singer. And I think the instant I got that job where I'm being paid to perform and I'm able to see an audience and reach them every night was that light bulb, like, oh no, this is it, this is definitely what I'm meant to do. This is the feeling that I've been wanting to find. From then on, it's been hooked, and I'm not going back!
Kelly: Wow, it just clicked, huh? That's amazing, that's amazing. Of course, we're talking about The Color Purple, which is also amazing show, and there are so many fantastic moments in The Color Purple, again taking you on that emotional rollercoaster. Can you share with us some of your favorite moments in the show, whether they're in the scenes that you're in or scenes that you're not in?
Nashka Desrosiers: My favorite moment of the show, there's some really close ones. But I think, my top one might be kind of towards the end, it's in act II and Celie and Shug are having a conversation, and Shug basically tells her that she's going to kind of go off and enjoy a fling with another man. And Celie takes the moment to be like, you know what, I don't need you to love me, like, I love myself. I have my sister who I know loves me, and then she sings this amazing song of being so, for the first time, content with life and acknowledging her own beauty and saying out loud, "I'm beautiful, I'm worth it," and I just get chills every time. It's just a lovely, it's just great like you knew where she came from, and so to see where she is now is just ugh, satisfying. Every time.
Kelly: So for those that are thinking about coming to see the show, what's your pitch on why they should see the show?
Nashka Desrosiers: You should come see the show absolutely just for a reminder of humanity and faith and that people can change. And that you yourself can change, and what may seem horrible in one season will actually work out to be this amazing gift that you never thought life would have for you. And so, if you're a fan of shows that kind of rekindle your faith in humanity, and kind of remind you that life is never quite done with you yet and there's always a twist around the corner, definitely come see The Color Purple. And the music's great! So, it has everything.
Kelly: I love it! We are talking with Nashka Desrosier who plays Nettie in The Color Purple coming to the State Theatre Thursday, January 30th through Saturday, February 1st. You can get your tickets at STNJ.org. Thank you so much for being on All Access and we look forward to seeing you in January and February!