USA TODAY - It's not every actress who gets to make her Broadway debut in a leading role, then earns a Tony Award nomination in the process. Patina Miller did just that in 2011, when she starred in the musical Sister Act. (Sutton Foster wound up winning, for Anything Goes.)
Two years later, Miller, 28, is once again up for best actress in a musical, this time for her role as the Leading Player in an acclaimed revival of Pippin. In the production, directed by Diane Paulus -- also a recipient of one the show's 10 Tony nods -- Miller commandeers a circus troupe while guiding Charlemagne's son, and the audience, on a journey of self-discovery.
At a recent gathering of nominees, Miller discussed her character, the show and what the Tonys' love is like the second time around.
Q: What went through your head when you found out you had been nominated again?
A: It was like, wow, this is really happening to me. I remember going (to the awards ceremony) two years ago, and loving it, and being so nervous...You never know when that opportunity's going to come around again. I'm just so blessed to be among so many amazing people. It's a celebration of all the hard work of this past year.
Q: The Leading Player was introduced on Broadway by Ben Vereen, one of the all-time great musical performers. How did it feel stepping into his shoes?
A: Those are some big shoes to fill. Right before we started, it was a lot of nerves - because not only are you stepping into those big shoes; you're also a female stepping into what was known as a male role...But I immediately shut all that out. I got to work with Diane Paulus, who's an amazing director, and with so many great actors, to re-invent Pippin and tell the story again. I loved finding out what my Leading Player would be, what her relationship was to everybody. I welcomed it.
Q: What is it about this production that resonates with people?
You know, I think people are able to see themselves in Pippin. Who wouldn't want to run away with the circus? I think it's a great metaphor -- to dare to live your life, dare to be extraordinary. Which is I think what Pippin's journey is about, really. We all, in our lives, have had moments where there are things we wanted to do, but you're afraid. I think the Leading Player is posing those questions: How do you lead your life? What were you made to do?
Q: Now that you're two for two with Tony nominations, have you thought about what your next project should be?
I was really fortunate to do a role where I get to sing, dance, act and be on a trapeze. Maybe next time I'll, like, add to that and do something really crazy. I like really working hard and challenging myself as an actor, and surrounding myself with good people. You can only hope you get the opportunity to do another show.