Tony-Nominated 'Hamilton' Actress Renée Elise Goldsberry Knows How to 'Work'

Renée Elise Goldsberry (center) plays Angelica Schuyler in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway smash, 'Hamilton.'
Renée Elise Goldsberry (center) plays Angelica Schuyler in Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway smash, 'Hamilton.'Joan Marcus

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By Karu F. Daniels

Since opening on Broadway last summer, Lin-Manuel Miranda's white-hot musical, "Hamilton," has attracted political leaders, including President Barack Obama, and Hollywood glitterati en masse. The show also scored a record 16 Tony nominations, and Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The show created such a fervor that every day throughout the fall, hundreds of fans clamored outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre in hope of scoring $10 lottery tickets for the hip-hop-driven musical chronicling the trials and tribulations of Alexander Hamilton — one of the more famous Founding Fathers.

In fact, the lottery was such a hit that it was forced to move online at the beginning of the year because of dangerous traffic and crowding outside the theater.

There's an adage that says that behind every good man, there's a good woman.

Although plenty of dynamic male performers are knocking audiences dead every night (especially Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson and Daveed Diggs), a few good women do more than serve as window dressing in this history-based tale.

Renée Elise Goldsberry, nominated for a Tony Award for her performance, is one of them. As Angelica Schuyler, she's the standout.

As Hamilton's brassy sister-in-law, the actress has already won the 2015 Drama Desk Award and the 2015 Lucille Lortel Award for her portrayal of the sassy socialite during the show's premiere at The Public Theater last spring. New York theater critic David Cote lauded her performance, saying she "will make you demand a spinoff musical all her own."

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"Oh, it's been such a dream come true, really," Goldsberry told NBCBLK about the whirlwind. "It's kind of one of those experiences where every cliché, a lot of the good ones are applicable."

Not too shabby for a popular soap opera actress who made her Broadway debut as Nala in "The Lion King" in 2002 and went on to play the final Mimi Marquez in the beloved musical "Rent" in 2008.

Since making a mark as the fiery heroin addict who sings her heart out, Goldsberry has starred in a string of Broadway shows, including "The Color Purple" and "Good People."

Off Broadway, she's garnered rave reviews for her mastery of some of Shakespeare's finest work in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," "Love's Labour's Lost" and "As You Like It." She's also been on television ("The Good Wife," "Law & Order: SVU," "The Following"), acted in indie flicks ("All About You," "Every Secret Thing") and recorded two albums.

I've always wanted a family. I've always wanted children. I've always wanted to be a superstar.

Nominated for Daytime Emmy and NAACP Image awards for her role as Evangeline Williamson on the ABC soap opera "One Life to Live," the happily married mother of two has done it all. And she's showing no signs of slowing down.

"I like to actually quote Chris Rock, honestly, who's a person I've met a couple of times and has come to see the show several times," she said. "He has this line where he says, 'What do women want?' And then he answers, 'Everything.'

"I feel that that's true. I've always wanted a family. I've always wanted children. I've always wanted to be a superstar."

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"When you talk to children and you ask them what they want to be, the lists can get really, really long, and as they get older, it just gets shorter," she said. "For me, even having a great career, there's still something that felt unsatisfying, because, really, I wanted to do a great job and go home to something that means even more."

Goldsberry, 44, was born in Mountain View, California, grew up in Houston and attended high school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She was always a go-getter.

"I always often say when I was a kid, I wasn't just playing with baby dolls. I was standing in the mirror with brush in my hand as a microphone singing songs. So often as a child, I wanted to do that, too."

Goldsberry was trained at Pittsburgh's prestigious Carnegie Mellon University, and her love for musical theater dates to her childhood.

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"I discovered the theater at 8 years old, and from the first meeting, I was hooked," she said. "But I love all kinds of music. I love hip-hop, I love country music and I love pop music. Oh, my God, I love a good pop song. I can't even lie.

"I love anything that's creative, any lyrics that are fresh and simple. I love good melodies. And I just love good music and good storytelling. If there's good storytelling anywhere, I'm in love with it. So that's always attracted me since I was a little girl, and I'm grateful that I get to keep telling good stories and singing really good songs."

"I've always wanted a family. I've always wanted children. I've always wanted to be a superstar."

Her "Hamilton" rap solo, "Satisfied" is both a tour de force and a fan favorite. Social media and viral video platforms are littered with people of all walks performing their own versions of the original Miranda-crafted composition. Goldsberry's performance of the signature song could define her musical theater legacy — perhaps in the same fashion as "Home" did for Stephanie Mills (in "The Wiz") or as "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" did for Jennifer Holliday (in "Dreamgirls").

"I hope that's the case, because Angelica Schuyler is a character like no other, and it would be a huge honor to be known to have created this character and just the role itself," Goldsberry said. "The way that Lin constructed her and the value that she dramatically adds to the show, and just the music that she gets to sing, I mean, it's just such an awesome privilege to be able to have originated this role."

Currently living in Harlem with her children (son Benjamin, 6 and daughter Brielle, 2) and husband, attorney Alexis Johnson, Goldsberry is also an adjunct professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and she landed a role in Paul Rudnick's TV Land pilot "I Shudder."

Renée Elise Goldsberry performs as Angelica in the Broadway hit, 'Hamilton.'Joan Marcus

With all of that on her plate, how does she manage to do it all?

"[It's] really by the grace of God giving you a lot of help, a really supportive husband, children that are really understanding and supportive, employers who are really excited about the fact that you have children and they let you go home sometimes," Goldsberry said.

"The world is becoming, I think, more and more aware of how to support women with families. And my big soapbox that I stand on when I talk about the balance of it all really encourages women to not wait, because I think we sometimes are a little over-focused on just our careers, and I don't know, for most of us, if that's going to be enough at the end of the day. So I'm always trying to encourage women not to put off their personal life decisions in their quest to climb the mountain."

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