Diggs succeeds "Glee" star Darren Criss (who played through July 19) for a limited, 12-week engagement in the Tony Award-winning musical. He is the first African-American actor to play Hedwig in New York.
He is joined by Rebecca Naomi Jones, who began performances as Yitzhak April 14. While he was still in rehearsals for Hedwig, we caught up with Diggs to talk about embracing his feminine side and getting glammed up for the show.
Tell me about your nails!
Taye Diggs: I did them myself, and then they peeled, and I like how they look peeled. I got that!
What other kind of things are you doing to feminize yourself?
TD: The heels. The heels are a lot. That's where most of the concentration goes during rehearsal. I bought some lipstick yesterday, and I'm going to slowly start to integrate that — just to see what it's like to sing and talk and act with a foreign substance on my mouth, makeup. I call it "Hedwig School." It's definitely a learning experience, to say the least.
Do you have specific beauty products that you're using for your Hedwig?
TD: No, not yet! [Laughs.] Once the makeup process begins — when I'm doing the show — they're going to whip me up, and I'll be more familiar with how they'll bionically put me together. When was the last time you were in heels?
TD: Before this project, I had never tried them on…ever. I don't know how people do it. I really don't. I'm very thankful because it really gives your booty a nice little click click, so I enjoy it on the ladies! I enjoy it on myself, too, but I don't know how people do it, I really don't, so my hat's off to all of the high-heel wearers.
So, what was it like the first time you put the heels on and walked?
TD: Jarring. I won't lie, a little bit of me was like, "Okay! Alright, I kind of get it." You find that sway in your hips, and a little bit of the character came out right then, and that was exciting because when taking on a role like this, it's always great to get little indications that you've made the right decision, and you could take this to a different level, so the first time I put on the heels, the first time I saw myself in makeup, I got a glimpse of Hedwig, and that was encouraging.
Tell me about your strut. Where are you finding your strut? Have you gone to anyone and asked them to show you how to walk?
TD: I enjoy movement. Not to bore you with actor talk, but when I approach a character, a lot has to do with how the character feels in the wardrobe and literally the shoes, so once I put on those heels, something came. Something came right then, so I'm just going to play off that, and I'm sure it's going to grow and change. Beyoncé is great to look at. We'll see! I'm just more in tune with how women walk in heels and the swag that they have with the hips, so it's been eye-opening.
Did this specific project excite you? Did you have an eye on Hedwig?
TD: Only as a fan… In my — and I mean this — wildest dreams, I had no idea that I would get an opportunity, but I've been a fan since Jane Street [Theatre, where it opened Off-Broadway] years ago. I've watched so many Hedwigs come and go, and I just kind of been looking from a far, wondering what it would be like — wondering what it was like for these actors — to be in such a demanding role, where they could just let it all hang out. And now getting that opportunity, I'm humbled, anxious and excited. I'm impatient. I want to learn everything as quickly as possible, so I could just get up on that stage and start living, so I'm glad it worked out.
The Broadway premiere of the cult rock musical began previews March 29, 2014, at the Belasco, prior to an official opening April 22 with Neil Patrick Harris in the title role. Tony nominee Andrew Rannells succeeded Harris, and Michael C. Hall succeeded Rannells. Writer John Cameron Mitchell played the part after Hall.
The Belasco Theatre Box Office is located at 111 West 44th Street. For more information, visit HedwigBroadway.com.