Michelle Williams may be best known for being one-third of the group Destiny’s Child, but it’s clear that she can hold her own in the entertainment biz. She has carved out her own lane as an actress by starring in plays and Broadway shows all over the world. As she prepares to take the stage again this February in the Tony Award-winning musical Fela! The Musical, Michelle speaks with JETmag.com about how she snagged the role as the leading lady after being turned down by the director for a previous show.
The 32 year-old then shares her feelings about unintentionally becoming a poster child for depression after openly discussing her private struggle in an interview with the Huffington Post. Finally with the Destiny’s Child “Love Songs” compilation album available now, Michelle lets us in on what it was like getting back in the studio with the group for the first time in nearly a decade and reveals whether or not a DC3 reunion may be on the horizon. She also weighs in on the Beyoncé lip-synch debacle and let’s just put it like this: Don’t come for Bey!
How did you get involved with ‘Fela! the Musical?’ Were you already familiar with who Fela Kuti was before doing the show?
Absolutely. I really began to study his music intensely about five years ago. When I was on Broadway doing the musical Chicago, I went and I saw the show. Also, their opening night in London, I happened to be in London but I still had no connection with Fela. I just had a slight connection with Jay Z as the producer. But other than that, that was it. I had to audition for another show that Bill T. Jones was directing and so I didn’t get that particular part. But they remembered my audition and said “We really loved her…why don’t you come out and do Fela with us?”
Have you learned any new dance moves from the ‘Fela!’ dancers?
They are teaching me. Sandra (her character) does some movement. I’m very excited about it. It’s just been so much fun learning. I plan on coming out of this a better performer, a better singer, a better dancer. Every time I do theater, I come out better and stronger…because doing 8 shows a week, you’re exercising that muscle.
What is this play teaching you about yourself as a performer?
It lets me know that “You know what, you need to give yourself more credit Michelle…You’re pretty darn good.” Because when you have to do 8 shows a week and do it live, you’ve gotta know your lines, you’ve gotta know your placement. I’ve gotta give myself more credit. I’m so hard on myself.
What’s your favorite song in ‘Fela!?’
I love doing the song “Lover.” I also love “Yellow Fever.”
What is it about theater that you love so much?
I just love that it grounds you. It stabilizes you. Theater is just what I love and I hope to transition into television and film one day. It just affords me the ability to sing and dance and do what I love.
What’s more challenging? Performing in concert, for example, with Destiny’s Child or performing in a play like Fela!?
I wouldn’t say its challenging because you go on stage prepared. It’s crazy because I don’t think about it, I just do it. I guess with Fela! you’ve gotta know everything you’re doing. You’ve gotta know your placement because if you’re out of line, it can mess the whole scene up. When you’re in concert, you can kind of huckabuck a little bit, put your mic out to the audience and say “Sing along”.
Between singing and acting, which do you like doing better?
I’m a singer. I love to sing. You can take anything else away but you cant take away my voice.
Do you regret opening up about your struggles with depression?
Things happen for a reason. I don’t regret it now. So many people have hit me on social media. One young lady hit me up at Good Morning America and pulled me to the side and said “Thank you so much for opening up about it.” We’re losing so many of our celebrities to suicide or they’re turning to drugs and other things to deal with what they’re going through. And it was just to encourage them like “Hey man, I’m just like you.”
But I had to know it was okay to get help for it. I don’t know if it’s just the African American community where we think “I don’t need no therapy, I ain’t crazy.” Depression is nothing but inward anger and some things that you haven’t resolved. I hold a lot of stuff in. I’ve had lots of disappointment in my life and when you don’t deal with it, you might be a little depressed. I don’t regret it one bit. I want young people who probably don’t know why they feel the way they feel about certain things know it’s okay to go talk to your principal or a counselor so they can refer you to professional help. Don’t neglect your mental health.
How did you deal with your depression?
I try to deal with the depression without medication. Through the advice of my therapist, she didn’t think I needed it. It was moderate. Some people think that you should do medication so that you won’t be up and down. But it’s about discipline. I make the choice to be happy. I’m not saying that I don’t let myself feel a way about something if something happens, but don’t dwell on it all day because then it turns into tomorrow, and then a week, and then a month, and then years and you’re still harping over something that you should’ve let go.
But prayer works. Trust and believe while I was going to therapy, I was praying too. To me, doctors are gifted people. The gift of medicine is nothing but a gift from God and he wants us to utilize those things. I also had to change surroundings. I had to surround myself with people who are where I want to be. I’ve helped so many people that I became just drained. It’s okay to impart into people, but I need somebody to deposit into me.
Valentine’s Day is coming up. What’s your relationship status?
I am not in love or in a relationship. Not this time. Not this year.
How true are the rumors about Destiny’s Child performing at the Super Bowl this weekend?
It could be a possibility. I just know with my schedule right now, it’s just been a little hectic. The possibility of a reunion in the future, is near.
What was the inspiration behind the forthcoming Destiny’s Child Love Songs album?
It’s a compilation of the old songs and we were just like “You know what, let’s give these lovely supporters of ours something new, just to tease them a little bit.” It was beautiful recording it together. We did it before Christmas and it was just amazing to be back together like “Ooo, we still got it!” Beyonce was like “Girl, we sound good together!” and I was like “Duh! That’s what we do boo.” DC’s voices…The connection is divine and I got goosebumps just laying my part down and blending with the other voices of Beyonce’s and Kelly’s. It was just beautiful.
Can we expect new material from Destiny’s Child soon?
In the near future. Absolutely.
What are your thoughts on the rumors that Beyoncé lip-synched the National Anthem at the Inauguration?
It’s just too much going on. Seeing on the news that the victims from Hurricane Sandy are still without heat. Its so cold outside and we’re worried about that? Lets put our patriotism into action and make sure people are warm. It’s just way too much.
They pick her apart because she gives nothing else to talk about. She does her gig. She performs. She dances. She sings for you and she goes home to her husband and her baby. Other than that, that’s it. But people have to find something. Now ya’ll are gonna be looking at her for Superbowl, “What she gon’ do?” Leave her alone! She does what’s asked of her. She was asked to perform at the Inauguration. She was asked to perform at the Superbowl. And guess what? That’s exactly what she’s gonna do. That’s it. She don’t owe nobody, nothing else. Poor thing…If ya’ll saw the way she took a shower, folks would have something to say. “You didn’t extend your left arm long enough to get the soap!” She can’t do nothing!
How is Blue Ivy? Did you expect Beyoncé to be the first of the group to have kids?
She is being a big girl and is just as cute as she can be. We were surprised that she [Beyoncé] had the baby first. We just knew it was gonna be Kelly because Kelly loves kids. I’ve got five nieces and nephews of my own. I’ve got three god children so I’m okay in that department for right now. But Kelly, she adores children. We just knew. And when Bey got pregnant she was like “Ya’ll I can’t believe it. I’m about to have a baby.”
Can we expect any new solo projects from you?
I recently signed to Light Records/eOne Music. So we’ll have some music coming out within the spring and summer time. Some fresh new music.
Visit FelaOnBroadway.com for tour dates and tickets.
Keep up with Michelle on Twitter @RealMichelleW on Facebook.com/MichelleWilliams and at her website IamMichelle.com