BWW Interviews LEGALLY BLONDE's Bailey Hanks!
Bailey Hanks is blonde. She's beautiful. And she's here in the bay area reprising her role as Elle Woods in the the hit musical comedy, Legally Blonde, the Musical! After an acclaimed turn on Broadway (she won the role after knocking down the competition in MTV's The Search for Elle Woods) she's taken to the road and is making the role her own. Legally Blonde, the Musical! will be bending and snapping in the Diablo Theatre Company's production starting Feb. 10 and running through Mar. 3
Hanks talked with BWW's Linda Hodges about what it was like to be in the MTV spotlight, how she handles the challenges in her life what scrumptious thing she and Elle have in common - besides being blondes! That interview follows.
Hi, Bailey – thank you for doing this interview with BroadwayWorld San Francisco and welcome to the City by the Bay. It’s a thrill for us to have Legally Blonde, the Musical back on the west coast after it had its pre-Broadway tryouts here in San Francisco.
You had your pre-Broadway tryout before an MTV audience for their reality show, The Search for Elle Woods. It was in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers. What was that like?
Well, my pre-Broadway run was in front of a TV audience but, while filming it was easy to forget that cameras were around us 24/7 because I was so focused on winning the ultimate prize and making my dreams come true.
The show had amazing ratings. It just caught on like wildfire.
Once the show aired (which was about 4 months after we wrapped filming) it was crazy to see the large response from people and fans from all over...and once the show aired in the US it began airing in the UK and Australia...so it was AMAZING to hear from fans overseas!
Before you found out about MTV’s The Search for Elle Woods, what projects were you working on?
Before that I was helping backstage and doing costumes for the local production of Cinderella. (I wasn’t in it because I was off at Coastal Carolina College and missed auditions). So I helped dress Cinderella! Then I was accepted into Belmont University’s musical theatre department the week after my Legally Blonde auditions. Sooooo…it was a huge decision...college or a chance of a lifetime? Needless to say I made the right choice because I WON!
You certainly made your dreams come true. And now you’re playing sorority sister Elle in a completely new setting here on the west coast. Was it a simple shift or were there challenges?
Well, this process here at Diablo Theatre has TRULY pushed me, challenged me and made me (I think) a better Elle than I was before. I have to learn a totally new show, new people, new relationships, new sets and stage...and I get the creative freedom to bring Bailey to Elle.
Let’s talk a little bit about you and your character. Elle is from California and you’re from South Carolina. Other differences?
Besides the obvious...she is from California. And she comes from a wealthy Bev Hills family, and I do not. Ha ha!
Yeah, not too many people fit that profile. I mean just the size of her swimming pool (in the movie version) seemed bigger than most houses! Similarities?
We are blonde, we’re both belles, we can be naive and believe in others and in ourselves. We are optimistic and loving. I learn from her every day while in the process of rehearsals. She is such an awesome, strong woman!
What’s your favorite thing about Elle?
My favorite thing about Elle is her compassion for others, and her determination. When she gets knocked down, she finds a new way to get up and go! And try it again.
I love how much Elle grows. She’s confident in her role as Sorority president but turns to mush when her boyfriend dumps her. Then, as we know, Elle eventually comes into her own. Are we all like that where men are concerned? (Wouldn’t it be great if we could just skip that stage!) Have you ever been a fool for love?
HA! I think it would be a lie if ANYONE said they have never been a fool for love. Of course I have! Probably one too many times for the WRONG person. But, just like Elle I have grown and found my Emmett! Someone who loves me for ME, and believes in me and what I want for my life.
Well, that blows my question about what it’s like to date while on the road! Is it serious with your “Emmett?”
I am in a very committed relationship Jason. He’s a wonderful guy. He’s not in the business; he’s actually in public relations. Being away from him during this process has been very hard but he supports me and loves me. He will be here for my opening night at the Lescher!
He sounds scrumptious! And while you’re here at the Lesher Theatre you’re going to be celebrating a birthday. First, happy early birthday! And second, how do you plan on celebrating? Will your parents be able to come out?
My 24th birthday is Feb 6th...just 4 days before opening night. So for my b-day I’ll be in tech rehearsals from 11am to 11pm, ha ha ! That’s the price you pay. But Jason will be here on the 9th and that will be an awesome gift. My parents won’t be able to make it but they bought me NEW pink and dark grey Nikes!
Okay – that’s very “Elle.” Your parents sound great. Do they help you stay grounded?
Staying grounded hasn’t been too hard for me. I know I am a normal person...and my parents have always kept me humble and if ever I begin to get a big head...they knock me down a few notches. I know that the Lord has blessed me with so much and I give all the thanks to him.
It sounds like your faith helps keep you grounded.
I am Christian and that is something I am not ashamed to say. I have gone through quite the journey, ups and downs and I thank the Lord for being there for me every minute and helping pick me back up during my lows.
Well, you’re definitely on a high right now. You’re living your dream of being an actress, singer and dancer - a triple-threat to be sure!. Is it everything you thought it would be? Any surprises?
Being a triple threat is all that it’s cracked up to be...hard! No surprises came my way - I’ve been doing this since I was 6...so I was fully prepared.
What is your favorite part of the show?
I love every part of this show...but right now my fave part is “Bend and Snap” and “Legally Blonde.” I never realized until now how beautiful “Legally Blonde” the song is. WOW!
Those are my two favorites as well. Why do you think Legally Blonde, the Musical is such a big hit?
Legally Blonde was successful because not only is it such a wonderful movie, but the show is SO easy to love. It’s uplifting and encouraging and who doesn’t love a strong, beautiful female heroine!
Yes, beautiful – and definitely not a mean girl. But you got to play Sharpay in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of High School Musical - and she is definitely a mean girl. Was it fun to cut loose and play Sharpay?
It was fun to play Sharpay, but I found myself feeling so bad for being SO BAD! Ha ha!
So, from High School to Law School. Amanda Broom wrote the book Legally Blonde after attending Stanford Law. Would you ever consider going to Law School?
I consideRed Law school waaay back in the day...because my father always told me I could argue with a brick wall!
That’s funny! I think playing Elle has got to be more fun than writing legal briefs but wouldn’t it be great to do both! What words of advice would you give to young people who want to sing on Broadway?
I always encourage my younger fans or students I teach that you need to stay involved in musical theatre, audition for everything, never give up if you don’t make it, and stay involved in classes, workshops, and master classes.
It must be great for them to have you as their teacher. Have you gotten to meet/work with any of your own idols?
Well, I LOVE Reese Witherspoon. She is the ultimate one...so when that day comes...speechless! But I have gotten to work for Tyler Perry, on Meet The Browns. I’m not only a HUGE Tyler Perry fan, but I love Meet The Browns. Getting to act on that show was a dream come true!
Do you remember the feeling you had when you signed your first autograph? Other than for family members and friends?
The first time I went out the stage door after my opening night for Legally Blonde, I was amazed at how many people were waiting to get MY autograph. CRAZY! The line nearly wrapped around the block.
I don’t have a crystal ball but I foresee lots of autograph signing in your future - starting here in the bay area on opening night. Bailey, we’re very excited to welcome you to the west coast.
And lastly, what’s next for you?
After this production I’ll be will heading back home to Nashville to being in my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding then I will be the maid of honor in my older sister’s wedding...then in June I’m off to Birmingham, AL to do Legally Blonde all over again.
Thanks so much, Bailey. Best of luck to you in this show and in all your future endeavors.
Legally Blonde, the Musical!
February 10 - March 3
Director Gia Solari
Diablo Theatre Company – www.diablotheatre.org
Photo courtesy of www.benkrantz.com