Interview: Eva Noblezada on Country Music, Lea Salonga, and YELLOW ROSE

Noblezada, who also guest stars on tomorrow night's episode of SVU, says she hopes YELLOW ROSE will foster empathy for audiences.

By: Jan. 13, 2021

Interview: Eva Noblezada on Country Music, Lea Salonga, and YELLOW ROSE

Tony-nominee Eva Noblezada stars in "Yellow Rose," the 2019 musical drama now available to own on digital, Blu-ray, and DVD.

BroadwayWorld had the pleasure of catching up with Eva about the new physical release of her film, her experience falling in love with country music, her relationship with Lea Salonga, and her upcoming appearance on "Law & Order: SVU."

Noblezada previously starred in Hadestown at The National Theatre in London and on Broadway. In 2017, Noblezada starred on Broadway in the title role of Cameron Mackintosh's epic revival of Miss Saigon, receiving a Tony nomination at age 21. Variety called her Broadway debut performance "entrancing" and The Hollywood Reporter said "her vocals have an expressive range and sweetness that cuts through all that surrounds her. She's a legitimate discovery."

Read the whole interview below!

This was your motion picture debut, and it's absolutely gorgeous - the movie and the music. Can you tell me about singing onscreen as opposed to onstage?

From my experience of recording musical theater - I know it sounds crazy, but there was more of a naturalistic vibe and aesthetic in how we wanted the songs to come off, in my opinion, with what [director] Diane [Paragas] was telling me. She was listening to the mix the full time in the studio. And I much that to the plasticky, autotuned sound that musical theatre can flip into sometimes. Like, as you know, why the hell is the Miss Saigon soundtrack autotuned? Anyway.

But, why can't you trust your singers - we're professional singers! - to not sound like s**t?

That was, I think, the only difference - is just making it feel like Rose's music, and her voice, and the ambiance of her songs were there - but, like, as a pillow, not as a flashy thing, which I really, really love the idea of music being a comfort. It's like when you drink a hot drink and you can feel it go down your body. That's really nice. I kind of felt like that while recording the soundtrack, and that's how it sounds!

And I listen to it! I hate admitting that I listen to it, because that sounds narcissistic and crazy.


But no, even just listening to the ambiance of the songs, they're just so nice and chill. It's fun. They're really fun.

Do you have a history of performing country music or is this your first foray?

Never in my life. I didn't get into country music until now! But growing up in North Carolina, especially where I was growing up, you didn't hear the country music that would be preferable, in my opinion, like the stuff I listen to now. I didn't even know I had a choice to listen to some of the country music I listen to. But definitely now in my shows, you're gonna hear some good old country music in there.

Who are your favorite new artists you uncovered in this country music awakening?

My boyfriend actually showed me this because he knew how much I loved her vinyl. And that's how I listen to most of these new artists, on vinyl - but, obviously, Loretta Lynn. There's an album she did recently with Jack White, and it's called "Portland, Oregon," and he played it on a road trip that we did. And I was like, "Man, Loretta is still kicking it!" She sounds SO good. Everyone needs to go listen to that, because that is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Like, knowing your sound and sticking to that cool aesthetic. And you've been doing it for so long - she's just so cool. So, Loretta. She's the first person that popped up. And obviously Dolly [Parton]. Love her.

You did Miss Saigon and Les Mis - what was it like to connect with Lea Salonga and follow that lineage again in this movie, where she plays your character's aunt?

Oh, it's awesome. I mean, who wouldn't want to have a lineage with theatre royalty? And the best thing about Lea is how down-to-earth she is - depending on how she feels, if you ask her, "Are you theatre royalty?" She'd answer, "No!" or "Hell yeah, I am!"

But it was fun. It was also cool that the first scene I ever filmed in "Yellow Rose" was with Lea. That's just how we were shooting chronologically. So, that was awesome - a friendly face. Which was so nice - she's incredible.

Did you know each other well before the movie?

Absolutely. But not even better now. I mean, now she can't get rid of me.

I got drunk one night and texted her. I can't believe I did this, but at least she laughed. She thought it was very funny. But I texted her, "look at me." And then another text, "I will never pass for a perfect bride," and then another text, "or a perfect daughter." And then I texted her, "can it be?" It was just so, so funny.

It's really special to find a film created by Filipinos, starring Filipinos, in Hollywood. What did that mean to you, representationally?

This is the first. It's the first Filipino-directed, written, produced, and starred. And I'm playing a Filipino! I'm not playing a Vietnamese, seventeen-year-old girl abducted by a white man - I'm playing a Filipino. So that is special. I've never seen or heard of a movie, even in the indie world, like that.

You know, we're virtually camouflaged in America. We are the second largest undocumented group of people in the United States. I didn't know that coming into this movie. And then, the more I learned about it, well, that makes so much sense - because we can just kind of camouflage in the background and play whatever role in society that they ask us to. So, I mean, it's crazy. I've yet to once play my ethnicity ever, except for Rose. It's special to me. It comes to fruition with the right projects, and that, for me, was "Yellow Rose."

How did you get involved in the project?

My wonderful director, Diane, came and saw Miss Saigon on Broadway, and then apparently something in her was like, "She needs to be Rose." And then she took me to a business meeting, which, for Asians, we just go get sushi. We went to a really fancy sushi restaurant. And she told me about the project, and she passed me the script.

And I said, "You want me to play the lead?" And she was like, "Absolutely." "And she's Filipino. You want me to play a Filipino?" She goes, "Yes."

And I said, "OK, I'll do it," on the spot. She asked and I said yes. So it was pretty amazing. Oh, she asked and I said, yes. So it was pretty amazing.

This has been a crazy week, and it's just a crazy time. What do you hope today's audiences get out of seeing "Yellow Rose" on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital?

I hope it gives audiences a little sense of reality. If anything, hopefully their minds are open enough from learning and learning over the past hopefully four years. People who are like, "I'm still learning?" Get over yourself. Sorry.

I hope they're in a cultivating mindset right now to go, "I really need to be outside of myself to learn about the environment around me. And I need to be outside of myself so that I can challenge myself to not hold judgment and prejudice that I probably am not even trying to stimulate. It just so happens." So, that needs to be challenged.

I hope that they just see a story of somebody of someone they don't know - that maybe they have nobody like that in their lives, and they can just sit and not watch, but experience. That's how empathy begins. It's not you looking at something like, "Wow, that looks like it sucks, sucks to be them, glad to be me." It's about going, "What would that feel like? What if that was me, or someone who was close to me?" And then start trying to actively seek new information and how you can make a change locally first, and then understand that one small wave creates a bigger wave of change.

And it just has to do with opening your eyes to what's actually happening, and it's not nice. A lot of it is not nice. But the more we can all be on the same page, of why and to whom this is happening, then I think we can start moving forward. I saw this awesome tweet that said, "You guys realize that we tried to push the narrative of holding each other accountable and then taking action, without the taking action. This is why we're still in this situation, because we're trying to hold people accountable without actually doing anything about it."

I just hope that they go, "wow, I had no idea." Whenever I get that reaction from this film, and I can see that they feel like - not guilty, but almost like, I'm never going to not read an article or watch something that doesn't have to do with me. I want to know. I'm living in a world of people. I'm not living in a world by myself. That's an awesome reaction to have to this film

You're going to be on SVU! Tell me about that!

I still can't believe it, but I have to pretend - I shake my ass in this, okay? Under the circumstances of what they involved asked me to do, this is too much going on.

If you're willing to see the episode, it does involve sexual misconduct. It does involve rape. You don't see it, thank God. But it does. So that's just a trigger warning for everybody. If you're like, "I want to see Alex Brightman and Eva Noblezada, they'll probably be singing!" No! Not this time. So that's just a trigger warning there.

I do wear a lot of wigs! I wore about ten different wigs over the course of this episode, but it was fun. There was so much going on. I watched clips yesterday because I was in ADR. I was like, and why did I do that? But then I think I remember the day and being like, "Oh yeah, of course, because this is my first time doing TV and it was crazy." It's fun! I think people will be shocked. And I don't know, I kind of want people to be shocked nowadays. People are too comfortable with what's going on.

It's absolutely required - if you can drink, to have a drink in hand while watching this episode.

"Yellow Rose" is now available to own on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD. Get it here. Watch the trailer below.

Eva and and Alex Brightman will appear in an upcoming episode of "Law & Order: SVU," scheduled to premiere on January 14th at 9 p.m. EST on NBC!


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