BWW Interview: Mary Kate Morrissey Talks MEAN GIRLS On Tour
The last time Mary Kate Morrissey was in Cincinnati, she was making her principle Elphaba debut in the national tour of WICKED. Two years later, she returns with the first national tour of another hit Broadway musical, Mean Girls, playing the iconic art freak, Janis Sarkisian.
BroadwayWorld got the chance to chat with Morrissey about what has made this tour experience special, what it's like to originate a role for a first national tour, social media's impact, the similarities and differences between Elphaba and Janis, and so much more in the Q&A below!
First things first, what drew you to Mean Girls?
I think what drew me is the message of self empowerment, anti-bullying, young people finding where you belong in high school and how all of that is always relevant in every stage of life.
Before this you were in the second national tour of Wicked, but in that tour you replaced as Elphaba, whereas with Mean Girls you originated the role for the first national tour, and the company is all new with you. What was this tour's rehearsal process like?
Oh my gosh, it was the coolest thing ever. Tina [Fey] was in rehearsal all the time with us, and so was Casey Nicholaw, the Tony Award-winning Broadway director, every single day building the show on us. I never felt like I had to do what Barrett [Wilbert Weed] did. They didn't want me to do what Barrett did. They wanted me to feel it out for myself. That was the coolest thing, because with Wicked, they're like, "Hey, we actually love the way this person did this thing. Can you try doing that?" And it's like, "Okay, sure."
But here it felt like I was originating a role because they gave me so much space to play. They even like changed some of the stuff at the end because they liked what my Cady and I were doing and that was really affirming. I felt like I was going through the world trying feel validated by all these different directors, and then I got to Casey Nicholaw and I feel like he saw me and was like "Ah!" He's my perfect peak, you know? It was awesome.
You began the tour journey with Mean Girls around two months ago, so you've had a little bit of time to adjust. Have you noticed differences from this touring experience versus previous tours, such as Wicked and Hair?
It's a super young company which I think was really smart on casting's side because it's a little bit more scrappy. We travel on our days off so we don't really get the day off, and our understudies have just been put in to the show now, so we've gone 40 shows without having somebody there. Everybody's learning at the same time. I feel a little bit like cast mom because there are a couple of us who have toured before, but a lot of people have not. It's their first contract; our Regina George got her equity card from this gig. So there is a difference in the way that with Wicked there is a shared language, and with a lot of production contracts it's like that. With this one though, everyone is still learning and creating together, which I think is really cool. I think it brings the cast together a lot.
The film, "Mean Girls," has become a classic, household comedy over the years. Were you a fan of the movie when you first saw it?
For sure! I was the prime audience. I was in high school when it came out, and we quoted the movie all the time.
Did you ever imagine that you'd be doing the show eight times a week in a musical format?
I had never been in for the show until this go-around, because I was on the road with Wicked. When I saw some of the footage from it, and I saw the B-roll, I thought, "Oh, that's my next gig. There it is!" So, I totally knew.
Are you noticing similarities between Elphaba and Janis? Any differences?
Oh, for sure! I feel like Janis is a little bit like Elphaba's spirit animal and vice versa. If they existed in the same universe, they would play the same role and have the same friends. What's different in the playing of Janis is that it's not as hard vocally, so I get to actually have a real life which is the best thing ever. But, I do think they are both very much the outcasts, the misfits, the person who's had to overcome things in different ways, but ultimately feeling okay with themselves and experience self acceptance.
If Elphaba and Janis were to create a high school club, what would it be?
What a good question! I feel like it would be some kind of "Coexist Club," or maybe a "Nasty Women's Club," or a "#RestInPeaceYourBeautyStandards Club." Oh, or maybe a "We Have Ovaries and We're Proud of Them But If You Don't Have Them You Can Still Hangout Club," or a "No Fragile Masculinity Allowed Club;" things like that.
So you're revisiting cities that you visited with previous tours, so what's that like? Do you have spots that you're particularly excited to revisit and see again?
Oh my gosh, it's so fun. Cincinnati is a repeat city, obviously, and I'm excited to go to OTR, and there's a couple boutiques up there that I really love. I'm excited to run by the water, and those bridges are so pretty. There's also that bar, Nicholson's right across the street from the theatre. They took such care of us when I was there last, and I just can't wait to go back and hang out. Cincinnati was really cool. I wish I was there for Oktoberfest again, but I'm not.
The musical has been updated since the movie came out in 2004. There's more of an emphasis on social media and other things that are now more in today's society to make it more relevant. How do you think that has enhanced the plot for audiences?
Social media is so different than it was back in 2004 when this came out. Social media has a certain kind of currency. It can really make or break people. People can be canceled on social media. It's just the bizarre culture that shouldn't exist, but it does and here we are. It can just change the social dynamic so, so much. I see it happen every day around me, and that is present in the show, like how the stakes can be so high. It's followers, it's Tik Tok, whatever the new thing is. It's making yourself the star of your story.
Do you think Janis is on social media, and do you think she has a preferred channel?
If Janis was on social media I feel like she would have a finsta for just her friends. She would definitely post selfies. All of her costumes are short. I think she knows she's hot, but she knows that it caters to a certain type of people. I also think she would definitely be on tumblr, for sure.
What is the part of the show that excites you the most to perform every night?
Definitely "I'd Rather Be Me." It's so anthemic. It's probably the part when all the girls are together and we all are jumping around and singing and dancing and you can just feel everyone's energy. Nobody is ever like half mast. Everybody is always full out there. It just gives me so much life and I know that I'm giving them life by doing it, so it's an incredible exchange of energy. I've never really experienced anything like that. I think everyone should get to do that song with their friends jumping around them. It's like next level awesome.
For the final question, if you could pick one thing that you hope audiences around the country take away from the show, what would that be?
I think that the one thing I would want people to take away is to just be nice to each other. I don't know if that's a cop-out because the show's called Mean Girls, but know it's kind of like a I don't know about the cop out because the show's called the girls but I think that everybody's a little bit mean. Everybody is at both times the accused and the accuser. So, I think that if we all hold ourselves accountable to just being the nicest version of ourselves a lot more, people would not be hurt by that.
Cady Heron may have grown up on an African savanna, but nothing prepared her for the wild and vicious ways of her strange new home: suburban Illinois. How will this naive newbie rise to the top of the popularity pecking order? By taking on The Plastics, a trio of lionized frenemies led by the charming but ruthless Regina George. But when Cady devises a plan to end Regina's reign, she learns the hard way that you can't cross a Queen Bee without getting stung.
Produced by Lorne Michaels, Stuart Thompson, Sonia Friedman, and Paramount Pictures, Mean Girls gets to the hilarious heart of what it means to be a true friend, a worthy nemesis, and above all, a human being.