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BWW Interviews: Jillian Mueller of FLASHDANCE National Tour Answers Our Silly Query

After traveling the country in the national tours of AMERICAN IDIOT and MEMPHIS, and spending time in the Broadway casts of BYE BYE BIRDIE and HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, triple-threat actress Jillian Mueller can now be seen dancing up a (ha ha) storm in the National Tour production of FLASHDANCE, in which she plays leading Lady Alex Owens---yes, the sexy steel mill worker who moonlights as a maniac, maniac, on the floor. The stage incarnation of the hit movie of the same name continues performances through May 19 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

While settling into her final week of shows here in Orange County, Ms. Mueller agreed to some of our silly questions. Thankfully, she played along!

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Subject: Jillian Mueller
Nicknames: Jilli Jelly, Little J, Tink, JJ
Hometown: Marlboro, New Jersey... right near the Jersey Shore

Hi, Jillian! Tell me a little bit about Alex Owens, the character you play in FLASHDANCE...

Alex Owens was played by Jennifer Beals in the movie. She's independent, strong-willed and scrappy. She's come from a rough background with an alcoholic father. She leaves town and moves to Pittsburgh at 17 years old, where she then works at the steel mill by day and dances at Harry's Nightclub at night. Harry's is her escape, where she gets to express herself. She has a burning passion for dance and has dreams of going to Shipley, a ballet academy, to become a professional dancer.

You recently joined the cast. What was going through your mind on the night of your first performance?

Oh my god, Oh my god. Holy s***! (and repeat)... Wait, how does it start again?

Were you familiar with the film before you started the stage show?

Oh, yeah. For Christmas when I was 7, I got a few dance movies, one of them being Flashdance. I became fascinated and mesmerized and would watch it obsessively, several times a week/a day for, like, a year. I still don't understand why my parents weren't concerned that their 7-year-old was obsessed with Flashdancers and strippers ;)

The show contains lots of familiar 80's hits... which one is your personal fave to perform in the show?

I love doing "Maniac" and doing "The Final Dance" to "What a Feeling." But I think my absolute favorite number is when I get to do the iconic water dance. It's insane! I get drenched! It's iconic. And it's one of the only moments where I get to completely release. I LIVE for it!

Speaking of the 80's... are you a Madonna or a Cyndi Lauper or a Joan Jett?

Oh, this is a good question. I think I have to say I'm a little mix of all three. Love Lauper's music and style. And I love that she's, like, 60 and still dresses like that. And Madonna really made her mark and is so iconic. But I think more then anything I'm a Joan Jett/Pat Benatar hybrid. I'm all about a badass rocker chick. I think it's so empowering and sexy. Plus, I got my haircut "like Joan Jett" for a show a year and a half ago, and I've kept it ever since!

Have you ever "cried silent tears full of pride in a world made of steel, made of stone?"

Every time I find myself at the In-N-Out drive-thru at 3 am.

Do you have any pre-show rituals that you do to prepare before a performance?

I do my makeup, pin-curl my hair, get my mic and wig put on, do a little vocal and physical warm up. Fun fact: Specific for this show, I actually put spray on self-tanner all over my body before every show. I have the skin complexion of Casper and I have to prance around the stage half naked most of the show. So, a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!

Okay, imagine you've got an iPod and we stole it from you. What music will we find on it?

I'd probably be mortified. Because 1, sharing the music I listen to on my own when I'm in my own head-space feels so personal; and 2, because it will probably be some embarrassing, bizarre combination of Carly Rae Jepsen, Kings of Leon, 80's rock, and that random old stuff you have on there that you don't listen to but are too lazy to take off... like the cast recording of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE because that was the first thing I ever uploaded onto iTunes.

Like I said... mortified. I do love me some Pandora though.

What is your favorite musical cast album of all time?

I don't think I have a favorite. But growing up, I was definitely that musical theater nerd that, after every show I saw, I would get the cast recording. And I would listen to it to the point where I had every song memorized. And I wondered why I had no friends in school?

Who were some of your icons/influences that have helped shape your journey as an actor?

Ahhh... there's too many. I really love actors that are truthful and genuine in everything they play. And can be super versatile. Like Jessica Chastain. I'm also a big comedy gal, and I love me some Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They're gems.

What's the song that you like belting in the shower or when you're all alone in the car?

I love me some Jessie J. But... not gonna lie, I definitely enjoy working on a sensible "rock scream," along with singing high, male, 80's rock songs. I'm sure my neighbors love it.

What is your one guilty pleasure?

Sitting in my hotel bed, in my undies, eating delicious food, French macarons and/or a cupcake and frozen yogurt while watching Reality TV. Too much? That's a lot. I know. Don't judge.

What do you most like to do on your day(s) off?

Generally our day off is a travel day, so it's usually spent on an airplane or a bus. So glamorous, I know. But once we arrive in our next city, sometimes I like to get a massage because my body gets destroyed from doing the show 8 times a week. Other than that I love exploring the city and finding good eats with some of our cast and crew. It's my favorite thing to do in every city.

What or who irritates you the most?

Pet peeve: "Don't say it if you don't mean it." Don't make promises you can't keep or say things you know you don't mean. Just be genuine. It makes life easier. And don't run away from your problems. Put your big girl panties on and deal with it. That also makes life easier.

And what instantly puts a smile on your face?

A good day. That's the cheesiest thing I think I've ever said, but you know when you're just like "I had a great day"... when you did things you love and were around people you care about... I like those moments.

What makes you laugh uncontrollably?

It really doesn't take much. I'm a very giggly person. If laughing adds years to your life then I'm going to live forever. Put me around a bunch of funny people with big personalities and quick wit and I'm done. Big personalities? Yeah, that's hard to find in theater.

Name a dream role in another show you'd maybe like to play someday that you haven't done yet...

Honestly If I were ever to have a dream role it would be a brand new show that doesn't exist yet that was written with me in mind, and had stunning music written by someone, like, say Tom Kitt. Getting to do something like that would be a dream. But... something that actually exists... I would love to be Sherrie in ROCK OF AGES. How much fun would that be!
I would KILL to star in ANASTASIA. They're working on making that a musical, right? I would also want to make Moulin Rouge into a stage musical and be Satine. Maybe Sally Bowles in CABARET? Ahhh there's too many things I want to do!

If you could trade lives with someone for one day, who would that person be and why?

Emma Stone? Jennifer Lawrence could be cool? They seem like sassy ladies. But when I think about it my life is complicated enough, I don't know if I could deal with someone else's problems for a day. That's a lot. ;)

If you weren't an actor, what other career do you possibly see yourself doing?

I'm really not that good at anything else. I would be of no value to any other industry...I literally don't think I'm capable of doing anything else. I was that little girl who took dress-up and playing pretend way too seriously and now I just turned it into a career.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing moment that has happened to you during a show (either FLASHDANCE or a previous show)?

During my put-in (which is a dress rehearsal before I actually start performances) I have, like, a 13-second full costume AND wig change right before the iconic water dance. It was the first time we ever rehearsed that change and I guess we ran out of time to put enough pins in my wig. I started doing the dance and mid-way through the number I saw a hairball laying on the stage. I kept going. I ended up doing half the dance bald with my wig laying on the stage like a dead animal. I mean if THAT isn't a sexy water dance, I don't know what is.

And, finally, do you have any advice for our budding young readers who want to pursue a similar successful career in musical theater?

This is always my favorite question. I talk a lot so I feel like I have so many thoughts to say for this one, but I'll spare you all my "diarrhea of the mouth" and only give you a few little helpful hints. Persistence really is key. Train, train, train...you want to always be at the top of your game, because "luck" is when preparation meets opportunity.

My other advice too is "Don't listen to anyone." I know that sounds weird, but what I mean by that is always listen to your gut and your instincts. You know what's best for you and what you can do. I used to go to open calls for Broadway shows when I was 15, 16 years old against people in their 20's and 30's. I didn't care. I knew I was capable and right for the part, so I went. People thought I was out of my mind and crazy. Other actors said it was a waste of time and I need to wait till I was older for people to take me seriously. But, if it weren't for me being a "lunatic" and having confidence in myself, I wouldn't have booked the show AMERICAN IDIOT when I was 16. Even FLASHDANCE! I don't think many people would even believe I could get an audition for Alex, let alone get it! This business is a crazy, weird industry and at the end of the day, no one really has any clue. And it really is unbelievable how far you can get if you just go for it, believe in yourself and back it up with being really good at what you do.

One more thing... Be nice to people. This is more of just life advice, but I think it's so important in this business. It really goes a long way. You want to be enjoyable to work with, to everyone. Whether it be to the security doorman, the dressers, other actors, your director... it makes people happy to be there and boosts morale. Just be kind. Gracious. It gets you so much further.

Follow Jillian on Twitter: @jillimueller.
Follow Contributing Editor Michael Lawrence Quintos on Twitter: @cre8iveMLQ

Photo of Jillian Mueller courtesy of SCFTA.

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Performances of the National Tour of FLASHDANCE: THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center for the Arts continue through Sunday, May 19. Tickets can be purchased online at www.SCFTA.org, by phone at 714-556-2787 or in person at the SCFTA box office (open daily at 10 am). Segerstrom Center for the Arts is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.

For tickets or more information, visit SCFTA.org.

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