HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’s Sara Bareilles about taking on the role of Mary Magdalene in the live TV musical, working with John Legend, and why she finds Mary so ’empowering!’
Jesus Christ Superstar, NBC’s live musical adaptation of the beloved rock opera, will make its highly-anticipated debut on Easter Sunday. The musical stars John Legend, 39, as Jesus Christ, Sara Bareilles, 38, as Mary Magdalene, Alice Cooper, 70, as King Herod, Brandon Victor Dixon, 36, as Judas Iscariot, Jason Tam, 35, as Peter, and Norm Lewis, 54, as Caiaphas.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Sara about the musical at NBC’s NY midseason press day. For the Grammy-nominated singer, the story of Jesus is just “timeless.” She has loved tackling the role of Mary Magdalene, a “very powerful woman” in the life of Jesus, and working with John. Plus, is she up for more TV roles? Check out what she had to say below!
Why do you think this show is still so beloved nearly 50 years later?
Sara Bareilles: I think they just got it right. The chemistry between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is just undeniable. This is a team that has had some really successful collaborations, but I think the message and the content of this show is so meaningful to so many people. The story of Jesus is obviously one that is so very beloved, and this particular moment in his life, you know the final days before his crucifixion, is really intense. There’s just a lot to get from retelling that story, but it is just timeless. I re-listened to the album as soon as I knew I was doing this, and I thought, “Man, this stuff does not age. It’s just classic.”
How did you get into the mindset of playing Mary?
Sara Bareilles: For me, what I love about her in this particular project… She’s a cool historical figure anyway. Mary Magdalene was a very powerful woman in the life of Jesus Christ, and it’s just a beautiful story. [She was] one of our first feminist figures. I think one of the things she does so beautifully is that she is of service, because she is so devoted and so believes in his message. I think there’s something really empowering about that. I think being of service is the most powerful way to move through the world. You’re of service to the work that you do, to the stories that you tell, to the art you create, to the people you love. I feel like she’s just a badass in that sense.
Are there any major changes with this TV adaptation?
Sara Bareilles: I know the interpretation is meant to be pretty whole-hearted in honoring “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a beautiful show in and of itself. There are some changes. There’s one change that I don’t know if I’m at liberty to talk about, so I’ll let someone else tell you about it, but it’s pretty radical. It’s a contained little moment.
What’s it been like working with John?
Sara Bareilles: John is the coolest dude you’ll ever meet in your whole life. He just exudes cool. He’s incredibly kind, incredibly patient, a total consummate professional. He comes ready to work. He doesn’t really get ruffled feathers. He’s just really easy to be around, so that’s been wonderful. He really threw himself into this. I came day one for rehearsal and what I loved the most about him was that he had such an open heart about this whole process. It was really cool.
Have you thought about exploring more television and movie roles?
Sara Bareilles: The really great gift of Waitress for me was that it revitalized my interest in doing things I’ve never done before. So in that capacity, I’m interested in all sorts of things. Yes, TV as an actor. Yes, TV as a creator. Yes, movies. Yes, films. All of it. I want to continue to grow and learn and feel like the new kid on the block because I feel like that’s where I get to learn and grow the most.