Taylor Iman Jones encourages you to believe in yourself

Taylor Iman Jones is currently living her dream. Two months after arriving in NYC, she made her Broadway debut in the ensemble of Groundhog Day. Now barely two years later she takes center stage as Mopsa in the new musical, Head Over Heels. It’s evident that Taylor has a bright future on Broadway and we can’t wait to see her star rise even higher.

What is Head Over Heels about?
Head Over Heels is a story about the royal town of Arcadia. An oracle comes and delivers prophecies that will destroy their town if they all come true, so they are trying to avoid that with love and confusion and identity along the way.

Why do you think this show is so relevant right now?
It’s perfectly relevant right now, because the entire nation and us as a society are coming into new identities and discovering who we are. That is what the show is about for anyone and everyone in the world, and we have more representation in our show than most shows do on Broadway or on TV or film.

Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
Yes. One of my favorite moments is definitely the opening number. We are all on stage, it’s super high energy. We are all dancing the same choreography, which is really fun, and it just is a great way to start our show.

What’s it like to go from the ensemble of Groundhog Day to be a lead role in this show?
It’s fun. I learned a lot being in the ensemble of Groundhog Day and especially being on Broadway for the first time – what it takes to do eight shows a week, how to take care of yourself. Now being the lead, at times there are different pressures. There is just a little bit more pressure of really being on top of my voice and really being on top of the lyrics and blocking and being there for my partners. It’s all been a giant learning experience, but so fun now.

You were very fortunate that you landed a role just two months after you got to New York City. What’s the most surprising thing that you learned about being on Broadway?
How much of it there is! I am from California, so when you don’t live here, Broadway seems like it’s very small and there are a limited number of jobs available. I think the more you do it, the more you realize there are plenty of jobs to go around and it’s possible to make a sustainable career on Broadway.

What is your favorite thing about getting to live and work in New York City?
I love it. I always dreamt of living here, so for me it’s literally dreams come true. It’s crazy to work in Times Square. I hate it because of all the people, but I love it because it’s Times Square. it’s cool to watch movies and TV and say “I live there, it’s New York, that’s the skyline.” Are you kidding? That’s cool.

Do you have any mishaps or funny moments that happened on stage either in Groundhog Day or Head Over Heels?
Yes. Groundhog Day I fell a number of times. Once, in the beginning of this tap number we were supposed to run down stage wearing our tap shoes. I began to run and slipped and landed straight down on my front and continued to crawl to the front of the stage. Also in Groundhog Day, I fell out of the Tilt‑A‑Whirl when I was on for Rita once. Like big key change, big note, and me just up and down on the ground.

In Head Over Heels, I have thrown my fan a few times, which is really sad because I am supposed to whack it. It makes all this nice noise. It’s like the first thing I do in the show besides the opening number – so I go to whack it and I just throw it on the ground instead and there is nothing to be done.

It’s really great that the choreography features a lot of whacking which you don’t normally see in a Broadway show.
We have so many styles in our choreography because of Spencer Liff and also because of the dancers we have in our show. Spencer did a really good job of reaching out to the strengths of our dancers to see what they can come up with for certain moments.

Head Over Heels features the music of The Go-Gos – what other artist’s music would you love to perform on Broadway?
Gaga. Lady Gaga. Let’s do it. Especially now with A Star is Born that just came out. I love to sing her music. Or Janelle Monae. I think she could really write a really cool musical, like trippy, but still really musical forward. They are both really good storytellers.

Do you remember the first time you ever performed in front of an audience?
I remember the first time I ever performed in a play in front of people. I took piano lessons, so there were piano recitals that I hated. It just made me shaky. But the first time I ever performed was in a show called Bugsy Malone. I think I was 11 years old. I was playing a janitor who had this big solo number – it’s just me and a broom and a spotlight. Literally nothing has changed since then. I have a terrible memory, but I remember that moment and it’s definitely just shot me to who I am today.

Where did your love of theater come from and why did you start performing?
I don’t know. I think it’s just always something that’s been inside of me. I always loved singing, I always loved dancing. Nobody in my family does it. My grandmother sings in her choir, but I think my mom just loves the arts whether she really knows it or not, because she always took me to musicals. We always saw the tours that came in and she was doing that before I started performing, so I think maybe she planted the seed subconsciously. And it’s just been festering ever since.

Did you have any role models who inspired you when you were growing up?
Everybody that is Broadway, but really Audra McDonald is a giant one. Sutton Foster is definitely one. Patti LuPone. You know, the divas like that for sure. Rebecca Naomi Jones is probably one I still look up to and every time I see her in anything, I am like “oh, you are so good.”

Hugh Jackman has my dream career, which is just like action movie, whatever you want to do, then Broadway show, Broadway concert, back and forth.

What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself more than anybody else. And then my real advice is know your strengths, know your weaknesses. That’s what I always say. Play on your strengths when you know what they are and work on your weaknesses when you know what they are. You know what you need to work on, so you go work on it in any way, shape you can. Lessons and classes and can be expensive, so don’t stress yourself out because you can’t get to that. Work on what you can, when you can and no matter what, the universe will see that energy and put it forward because you are putting it forward.

Watch the video interview with Taylor, exclusively on @thebroadwaywiz Instagram story!

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