How ‘Hamilton’ Star Renée Elise Goldsberry Became TV’s Funniest Diva

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Netflix
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Netflix

Despite never really doing comedy before Girls5eva, Renée Elise Goldsberry has managed to steal nearly every scene she’s been in over the two seasons of that show’s initial run on Peacock and its third, which arrives this week on Netflix.

In this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, the Tony and Grammy Award winner reveals what it was like to find her comedic voice as the self-obsessed diva Wickie Roy, including the parallels between mastering Tina Fey’s brand of rapid-fire jokes and learning to rap for her role as Angelica Schuyler in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. Goldsberry also talks about getting cut out of Fey and Amy Poehler’s movie Sisters, meeting co-star Paula Pell on Documentary Now, and why she would be “shocked” if there wasn’t a fourth season of Girls5eva coming to Netflix in the near future.

It’s the morning after a rare live performance by the fictional girl group Girls5eva at the show’s big Season 3 premiere in New York City, and the Broadway star is still feeling a little unsure about how well it went.

“It felt joyous. It felt freezing cold. It felt slightly awkward, but extremely special, because anything I do with those women is a dream come true,” Goldsberry says of performing alongside Pell, Sara Bareilles, and Busy Philipps. “As we always say, regardless of how well we actually did, when it’s over we tell each other, ‘We crushed it! We slayed! We killed it!’”

“Netflix gifted us with a lot of things this year, but one of them was that they dreamed up a really special red carpet for us,” she adds. That included the return of “Ghislaine,” the transparent lucite grand piano that belongs to Wickie and was used to accompany the group during their live medley.

The biggest gift from Netflix, of course, was the streamer’s decision to rescue the show after its previous home, Peacock, decided not to move forward with a third season. Calling herself a “low-expectations kinda girl,” Goldsberry says she “wasn’t counting” on Girls5eva finding a new home.

“Anytime anyone has ever said to me in my over 50 years of living, ‘You’re gonna blow up,’ I have never believed them. I’ve always been like, ‘We’ll see,’ and that has served me pretty well in my life,” she explains.

That skepticism about success did not, however, extend to the biggest hit of her career. “If you told me, Hamilton, that might not make it on Broadway, I’d be like, ‘Pretty sure we’re gonna make it,’” Goldsberry says. “Some things are just so special that even me, I believe. And [Girls5eva] was one of those things. I believed that this show would not end because it’s just too special to me.”

Paula Pell Talks SNL ‘PTSD’ and the Future of ‘Girls5eva’ on Netflix

Goldsberry doesn’t know yet if there will be more Girls5eva on Netflix after this third season, but she’s hopeful. “You could not more obviously end a show on a question than they did,” she says of showrunner Meredith Scardino and the “brilliant” writing staff, teasing the cliffhanger that ends the new season. “So we dream that we can get to do another season. Even I would be shocked if we didn’t get to do another one. But the world is crazy. It’s hard to know.”

Before Wickie Roy, Goldsberry’s most prominent comedy role was probably in the “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” episode of Documentary Now opposite Pell and Richard Kind (who also has a memorable cameo as himself in the new season of Girls5eva). Counting Kind among her comedy friends, Goldsberry says, “What I love about them so much is unlike the rest of us, they’re extremely honest.” She shares the story of that iconic character actor coming up to her after the recent premiere screening and saying, “You’re actually funny in this!”

The Season 3 premiere of Girls5eva finds the group in #TourMode following the release of their big comeback album. But as of the first episode, they are stuck in Fort Worth, Texas, after their new song “Tap Into Your Fort Worth” becomes that city’s unofficial anthem. Is it a coincidence that Girls5eva have entered their country era at the exact same time as Beyoncé?

“I joke that she had a mole on set back in April of 2023,” Goldsberry says, before making sure to add, “I’m sure that’s not true. I’m confident saying that Beyoncé is not watching to see what Girls5eva does.”

Wickie, meanwhile, has set an explosive fire under the group by impulsively booking Radio City Music Hall for Thanksgiving morning during the Macy’s parade. It’s just the type of audacious, self-serving move that her character has become known for over three seasons. And it’s an attitude that Goldsberry has taken as a strange sort of inspiration for her own career.

Busy Philipps Came This Close to Giving Up Acting: ‘The Jobs Didn’t Exist’

“At this moment in my life I am poised for some pretty cool things to maybe happen, and I’m not necessarily banking on them,” she says. “I’m not holding my breath that my career is going to blow up. I can’t believe I made it this far. But what I love about Wickie, and the fact that I get to play her, is it forces me to walk in the shoes of a person who never feels like they have had enough, who always feels owed more than what she’s had—even if she’s the reason why what she used to have is gone. As opposed to seeing people who dream that recklessly as reckless, at this moment in my life, I see them as inspirational. I just feel like I need a little bit more of that in my life.”

For Goldsberry, that could mean releasing an album that goes beyond the expected “adult contemporary” genre into full-blown pop music. Or perhaps returning to the type of dramatic acting that she was known for at the start of her career.

“It’s funny because people are like, ‘Oh, we didn’t know Renée was funny.’ And now it’s, ‘I thought she was a comedic actress. Do you think she can do this drama?’” she says with a knowing laugh. “But, as I said at the beginning of this podcast, if nothing ever happens for me again—I don’t know if I’ll be fine. I’ll complain because I’m really good at that. But I will definitely have a lot to be grateful for.”

Listen to the episode now and follow The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts to be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Wednesday.

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