DATE WITH DESTINY
Hot Off A Destiny’s Child Reunion At Super Bowl XLVII, Michelle Williams Hits Atlanta in FELA!
When I spoke to Michelle Williams, it was two days after her surprise appearance alongside Destiny’s Child band mates Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVII.
It was exactly one week after the release of the band’s new compilation CD, Love Songs, which features a new single called “Nuclear” that Williams co-wrote.
It was two weeks before the announcement that Williams would star in a new reality show, My Sister’s Keeper, which will follow the recording of her new gospel solo album. And it was 3 weeks before the singer came to Atlanta to star in a touring production of the Broadway smash FELA!, in which she plays the Nigerian legend’s muse, Sandra Smith.
In short, the 32-year-old Illinois native has an awful lot going on. So we were grateful to get some time on the phone to chat about that surprise Destiny’s Child reunion, her transition into acting, and where she hopes to take her career from here.
How was performing at the Super Bowl? How long had you guys been planning that?
It was exciting! It was really, really nice. We planned it for a while– a couple of months now. We come from an era where we tried to keep things private and a surprise. We don’t speak much, we just try to do it. We were trying to respect the integrity of Beyonce’s show, so I didn’t want to say anything and still don’t want to say much. But it was a great moment.
What was the feeling like to be back with your girls on stage again?
It was an amazing experience. It was like we just picked up right where we left off. It was a big deal for us, but we’re in touch with each other all the time.
Can you talk to me about making the transition into acting? What’s the difference between controlling everything as a singer vs being part of a larger creative community in a movie or play?
When you’re performing as a musical artist, you’re pretty much making your own calls on stage, and there is a little more freedom in how you interact with people. With this show, FELA!, it’s different because it’s reenacting his last concert at the Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria. In this show, your interaction with the audience reminds me of someone at a concert. But the thing about theater is that they’re a little more strict about your placement and blocking. If you move here when you’re not supposed to, you can mess up the whole scene or a dance routine. So you’ve got to pay attention.
Did you ever get to meet or talk to Sandra in your preparation for the role?
Yes, I talked to her and we emailed each other. She is everything that I knew she would be. I figured she would have to be very feisty and headstrong in order for Fela to really listen to her. I was like, “She’s a baaaaad girl!” He was able to listen to her and wanted to do what she knew he could do. I think she saw his true potential. I think he was very passionate about things, and he had every right to be passionate, but it’s like when you’re arguing with someone and they don’t know the facts. I like how Sandra Izsador wanted to teach him history so that, when he went out and talked about things, he had a great foundation to stand on. What’s funny is that his mom was telling him the same stuff Sandra was telling him. But sometimes it takes someone else telling you in order to get you to see it. He respected, honored, and adored his mother. But I think it’s the same with us growing up: Our mom and dad can tell us things and we act like we’re not listening, but then someone else can come along and tell us the same thing and we hear it.
There was an amazing African-American cultural renaissance in the 1970s. Can you talk about that part of the show, and the way it captures that Afrocentric movement where consciousness was staring to expand exponentially?
The past two nights that I’ve been back with the cast, every time we do that part in the show, people in the audience clap because they name some amazing names– Malcolm X, Nicki Giovanni, Muhammad Ali.... I think they clap because it takes them back to those times. I do appreciate how that stuff is in the show. I think Sandra wanted Fela to also know that, from Africa to America and America to Africa, we were all dealing with the same thing. But we all still have a long way to go to realize the things that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were trying to teach us back then. We’re getting better, but we’re not all the way there.
Where do you want to go from here in your career? Do you want to keep dabbling in all of these different things?
It seems like I’m seamlessly able to do it all, and I want to continue to do so. Eventually I want to delve into some of the behind-the-scenes things, such as developing artists and helping those that are coming up.
I know you wrote a new song for the Destiny’s Child compilation. Have you guys talked about doing any future reunions?
When we did the compilation, we knew that we should definitely put one new song on this album because people have been soooo supportive of Destiny’s Child throughout the years. We were very excited to do this song together. Like I said earlier, it’s like we picked up where we left off. We were excited because we were, like, “Man, we sound great together!” The harmonies are beautiful. So every now and then, it'd be great to get back together to do something. But we don’t have any specific plans.