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While We Wait On The Wicked Movie, Broadway’s Brittney Johnson Talks History-Making Gig As First Black Actress In The Glinda Role

Brittney Johnson as Glinda in Wicked stage musical
(Image credit: Getty)

Brittney Johnson may have taken the stage as Glinda in Wicked more than a few times over the last couple years, but the actress has always been cast as an understudy or last-minute replacement. Now that the hit musical has reopened after a long hiatus, and the Wicked movie is preparing to go into production, Johnson is taking her rightful place as Broadway's first full-time Black Glinda - and she really couldn’t be happier. 

In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Brittney Johnson chatted about taking on the mantle of Glinda (once known as Galinda) in Wicked on Broadway. It’s a historic moment for the theatrical community, especially for audience members of color, and Brittney Johnson is thrilled to see the positive impact her performance will have on future generations. She said: 

It only fuels me! There are so many stereotypes that have been put on us as Black people, and as especially as Black women. In this entertainment industry, everything is closely guarded for us: what we can and cannot play, how we can be seen, how strength is viewed when it’s on a Black woman. Having a character who literally personifies goodness — who, when she walks into a room, people are drawn to her, they want to know her, they want to be her, they just want to be close to her, Glinda the good — is a different role for girls like us. Having a person who, without saying a word, without qualifying her, we already know that she is good — having that person come out on stage and be Black, it means something.

Brittney Johnson became the first Black actress to play Glinda back in 2019, when she was cast as an understudy. The Broadway show had been running since 2003, meaning that over fifteen years had passed without a woman of color ever playing the Good Witch, even in a part-time capacity. Every viewer deserves to see themselves represented in their favorite musical, especially one that has been on Broadway for such a long time. Johnson is well aware of the power better representation can have on an audience. She said: 

Even if you're not thinking about that at all, it's going to inform your opinion about Glinda based on your experience as a Black woman, or as somebody who knows Black women or doesn't know Black women but only have seen how we've been portrayed in the media…I have always wanted to leave an impression with people that when they go back out into their lives and they encounter someone else who looks like me, because of their interaction with me, they will always give that person the benefit of the doubt.

The role of Elphaba is also not exempt from Wicked’s historically homogenous casting: Alexia Khadime is the only Black woman to have played the Wicked Witch full-time, and that was from 2008 - 2010 on The West End in London. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise to find out that Tony Award-winner  Cynthia Erivo had been cast as Elphaba in the upcoming Wicked movie., opposite Ariana Grande's Elphaba. Directed by Jon M. Chu of Crazy Rich Asians, the film will be an important step towards better representation in the theatrical industry. And with Brittney Johnson at the helm of the stage show, it’s hopefully just a matter of time until the denizens of Oz reflect the entirety of their audience. 

You can catch Brittney Johnson as Glinda the Good Witch eight times a week in Wicked on Broadway. The Wicked movie doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’s finally set to kick off production this summer following a previous March start date. In the meantime, you can check out these upcoming movie releases that will defy gravity in 2022. 

Actor, singer, and occasional dancer. Likes: fashion, books, old buildings. Dislikes: cilantro, the NJ Turnpike, sneaker wedges.