When Bianca Marroquín takes the stage in one the world’s most popular musicals, the Chicago star exudes a near-unparalleled spunk, one that perhaps can only be rivaled by the real-life energy she gives off when she’s not playing incarcerated femme fatale Roxie Hart.
The Mexican actress has the same electrifying personality in her dressing room. She’s quick to laugh, genuinely kind and speaks as much with her body as she does with her voice. When Patrick Swayze comes up in conversation, Marroquín looks up to the sky with an expression of grief. When told that a group of Spanish speakers were outside buying tickets before the show, she wiggles her fingers in excitement. And when asked if it’s true that Broadway legend Liza Minnelli told her she was “so f***ing great,” her whole body bursts into laughter.
What was it like getting such a great compliment from Liza Minnelli?
I was on a high for the rest of the month. For me coming from Mexico and idealizing her, idolizing her, and all of a sudden having her come to speak to you. I called my mother, and she just broke down crying on the phone.
You’re the first Mexican actress to have a leading role on Broadway. How does that make you feel?
It’s a great responsibility. At first…I didn’t even know the magnitude of the situation I was in. I had no clue. Now I see myself as an ambassador, representing not just Mexicans, but Latin people overall. So they look up to you. I take it very seriously. It’s an honor if you are able in some way to motivate other people and inspire other people.
How do you inspire people?
Well here are these flowers (in her dressing room). Do you want me to read you the card? It’s from a person from Mexico. It’s exactly what I’m saying to you right now. It says:”Bianca, you don’t know me, but I’m a fan of yours from Mexico who wants to be a theater actor like you. These flowers are” – this is so funny that it’s just right on the point – “are an acknowledgement of your work. Thank you for demonstrating that Mexicans are also talented, as you know.” It’s just a guy from Mexico who wants to follow in my steps, and hopes that one day [he’ll] be there like [me]. You have many personal reasons, but when you get these little cards, you have even more reasons. It just makes it even more powerful.
What are your hopes for Hispanic actors in English roles?
I really want to open doors for Hispanic [actors] here and break the stereotype. I think we have to start creating our own roles. The other day I was watching a movie and [Mexican-America actor] Anthony Quinn was the star. [He had] a thick accent in English, but he wasn’t the dishwasher. He wasn’t cleaning the house. He wasn’t doing those things they always cast Latin people in. He just happened to have an accent.
How do you get ‘in the zone’ night after night to play such a sassy role?
Just the music starts. I don’t know if it has to do with something like when a dog hears a bell and they know they’re going to eat…
A Pavlovian response?
Ándale. Write that down. Pavlovian response. You just have to be open, let yourself go, leave all your problems here in the dressing room and you’ll go there. That way the audience will always have a 100% actress.
And how do you get into the Roxy mindset before the show starts?
Makeup. While I’m doing the makeup, silence. The hair. Start doing the curls. That’s my preparation. I think. I meditate. I think about the show.
Is it hard to detach yourself from Roxy after the show?
No. I leave her on stage. I take my makeup off. You have to close doors, even if it’s daily, you have to close doors so that you can detach yourself, and sleep and cook dinner with your husband. I try to do that. But in the moment I am there, I am Roooooxy!
Do you ever get tired of doing this show over and over again?
It’s different every night. It’s a new audience. From the moment you’re out there, they’re throwing a different energy at you. It’s a different journey every night. Every evening I come home to my husband and tell him a different story about a show I’ve been doing for seven years on and off. I never get tired of it.
How long will you stay with the musical?
Now it’s turned into a relationship between me and Chicago. It’s my fifth time on Broadway, two years on the road, and the Mexico company as well. Every time you finish, though, you don’t know if you’re going to come back. So every time your contract is done – this time mine is done June 1 – as far as I know I’mdone. So every time I take the stage like it’s the last time (she says with a dramatic voice) to do the theater, before you know it, you come back.
If Quentin Tarantino called you right now to offer you the lead in Kill Bill 3, would you leave Roxy behind?
(She shakes her head yes for a few seconds) Sure! I believe in new opportunities and new things. I truly believe in new adventures. Of course. Wouldn’t you?