‘Girls5Eva’ Star Renée Elise Goldsberry Is Envious of Wickie Roy’s Entitlement

For Wickie Roy, there is no such thing as a creative process; if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.

The unapologetically attention-hungry, vocal powerhouse of “Girls5eva” lives each moment as if she might find a spotlight and stage around every corner. Or rather, it might find her. With a Rolodex of vocal riffs at the ready, Wickie is just waiting for fame to come calling.

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Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays the natural-born star in the Netflix comedy, wishes she could walk through the world as aloud as Wickie. So, in order to play her each season, Goldsberry’s process is simple: let go.

“I believe as actors we get a license to set some crazy things free within ourselves, and that’s what Wickie gives me,” Goldsberry tells Variety. “A license to not only dress and style myself in a certain way, but a freedom to not check the part of me that feels like it is important to share anything.

“It is so liberating for me. Especially as I get older, I feel like it is less appropriate to allow your ambition to grow. Sometimes I feel like — especially as a mother and a wife and feeling really blessed to have had some wonderful success in my life — it feels most appropriate to settle into gratitude and say, ‘This was great, wasn’t it?’ And that is just not Wickie. She feels entitled, and I need her help to feel entitled.”

The Tony winner gushes over the incredible ensembles she’s been a part of, including the original Broadway casts of “Hamilton” and “The Color Purple.” She adds her Girls5eva group mates Sara Bareilles, Paula Pell and Busy Philipps to that illustrious lineup. But she also knows that inside every performer, there is that hunger to seize the spotlight for themselves, and Wickie has no interest in pretending it doesn’t exist.

“I feel like she was always a professional,” Goldsberry says. “From the moment she was conscious, she announced, ‘Alright, world. Here I am!’”

For Season 1, Goldsberry gave herself over to the character created by Meredith Scardino. However, she was adamant that Wickie should have great hair wherever she went, a level of perpetual glam that hair department head Takisha Sturdivant has perfected. Other than that, Goldsberry let Wickie take the wheel.

“When I was first gifted Wickie, I went in blind,” Goldsberry says. “I let them dress me up and put these brilliant words in my mouth and let me figure it out as I went. It felt so wonderful and natural and satisfying that, when I got into the second season, I was concerned that I might be too self-aware, and I might play at the idea of her. I remember saying to Jeff Richmond, who directed the Season 2 premiere, ‘Check me, please. If she has gotten so big in my mind that she is not real anymore, check me.’”

After one take, Richmond reassured her that Wickie was still as authentically boisterous and lovable as ever, and “I haven’t looked back,” Goldsberry says. In Season 3, Girls5eva is on the road touring to support their comeback album, but Wickie worries they’re losing their drive. She motivates the group by booking the biggest stage of their career: Radio City Music Hall. Unfortunately, the date she chose is Thanksgiving morning, meaning the girls are on the hook to sell out an impossibly inconvenient show.

“Wickie always recognizes it is up to her to keep this going,” Goldsberry says. “She is the engine and the one steering them off the cliff so many times.”

While on the road, Wickie’s story about her “hardscrabble life” growing up in a broken home comes crashing down when Girls5eva visits her parents, who are perfectly normal and overly indulge their daughter’s self-aggrandizing worldview. When her friends start to question her deception, the ever-prepared entertainer is ready to explain the technicalities of her lies (that hardscrabble life is because her family was just really good at Scrabble!). At first, she’s defensive, but as they lob her elaborate stories back at her, Wickie becomes defiantly proud of her theatrical web of lies.

“Sometimes, the preparation of a theater performer just really fuels me in ‘Girls5eva’ and that was one of those moments,” she says. “I memorized that scene like it was one big monologue with breaks for them to throw their lines at me. It was just so brilliant because I feel like Wickie has always been prepared to confront her past. In the way she so carefully crafts her vocal riffs, I think there is a Rolodex in her mind for all of her improvisations with the truth, which is probably what she told herself this was. That is why she was ready for them to come for her.”

Despite anxiously waiting all day to shoot the scene, a tight schedule meant Goldsberry had to do it in one take. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve been waiting to do this my entire life!’”

In a way, she has. Goldsberry hesitates for a moment before admitting this, but her process for becoming Wickie began when she was a kid. Riding shuttles with her parents, she treated every interaction with a stranger as if it would become this imprinted brush with future stardom they would look back on.

“I would smile at random people and think that they don’t know it yet, but they are on this shuttle with someone who is going to be a star, and one day they are going to look back and I want them to know I was kind,” she says. “That would cross my mind as a little girl!”

It’s why she recognizes Wickie’s constant hustle to hurry up and get to the good part of her dreams. “I understand that once you decide that this is what you are meant for, then it can be confusing in your life to just randomly be in high school,” she says.

But Season 3’s cliffhanger puts Wickie closer to stardom than ever before. Her solo song, “Yesternights,” is sampled in the (fake) finale of “The Crown” and goes viral, a la Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” after “Stranger Things.” This comes right after Girls5eva musically declares that “The Medium Time,” a satisfying stop short of the big time, might be their destiny. Over three seasons, Wickie has grown to see that fame might not be what she thought it would be. But with an unexpected shot at it, can she resist the big time?

As “Girls5eva” awaits news on a fourth season from Netflix, Goldsberry is ready to watch Wickie evolve into her true form — the superstar.

“Every time I hear someone pull back on ambition, I always think, ‘Oh, they are about to blow up,’” she says. “I honestly don’t know what the writers are going to do, but I think just the fact that there is an awareness that their energy is no longer going to be thrown forward but focused on sisterhood and love and where they are, I think they might just blow up. They might just get everything they think they want. Wickie has never had that before, and I would be fascinated to see how she handles it.”

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