4th May 2023
Interview: Chris Richmond
Photo Credit: Corinne Louie
Grease, the beloved movie and musical, is back on our screens after almost fifty years - but not as we know it. Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies is a new series for Paramount+ which chronicles life at Rydell High before the arrival of a certain blonde-haired Australian and her hip-thrusting companion. Madison Lagares plays Frenchy, a role originally played by Didi Conn, in the new adaptation - we were lucky enough to speak to her about her role in the show, the audition process, and stepping into the shoes of such a iconic character.
First of all, what can you tell us about Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies? What was it that appealed to you about the show?
Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies is the story of four outcasts attending Rydell High who want to band together to make a difference. The show is a prequel set four years prior to the iconic movie Grease and dives into the story of why and how the Pink Ladies were formed. From the moment I was sent the audition information, I knew I had to go for it. I had already loved Grease prior and to be given the possible opportunity to be a part of the story was just so amazing to me. Plus 31 original songs by THE Justin Tranter and choreography by THE Jamal Sims?!?! I knew I had to do it.
You play a younger version of the iconic Frenchy. What was it that appealed to you about the role? In what way is your version of the character different or similar to the film version?
Frenchy is honestly such a fun character to play, and she was extremely similar to me in a lot of ways. She was energetic, social, welcoming to anyone, sassy as all heck and super loyal. I knew that being given her role would be such a blessing, as I could bring Didi Conn's iconic version of this character and add a little bit of myself into her. I love how the show touches on her background, and we get to learn more about her and how much of a secret troublemaker she is. I also love the friendship between her and Rizzo. It's a duo no one ever thought they needed... but they do... and now they have it! Frenchy+Rizzo=FRIZZO so, #FRIZZOFORLIFE!!!
How much - if at all - have you been inspired by Didi Conn's performance in the original movie? What are the difficulties and challenges of playing a character that's already been played so famously?
I think at first for me imitating Didi Conn's adorable sound along with the fast talking was a little difficult when rehearsing. Sometimes the voice would be perfect but I would slur my words because I was talking too fast, sometimes I would be at the perfect pace but I'd lose the voice. It was hard at first but once I found that register, (and watched the original Grease 38 times) I managed to perfect it and get it to where it needed to be. I also had to do my homework on a lot of her facial expressions so that I could allow the audience to feel like they are seeing the younger version of the iconic character. Didi Conn is such an amazing actress and being able to take on after her is such an honor for me. I just hope she’s proud (:
What was the audition process like? How much did you reference the movie in the audition? How did you feel when you got the role?
When I first got the audition, we were still at the peak of COVID, so auditions were done as self-tapes (an actor records themselves on video performing the scenes and sends it out to the casting directors), and callbacks were on Zoom. I originally had a tough time adjusting to the virtual aspect of the audition world and was nervous I wouldn't be able to connect with the casting directors and producers as well as I would have been able to in person. Luckily, I did. When I got the audition, I sent in my scenes, my song to show off my voice, and a quick dance video. Once I got the callback, I did the same thing but with notes. I had about 3 or 4 callbacks in total and within those callbacks, I got to know everyone involved in the casting process. I also was able to refine my scenes, take their notes and started getting comfortable making the scenes my own. Even now when I look back at my original audition tape to the final result on screen, it is SUCH a big difference and it's so cool to see. The moment I booked the role, I immediately broke down into tears! I was so immensely excited to be able to be a part of this amazing series.
Single art photo credit: Marie Tenaud
You're also an accomplished singer and have been featured in Broadway musicals and released your own singles. Do you get to do much singing in the show? How does the music compare to the music from the original movie?
Music has and always will be such an essential part of my life, (I have a new song titled “Us Against the World”...Go stream!) and in season 1 of the show, I don't have any songs, however hopefully if there is a season 2, I'll have some fun musical numbers! The music in the series is so amazing. I have no words. When I was in Vancouver filming, the first song I heard the demo to was "New Cool” and right at that moment, I knew everyone would fall in love with the music and with Justin Tranter's ability to make a song so catchy, yet with such a powerful message behind it.
What would you like to perform in next? What would be your dream role?
I have so many dream roles, so honestly this is such a hard question for me to answer. I have always wanted to be a part of anything post-apocalyptic/dystopian. I've been reading those books and watching shows like that for as long as I can remember. Since I was young, I've always played dramatic roles (for example, a hostage being held at gunpoint in the TV show Blindspot), so I'm comfortable doing emotional roles like that. However, lately I've been really into comedy and comedic roles! I love being able to deliver funny lines and make people laugh across the screen. With comedy, there's so many acting choices you can make and I love that about it. In regards to dream roles, I would love to play Christine in Phantom of the Opera. It's been my dream ever since I would watch the movie in my car seat on the way to kindergarten each day.
Do you have a dream co-star?
I would love to work with Natalie Portman. I think she's such a well-rounded actress. She could literally play any role known to man. She's such an inspiration to many actors and actresses out there in the world, and I think being able to work with her and learn from her would be a dream.
Do you have any new projects or music we can be on the lookout for?
I'm constantly putting out new music and in the process of writing and recording some more original songs in the studio. I've also been a part of a few readings for upcoming Broadway shows.
Where can we follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Instagram @madisonlagares and TikTok @themadisonlagares