Who: Zakiya Baptiste
What: Actress, who will be playing Violet Beauregarde in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at The Saenger Theatre from February 11-16, as part of the 2019-2020 Hancock Whitney Broadway in New Orleans season.
Q: When do you think that strength and persistence go too far?
ZB: It’s always good to be strong and certain of who you are as well as what you can and can’t do. Of course, being persistent is how I got into this business, and how I got this job, but I will say, if your strength or your persistence is harmful to yourself or to another person, then it’s gone too far. You should really take a minute, reevaluate the situation, and realize that there’s probably a better way to approach it.
The way I see it, if it means that much to you, you’ll find a better way of handling the situation. I would never want my ambition to get in the way of bettering myself or bettering someone else.
Q: You’re playing Violet Beauregarde in Broadway’s Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so you get to live in a candy land for part of your day, and we’re going to extrapolate that. If you could create a hotel room where items could be made out of anything you wanted, what would you choose for:
ZB: It’s a cheap option, and maybe also the most obvious one, but I would choose marshmallows. It would be comfortable, and if I got hungry, I could just nibble on my bed every now and then. It’d be awesome.
How about the desk in the hotel room?
ZB: I wouldn’t be opposed to a Jolly Rancher desk. I would have to be careful to not let it get wet because it gets too sticky, but I feel like that would be a great material. It would be durable, and you could break off a chunk whenever you wanted — not that I like damaging hotel furniture, but this is a fantasy I’m in. [Laughing].
How about the bathroom sink?
I do think a chocolate fountain is always very nice, but I would add something a bit special. When the fountain flow gets warm, caramel also comes out. The sink itself would be made of graham crackers.
And what about the floor?
Jelly Beans. You could make cool patterns with the colors and shapes.
Q: If you won a Golden Ticket, where would it take you?
ZB: Broadway in the Lion King. Even if it was for just one night, it would be a perfect show where I get to play Rafiki in front of my family, my friends, and all the strangers in the audience. It would be a full-fledged family experience.
Q: What do you think your twenties are for?
ZB: I would love to say travel and experiencing your true self — what that really is. I’ve always known that I wanted to be in the performing arts, and I figured out eventually that it was theater that I wanted to do, so I pursued it very hard. In my 20s, I feel like I’ve been pushing to make that a complete fact of my life so that theater is genuinely what I am doing as much as I physically can.
With that also comes appreciating the life that I have. I have responsibilities but none that are keeping me down to a single spot, so I travel and see the country. That’s how I get to see new places, meet new people, and figure out myself so I can start preparing a life for the person I am and want to be.
Q: What is something that you would like to investigate in life?
ZB: I’ve always had this other love of teaching and working with kids. I’d like to delve into early childhood development and the tactics to nurture the creative side of kids. I feel like we all understand that there’s art, and we understand that there are things that are not just a nine-to-five job, but we don’t always nourish the arts outside of that. I’d like to find programs and kids that love the arts but don’t know what to do with that love. We often see the arts as a hobby, or we force people to turn it into a strict career path, but that’s not for everyone who loves the arts.
I would like to nourish that love and curiosity in order to create a safe space for children to find other options for themselves. If they’re really good at drawing, we’ll go to museums; we’ll go to workshops; we’ll brainstorm and figure out how to cultivate and nourish their love in a way that isn’t restrictive. You can be an engineer and a singer; you really can do both. If you like singing, you may not have to go into acting; there may be other options, and I’d love to help kids find those other options.
You can see Zakiya Baptiste perform in the role of Violet Beauregarde in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at The Saenger Theatre from February 11-16 as part of the 2019-2020 Hancock Whitney Broadway in New Orleans season.