Nadine Whiteman Roden became smitten with performing at a young age. While she didn’t pursue her dream right out of the adulthood gate, she eventually fell down the musical theater rabbit hole, with a foray into film and TV not far behind.
Nadine booked a starring role on Peacock’s Take Note after amassing a significant body of work, including appearances on Workin’ Moms, Kim’s Convenience and Shazam!. The musical comedy series focuses on a group of contestants in a reality singing competition à la American Idol and its antics.
Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Nadine about her character on Take Note, what fans can expect for the series, her favorite musical theater role and what’s on the horizon.
This interview is edited for length and clarity.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Nadine Whiteman Roden’s story?
Nadine Whiteman Roden: I have always wanted to be an actor since I was in my nursery school’s musicals and Nativity. I played Mary in the Nativity with a Joseph, who didn’t want to be in the picture with me. He looked like he was gonna burst into tears. When you see the picture, it’s pretty funny.
When I was about 26/27, I was married and had a house and all of the things, and I thought, “Is this it?” I wasn’t entirely happy. So, I opened up the yellow pages. Yes, I’m that old — I looked up community theaters in my area and auditioned for every one of them.
That led to doing Second City courses and taking vocal lessons with a couple of teachers in Burlington, Ontario, to auditioning for Mamma Mia!. I got Mamma Mia!. I did one of those open cattle calls, and that’s how I got started.
MM: Let’s talk about Take Note. What’s the show about, and how did you get involved with the project?
NWR: Take Note is a fictionalized reality singing competition show. I play Drea Richards. The mother of Calvin Richards, played by the wonderful Braelyn Rankins. We uproot our whole family from Atlanta and move to California to support our son’s dreams of becoming a singer. It’s fun! It has a lot of old-school music, nostalgia and songs written for the show.
You get many music videos, fun comedy and kids are amazing. Then, you have heartfelt, beautiful scenes with the family. It’s got a bit of everything.
MM: How does Drea fit into the overall narrative for the season?
NWR: Drea is the voice of reason and a grounding force for the family. She’s a no-nonsense “mama bear,” as it were. At the same time, Drea loves to have fun. She’ll do anything for her family; she will walk through the fire if necessary.
Drea’s that mom everybody wants. That one who’ll go to the wire for you. She’s the one keeping the family together — she’s fun.
MM: Do you share any similarities with your character?
NWR: I’m not a mom, but I’ve always been told that I’ve got a bit of “mama bear” in me. A lot of my friends say to me, “If you need somebody to go to the mat for you, it’s Nadine.” I feel like I’m similar to Drea.
If you’re in my camp, you’re in my camp, and I’m going to go to war to do what I need to do for you. Family and friends are the most important things. Drea’s that person — her family and friends are essential to her. I’ll tell it to you straight, too. I’m not afraid to do that … with a bit of sugar.
MM: Describe this show using three words.
NWR: Musical. Funny. Heart.
MM: What can audiences expect for this season?
NWR: Audiences can expect to be surprised. I think it has all the makings of a family show that’s funny and light, but it has wonderful-hearted and profound lessons woven into the show’s fabric. You’re going to see incredible performances from these kids.
Audiences … haven’t seen a show with all the makings of this; it doesn’t talk down to people. It’s intelligent, funny, fast-paced, flashy. I’m so excited about it. I can’t wait to talk about it in less generic terms. I want to talk about specific episodes.
MM: If you were auditioning for a singing show, what song would you choose for your audition?
NWR: I’ve done musical theater, and I love musical theater, but having people film your audition makes me want to cry a bit. Maybe “It’s a Man’s World.”
MM: Oh, that’s a good one!
NWR: I think that would be a good one.
MM: Speaking of musical theater, since that’s how you started, do you have a favorite role you’ve done thus far, and is there a dream part you’d like to play?
NWR: I would probably say that Trix, the Aviatrix in The Drowsy Chaperone, is one of my favorites. That show is so fun. They dressed me to the nines. It’s a great number — it’s fun and quirky. Again, it has heart. It’s a beautiful show. Is there one I want to do? I would love to play Mame.
I would love to play Auntie Mame in the musical version of Mame. I think she’s lovely. I don’t have kids, but I always thought that that’s the kind of auntie I would love it to be: rich, fabulous, taking them on trips around the world and showing them things their mom and dad wouldn’t. The best way to get kids to know the world is to immerse them in it, you know?
MM: Manifest it. It’ll happen!
NWR: I’m working on it! All my nieces and nephews are too old, so I need them to have children.
MM: Do you have advice for aspiring creatives looking to break into the industry?
NWR: There’s so much advice I wish I had been given. The biggest thing you have to know or believe is that you need to love it. Like it’s the air you breathe. Like it’s bread and water. You need to love it so hard that when those bumps happen; when you get knocked down; when the no’s happen — there will be lots of no’s — you have to believe in your heart that “yes” is around the corner.
Keep striving toward that “yes.” The other thing is to find a mentor. I didn’t have that when I started. I try to make myself available to younger artists to ask questions. I love to help them navigate that.
As a Black artist, there weren’t many of us to ask those questions of. It’s wonderful that now there are more of us around and [we’re] accessible.
You’re probably taking classes and going to school, but you have to love it and be confident in yourself. Know you’re worth it, and you’re enough. You are, as one of my acting teachers says, “You are the answer to their problems.” They don’t know it. You have to know you’re the answer to that problem when you walk into the room.
MM: Is there anything else on the horizon for you, career-wise?
NWR: I’ve got a movie called The Swearing Jar that’s coming out. I’ve got two more films. One is called My Loving Stalker, and the other is called Stolen Hearts. Stolen Hearts was a true story. I don’t know how much I can say, honestly, because I signed an NDA on that one. Half of the cast got to go to Greece — I was not part of that cast.
MM: Pretend you’re in Greece.
NWR: I closed my eyes on a sunny day … (laughs) I was in Greece.
I have a couple of animations coming up that I’ve signed NDAs for. So, I’ve got quite a bit on the horizon.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting lately?
What else have I watched that I loved? So many. It’s terrible. I love streaming services. What happens is I rush through them so fast I forget what I watched.
MM: I’ve been there!
MM: I love Resident Alien! That was one of my favorites from last year.
NWR: I agree. One of the directors from our show did the first few episodes. It’s so good.
MM: Name your favorite films.
NWR: One of my favorite films is The Color Purple. I’ll watch that movie anytime, anywhere. It gets me in my feelings. What else do I love? This is going to sound weird … Jesus Christ Superstar from the ’70s. Absolutely loved it. I loved Black Panther.
MM: I love Black Panther!
NWR: That movie. I finally felt like I was seen. It was a movie where you went, “Oh my goodness. Look at us Black people being amazing.” Our incredible technology, smarts, beauty; our strength is Black women. Not only because we’re strong from the things put upon us, but we’re just strong. We’ll kick your ass. It was an awesome movie, and I loved it.
Wonder Woman was … gorgeous, strong, fabulous … I loved that movie.
MM: I’ve always wanted to see them together in a movie, so this is perfect.
NWR: Watch Fences. That’s a great movie and play.
The original animated Jungle Book. I’ve always been a musical person. My whole family plays music. My brother is a musician, and my niece is a wicked fantastic singer. My uncle plays sax. Everybody’s got musical talent.
I can remember [The Jungle Book] making me want to dance and sing. Everything about it was mesmerizing. Color Purple and Jungle Book might be my top two. I’ll watch them anytime.
MM: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Nadine! Congratulations on everything. I’m excited about Take Note!
NWR: Thank you, Melody!
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