There’s a moment in the second half of sitcom Girls5eva when Wickie – as played by Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry – the certified diva of the show, erupts in an on-stage rant and yells out “Cease and desist, bitch!” By this point in the series’ first-season run, Wickie (and, by extension, Goldsberry) had already established herself as a hilarious, endlessly quotable character, but it’s the catchphrase-revealing scene that cements her status as a new TV icon.
While packed with jokes and snappy one-liners, Girls5eva – which follows a girl group that had one hit in the ‘90s trying to make the most of a sudden comeback when a rapper samples their song – it also contains so many more layers. “[This show] is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate so many women who are in their 40s and 50s who are redefining what sexy is,” Goldsberry tells us over the phone from Connecticut. “There’s this group of women who are continually redefining what we’re allowed to do, and I wanted to be a part of the group who are talking about it.”
It also didn’t hurt that the series was created by Meredith Scardino (known for writing on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), executive produced by Tina Fey and features an all-star ensemble that includes Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Sara Bareilles. Ahead of the series’ Canadian premiere – catch it starting on June 3 on the W Network, or streaming through the Global TV app or STACKTV on Amazon Prime Video – we caught up with Goldsberry to chat all things Girls5eva.
What appealed to you about Girls5eva and your character, Wickie?
I have always loved whenever we got a little bit of a girl group or a boy group – [whether] failed or successful. It always feels like candy. So a whole show about a one-hit wonder girl group was really exciting to me. And what was even more exciting was that this was a group of women who had a tremendous amount of success and had lost it. I’m at an age in my life where I no longer think of one-hit wonders as failures – I actually am impressed by the fact that they had a hit and were ever successful in any way. I loved the idea that this group of women had the audacity to think that they still had something to say together. I just think that’s really beautiful. I started out in the world of pop music when I was in my late 20s and was told I was too old to do so. So for these women [on Girls5eva] to do it is revolutionary and amazing.
The idea of reframing how we view success or failure is something we all have to learn. How did you get to that point in your career?
We have to continually examine our definition for success, because the goalposts change in ways that are not positive. You can have a Tony and a Grammy and all kinds of success, but depending on the lens you’re looking through, you can still feel like, “I’m not successful.” You have to take ownership of what your definition of success is because the world isn’t going to necessarily hand you something that’s going to work for you. People [treat] one-hit wonders like a joke, but that’s ridiculous because of the odds those [artists] broke to create something that moved everybody – even if it was just one thing. Your value isn’t associated with how successful you are, or how many hits you had. The audacity to say that you’re an artist makes you interesting to me, and makes your perspective valuable.
You alluded to it a bit earlier, and while doing press for the show, you’ve talked about how you tried making it in a girl group of your own in the ‘90s. Now that you’ve had the chance to play in a fictionalized version of this world, do you wish that anything had gone differently earlier in your career?
I don’t. I don’t know that I would have made the same choices and ended up where I am. I am very happy with my life. There’s that cliché “with every door closed, leads to [another] opened,” and I believe that’s true. I believe that in my personal life and in my professional life, things happened exactly the way they were supposed to. Some of the greatest opportunities I had came from other opportunities that seemed missed, or seemed like failures or losses. I’m grateful for those things. It’s fun to look back and remember the me who kept trying in spite of the failures – that person is the one who’s going to keep me going, because there’s failure in my future. I don’t focus on what I didn’t get, I focus on the person who kept trying.
You’re also working on your own album right now, and you’ve said that you want to steal some of Wickie’s “obtuse ambition” during that process, which is a great way to describe Wickie’s drive. Why is that aspect of her something you want to bring into your own work?
She’s a lot more unapologetic than I am. I’m extremely ambitious, but I’m much more accepting, as you can tell from what I said about things that don’t work out. Wickie handles “no” differently than I do, in ways that I can learn from. Not every “no,” should [be responded to] with, “Okay, I’ll try something different. Nevermind.” There’s something to learn from someone who doesn’t quite hear no. There’s something pretty awesome about a woman who feels entitled to every single dream she’s ever had, and assumes that if you [tell her] no, you’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life. We shouldn’t apologize for wanting to fulfill our dreams, for being aware of our talent and value. Wickie feels that she’s extremely valuable, and I don’t know that all women feel entitled to saying that out loud. There’s some arrogance in that – arrogant is not a bad word to Wickie. There’s a little seasoning in that that we should all probably add to ourselves – especially if it’s rooted in being good at something and fighting like hell to share it with the world.
Catch Girls5eva starting on June 3 on the W Network, or streaming through the Global TV app or STACKTV on Amazon Prime Video
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.