Jeanna de Waal—Broadway’s Diana—on Bringing the Royal Musical to Netflix
The Diana hair is always a thing to nail. Is it your real hair, or a wig, and how did you attain the perfect Diane coif?
Okay, it’s definitely a wig and I will let you in on an exclusive. The wigs were one of the most challenging things to nail down. I can’t tell you how many times—we changed the wigs like 25 times. In act-one, she has the thick hair, but it’s short, and as soon as I moved, it stood away from my head. It was impossible. All these wig experts, literally like the best wig people in New York, were just crowded around the table being like, “How do we solve the wig issue?”
You’re British. What do you remember most about Diana from growing up? Did you come from a family who was a fan, or not a fan of the monarchy?
My mom and my grandma loved her. There was a palpable feeling that they cared about her. They were protective of her. The day she died, I remember that being a very somber moment in our household. I remember my mom talking to a friend that had snapped pictures of her in her workout gear at the gym, and my mom seemed personally offended. The other thing is my grandma always used to say how much my mom looks like Diana. It’s funny now that I’m playing her.
Speaking of full circle moments, I read that, once upon a time, you were catering or waitressing at an event with Prince Harry?
I used to cater in college and I was personally in charge of keeping Prince Harry’s Champagne glass topped up. Another funny catering story is, the New Year’s Eve before we were about to start Diana: the Musical at La Jolla Playhouse, January of 2019, the choreographer and her associate were coming around the corner at a party, and I was the caterer. And they were like, “we’re starting rehearsals with you next week!” Catering has played a heavy part in my acting journey.
There are so many outfit changes in Diana: the Musical— I was astounded at all of the iconic looks worked into the show, from her big, bibbed maternity dresses to the “fuck-you dress,” as the song goes. But, logistically, how are you changing so frequently and so quickly?
I mean, I come off stage, I stick my arms out and like five people jump on me. We would have rehearsals, like, “We did it in 17 seconds. Oh, we’ve got to get down to 11.” Those costume changes are a drill.
What are you anticipating for the long-awaited opening night—are you going to be sobbing? Drinking all the Champagne?
Well, the scary part of opening night, normally, is that’s when you find out if you’re a hit or not, do people like it or did they think it was terrible? That will have already been, I guess in some ways, determined [because of the Netflix airing]. I’m so thrilled to rip the band-aid off.
How much do the reviews matter to you?
Oh, I’ll be proud no matter what. And I’ll also have this incredible film to show my grandkids one day. What being a hit or not means to me is whether I have a job next year and can work as a Broadway artist, which would be fantastic, or if I’m back to catering and auditioning. That’s just the reality of it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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