With a great head toss, a twinkling soprano, and a lot of sparkles, Johnson is changing that. “We can show in art that people of color can be the leading characters, not the best friend,” she says. “People who are not an airbrushed version of beauty—not only those people get to find love. Then maybe we won’t be so judgmental of each other in real life because we’ll see, ‘Oh! These people are the leading characters in their lives too! They’re not just accessories in my life.’”
Johnson has performed on Broadway stages, she’s worked as a swing, an understudy, and a standby, and now she’s smashing through boundaries. She’s nobody’s accessory. She joined Glamour for a round of Doing the Work to share how she got from endless audition lines to Glinda’s towering bubble.
My childhood dream
I wanted to be Mariah Carey. Also, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer.
My first job
I worked as an administrative assistant at my high school during the summers. I would take summer school classes and work. I took my job very seriously, and I was very good at it—I’m very organized.
One thing I’m a perfectionist about
Everything, until I realized that you can’t be. I am a planner. I thrive when I know that things are organized and I have my lists that I can check off. And then life happens to you and you’re like, “Oh! None of that matters.” I still like to know what the plan is, but I’m learning to be more spontaneous as I get older.
The most misunderstood thing about my job
People think that this is an easy job! They think that it’s easy to get this job, and it’s something that you just kind of do for fun on the side. [Laughs.] It’s not that! It takes a lot, a lot, a lot of training and sacrifice. And it is so hard to get a job because there’s so many people that want to do this. Any time that you book anything, it’s cause for celebration. We make it look easy—it’s not easy.
A piece of professional advice that has stuck with me
My first job out of college, I worked with a lot of—I say older actors, but I’m their age now. What I learned from them was the importance of prioritizing your life, not just your career. Because time moves so fast—I’m really noticing it now. I’ve been a working actor in this business for a decade now. In this industry there is a lot that we sacrifice because of the schedule. People come to watch us do our job on holidays, which means we’re not with our families. That’s something that has been really tough for me. I learned from them to really think about the kind of life I wanted to have and to include my career in that but to try not to make the career your full life. And I haven’t always taken that advice—I haven’t always been able to.
The people who taught me to set boundaries
My mom. And my therapist. And myself. Learning what I will and won’t accept, what kind of energy I want to accept in my life, has taught me that I have to have boundaries. But therapy is a big help! I recommend it.
How I deal with disappointment
I feel it. The first thing I do when I’m disappointed is I let myself feel it and grieve it. I let myself have an entire experience around it so I can close the circle off and move forward. I used to—if I didn’t book a job, I would sit in it. “What should you have done differently? This is why it’s your fault!” That wasn’t helpful. It would make me sit in this disappointment of myself for weeks after, and then it would start affecting other things. So now when something bad happens…first of all, there is always a pint of ice cream in my freezer, but also, I let myself experience the full breadth of it. And then I’ll move on. But you can’t really do that unless you experience all of it.
Advice I wish I could give my younger self
Stop taking yourself so seriously! It is not that big a deal! Everything that you think is a big deal is not a big deal! [Laughs.] It’s just life! Go on that trip! Live! Live a little bit, Britt! You’re not going to regret having experiences.
My favorite thing about my job
I have so many favorite things. My very favorite thing, though, is when I get to see firsthand how it’s affecting other people. The great thing about the theater is that everybody is having that experience at the same time. It’s different than the movies. We’re all having the experience at the same time. If somebody finds something funny and they’re cracking up, other people are going to hear it. That’s so special.
My workday essentials
I have a couple of rituals. I do a mini yoga workout beforehand. There’s a song that I have to hear and dance a little bit with my dressers and my hair people before I go on. It’s become a tradition; we always listen to “Dancing in the Moonlight.” It gets me pumped up and makes me happy.