Ashleigh Prince spoke with Lindsay Heather Pearce from Mean Girls about her role as Janis, previous roles in her career, the 2004 Mean Girls film and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Ashleigh: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. Today, we are going back to high school and we’re checking in with the Mean Girls tour. Today, we have the pleasure of talking to Lindsay Heather Pearce! Let’s talk about the character you play and when you joined the tour.
Lindsay: I’m Lindsay Heather Pearce and I play the unbelievable Janis Sarkisian on the Mean Girls national tour. I joined the tour on the 23rd of May, but I started rehearsals the week prior to that. So, I’m still new and I’m the fresh meat of the school right now. It’s been awesome and it’s been a really great time so far.
Ashleigh: You are no stranger to Broadway. You are fresh off of Wicked where you were playing Elphaba. I mean, people are just totally obsessed with your portrayal of Elphaba. I was so excited to talk to you because who doesn’t love Wicked? Whose life wasn’t changed by Elphaba and her story? One of our interns, Cris, and I would like to know, what has that transition been like from Elphaba to Janis?
Lindsay: We now call it the Elphaba-to-Janis pipeline because the Janis before me was the incredible Mary Kate Morrissey, who was Elphaba on the the second national tour. I don’t think there’s a lot of distance between the two. I think that they’re pretty similar in creed and energy. The only thing is, Elphaba would never trick her best friend into ruining someone else’s life; that’s a bit of a Glinda move. Besides that, they’re both outspoken, artistic, driven and loyal, maybe to a fault. All in all, they are kind of badass and great and just the best characters ever.
Ashleigh: I feel like I could see Janis singing “Defying Gravity,” and I could see Janis fitting into that role well. Elphaba would be singing “I’d Rather be Me.” There would be a Freaky Friday moment there that would work out well.
Lindsay: Yeah, I agree with you. I think Elphaba is no stranger to being the art freak and Janis is no stranger to being the froggy, ferny cabbage. I think she gets it. I think they both get it. There’s a different kind of maturity in Elphaba that I don’t think Janis has reached yet, but that means Janis is just having the most fun all the time because all bets are off when that wig and those boots go on. It is the best.
Ashleigh: This is such an iconic character. If I’m an alien, if I am totally unfamiliar with Broadway and if I’m totally unfamiliar with Mean Girls, what is the story about?
Lindsay: Mean Girls is about a junior class of students in Chicago at a school called North Shore High. Our lead character is Cady Heron, and she is a transferred homeschool student. She was being homeschool by her parents in Africa studying wildlife. It follows her journey of entering into the jungle that is high school without any social skills. There’s a line where she doesn’t know how to break into the pack of high school and compares high school to wildlife. She is befriended by two very quirky characters named Damian and Janis. Damian is the musical theater freak, Janis is the art freak and together they are art freaks. We then meet the Plastics, the group of the most popular girls in school led by the queen bee, Regina George. We find out that Janis and Regina have a dark past together. Eventually these two make like an alliance with Cady and vow to take down Regina George.
Mean Girls is about what happens when you dethrone a queen and another queen takes her place – maybe it’s Cady – how that happens and how quickly the hierarchy of high school can shift.Lindsay Heather Pearce
Ashleigh: I love that, in Mean Girls, that there’s a slight Julius Caesar plotline.
Lindsay: Very much so! It’s very, “Et tu, Brute?” for sure.
Ashleigh: Every time I watch it or when I’m explaining it to people who maybe still haven’t seen the movie, I always say, “Have you ever seen Julius Caesar? Okay, Julius Caesar in high school plus teen drama.”
Lindsay: It’s funny because in the movie, Gretchen Wieners does an entire paper about Julius Caesar and how Julius Caesar is Regina George.
Ashleigh: The show is just filled with heavy, heavy hitters. One of the book-writers, Tina Fey, is an incredible comedian who did “30 Rock” and so many other things. The composer Jeff Richmond did “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Nell Benjamin did Legally Blonde, and director Casey Nicholaw did The Book of Mormon. How could it get better than that? It is concocted in such an artful way and it is a box office smash.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s so fun.
Ashleigh: What about Mean Girls drew you to this role, to wanting this place with Janis?
Lindsay: I have always loved the movie, which came out of my birthday in 2004. I have a distinct memory of going to see it, and I just loved Janis. I loved the hair in the film with her clips and her dark hair, her skirts, her Converse and her mesh-like gloves. I loved her and that was who I wanted to be when I was young. I just wanted to live loud, be 100% myself and not care, and I didn’t have the courage to do so. When the musical came out, I thought the music was so fun. I remember seeing some performances on Jimmy Fallon and the Tony® performances and I was like, “God, this just seems so much fun. These show runners for the show are amazing and the cast is incredible. They’ve somehow turned the movie into a good musical.” While I was still in Wicked, an audition came through my pipeline in mid-February for Janis. I was like, “No way. That’s a dream. I’ve never toured before, so that would be incredible. If I could even dream for one second that I could book this and go from Wicked to Mean Girls, that would just be unreal.”
Lindsay: Thank God it worked and thank God it happened. It just felt like home and singing the songs and doing the scenes in the audition just felt awesome. It was just a tape; I sent the tape in and didn’t think anything. I was like, “People don’t watch tapes.” Apparently, they watched that one, thank God. I did a couple more auditions, and I didn’t want to let myself hope for it because sometimes you feel like you jinx yourself, you get a little let down or you’re not the right person for the part at the time. I’ll never forget, I was about to head to The Gershwin Theatre to go do a show and my agent called me to let me know that I booked the tour. She was like, “Do you want to go on tour with Mean Girls?” and I was like, “Stop it! Get out of here!” which is how she broke the Wicked news to me, as well. When I found out I booked Wicked in January 2020, she was like, “How do you feel about moving to New York to play Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway?” I was like, “I will crash this car right now if you keep messing with me like that.” I think it was just the best thing to do after doing a show like Wicked. I think I was in a working mindset and I don’t think these two characters are very far removed from one another. It feels kind of like a gentle ease out of Elphaba into something slightly different, but still kind of in the same wheelhouse, so it’s fun.
Ashleigh: It is so funny that you said that Mean Girls came out on your birthday because Mean Girls day, October 3, is my birthday.
Lindsay: Oh my God, that’s hilarious!
Ashleigh: Most of my life I’ve had people go, “It’s October 3rd, it’s October 3rd!” It just solidifies that this movie is so special to so many people. I’ve heard rumblings of the Broadway version coming to film, so it’ll be a movie-turned-musical-turned-movie again.
Lindsay: If it happens, it’s going to be amazing.
Ashleigh: I’m all for it. Mean Girls will be here in Worcester from October 11-16. Not exactly on Mean Girls day but just after, so the spirit is still there. Between the movie and musical, what are some of the key differences? I know that social media is one.
Lindsay: Yeah, obviously the movie came out in a time where we still just had flip phones and maybe a Sidekick or two, for those who remember what the Sidekick phones were. There is a whole scene in the film where a call takes place on handheld landlines, which just seems archaic now. It’s wild because that was only about 20 years ago. I think the differences is off-the-cuff. The movie was funny, tastefully ridiculous, huge, out-there and almost toeing-the-line, but not quite out-of-line. I think the musical does the same thing, but in a more modern sense. You get to know Janis and Damian a little bit more in the musical.
Janis and Damian the narrators of the musical whereas in the movie, Cady is the narrator. I love that they are welcoming in the freshmen; you, as the audience, are freshmen coming into the theatre.Lindsay Heather Pearce
Lindsay: We are like, “Before you enter this high school, let us tell you a tale of what not to do, including what we’ve done.” We do the entire show, and then at the very end, we give them one last piece of advice before the final number. It’s just a really great way to bookend the show, and I think you just get a little more opportunity to zoom in on characters like Regina and you get to know her a little bit more. The show really humanizes a lot of characters that don’t get a lot of time that they would normally get. I think the film is unbelievable, but I feel like you are with Cady during the entire film, whereas in the musical you get to know Gretchen, Karen and Regina and you fall in love with these people. There are definitely villains, but everyone’s mean. That’s the thing, it’s not just the plastics. You find out that mean is a lot of colors. We still have Glen Coco, obviously. You can’t do it without Glen Coco. We’ve got Trang Pak, “crying girl in the auditorium,” Shane Oman, Coach Carr and Mrs. Norbury. We have all the great characters that are still there, but we also get the added bonus of a full ensemble. In the film, you get a lot of interviews with these different characters being like, “Regina George wore army pants and flip flops, so I wore army pants and flip flops.” We have moments like that, but I’ve never seen an ensemble do what this ensemble does with their dancing and their acrobatics. They never stop moving and pushing set pieces around. Sometimes I just want to give them a hug and thank them for their work, because they’re just so incredible. I think it’s just awesome. I think it’s a real look into how fun and terrifying high school can be. Those are the major differences I would say.
Ashleigh: It’s just been a staple in popular culture for so long.
Lindsay: It really is.
Ashleigh: I have to know, what is your favorite Mean Girls line? When you’re going through your GIFs to respond to the group chat, what do you go for?
Lindsay: There is a GIF image that I think is unbelievably hilarious and it’s applicable to everything. It’s when everyone’s visiting Regina at home in her hospice bed, she’s in her spinal halo and she’s just half-heartedly smiling and waving at everyone. I was like, “If that’s not me after a two show day, I don’t know what is.” Just kind of a little bedridden, a little in pain, high off the experience and just very happy to be there. It’s just Rachel McAdams in that bed just smiling and waving, and I think it’s hilarious. I also really love, “Danny DeVito, I love your work.” I think it’s just the best. I think anything Damian says is just delicious. Also, “Say crack again,” “Crack.” I love the relationship between those two. Anything that is Janis and Damian I just can’t get enough of.
Ashleigh: I think my go-to is, “She doesn’t even go here.” I also love the, “It’s not my fault you’re obsessed with me or something.” That has to be a personal favorite of mine. I want to circle back to you and your career before you come to The Hanover Theatre in Worcester for the very first time. We are so excited to have you.
Lindsay: I’m so excited.
Ashleigh: Yes! It’s going to be so great. I can’t wait for you to see the city and bring all that wonderful Mean Girls energy here. Let’s talk a little bit about you and what lead you here. We talked about Wicked, but what have you done before this role? I’m seeing “Glee” on your bio.
Lindsay: Yeah, I did. My first really big job was “The Glee Project,” which then launched me into “Glee.” That was a really cool experience, talk about a wonderful fan base! Really diehard, really passionate and just unreal. What a great introduction into the television and film industry to basically be doing musical theatre on TV. That was a really great learning opportunity and I was really humbled by “The Glee Project” and “Glee.” I think I was 19 and 20 when I did those projects in that work. I moved to LA and I had the added benefit of knowing people in LA because I did “The Glee Project” and “Glee.” I didn’t totally move to a city not knowing anyone and being alone, so that was great. I lived in LA for almost 11 years and I did theatre there. We did the Bare Los Angeles revival of that show and the regional premiere of Spring Awakening. I’m really grateful that I’ve hopped from these incredible puddles, puddle to puddle. I did the grind that all actors do and that I may likely do again one day where you’re being a hostess during the day, auditioning when you can and going to rehearsal at night; it’s just the actor grind. I’ve done all of it and it’s all incredible. Some of my favorite jobs I’ve ever done were not equity jobs. Some of the best experiences and the best people I’ve ever met were working non-union and community theatre productions where you’re getting paid in drink tickets or $15 a show. You’re getting paid peanuts, but you’re there because you love it. I’ve gotten to do incredible TV shows and series.
Lindsay: Funny enough, here’s a fun connection to Mean Girls; I was on a show called “Recovery Road” on Freeform and Danny Franzese was part of that show. We worked together for weeks making that show happen. When he found out I was going to be playing Janis, he was like, “I can’t handle it.” It just feels like it has come full circle. He’s such a wonderful human being. I was like, “To play a character that you got to be with on film is really, really cool.” When I posted and announced that I was going to join the tour, he posted some comment that was absolutely iconic and hilarious where he was like, “I can confirm. She does go here.” I was like, “Oh, I’m dead.” I had a lot of friends tell me that it just feels right. It feels right that you’re there and that you’re going from one thing to another. I’ve just been really lucky in my career; don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked really hard, but it’s a lot about being at the right place at the right time with the right amount of preparation. When it’s right for you, it’s yours, and when it’s not right for you, it isn’t. I can’t tell you how many “Nos” I’ve gotten. Certainly more “Nos” than “Yeses,” but it just makes the “Yeses” so sweet and so delicious. I know that work does not always come back-to-back this way and I’m grateful for that.
Ashleigh: I stumbled across your TikTok when you announced that you were taking over the role and that you were leaving Elphaba. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so amazing,” before I even knew I was going to be talking to you. It is going to be delightful to follow you along on your journey while you’re on tour. You can make some TikToks here at The Hanover Theatre, I would not be opposed. We are super, super excited to have you join us here in Worcester.
Lindsay: I’m so excited!
Ashleigh: For listeners out there that are getting ready for Mean Girls and cannot wait to join us for this unforgettable experience, it is October 11-16. Tickets are currently only available to Broadway subscribers, but they will be available to the public this fall so keep an eye on our website, TheHanoverTheatre.org or head to our Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or TikTok. Keep an eye out for those single tickets because I have a feeling these are going to go very fast.
Lindsay: Do it! Get tickets!
Ashleigh: Lindsay, do you have any parting words for our audience today?
Lindsay: Thank you for supporting live theatre, and come and enjoy the show with us because the whole point of us doing it is to give it away. It’s to give it to an audience, and the audience is just as much a character as we are. Come join us for the musical.
Ashleigh: Do you have a “Janis-ism” to close the show?
Lindsay: This is sort of a line in the Janis voice; “Just come have an amazing time with your amazing friends. Just come do that with your awesome friends soaking up each other’s awesomeness. Like, just come do it. Do that with us.”
Ashleigh: Alright, you heard it here. Keep an eye on TheHanoverTheatre.org or subscribe today! We have a really great Broadway season and we cannot wait to join you. Thank you so much, Lindsay, for joining us on Behind the Scenes, and we will see you next week for another exciting episode.
Lindsay: Thanks, Ashleigh.
Ashleigh: Thank you.