Tituss Burgess on ‘Annie Live!,’ playing the villain and representation on screen

·2 min read

Exclusive: The actor and singer also teased Celina Smith’s performance as Annie, calling her a “treasure.”

We are just hours away from NBC’s Annie Live!, and Tituss Burgess is ready to get villainous. In an interview with theGrio, Burgess shed light on his representation of Rooster, working alongside Taraji P. Henson, Celina Smith, and other cast members; and the importance of diverse representation on stage and screen.

Burgess is no stranger to musical theatre. While many fans may know him from his Emmy nominated role of Titus Andromedon in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or as James Cleveland in the 2020 film Respect, Burgess got his start on the stage, having originated the role of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid on Broadway in 2007.

However, Burgess never thought much about Annie until recently.

Tituss Burgess thegrio.com
Tituss Burgess attends the opening night of the “Purple Rain” at Radial Park Drive-In Experience at Radial Park on October 15, 2020 in Astoria, New York. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

While he always thought Rooster was a “fun part” through its various iterations, the actor always wanted to give the villain Miss Hannigan a try instead. “I always wanted to play Miss Hannigan, honestly…I never really thought about Rooster’s part in how this whole thing moves,” he explained.

“As I dived into it the last couple months it has been terribly satisfying to be so villainous, and so oily and plotting and scheming. I’m having a really good time diving into this!”

This iteration of Annie offers a new take on the beloved musical, especially in the representation department: With most of the leads being people of color, and specifically Annie being a little Black girl, Burgess is most excited to see on-camera diversity.

Tituss Burgess thegrio.com
(EDITORS NOTE: This image has been converted to black and white. Color version available.) Tituss Burgess attends the premiere of MGM’s “Respect” at Regency Village Theatre on August 08, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

“I think I am most excited to see so many diverse people on camera and how it kind of just doesn’t matter,” Burgess shared. “I’m excited for the world to see young Celina, she just is a treasure this young lady! She brings so much joy and humility to this role, and so much heart! She’s just great and you guys are gonna love her. She’s wonderful!”

Annie Live! airs Dec. 2 only on NBC.

ANNIE LIVE! — Pictured: “Annie Live!” Key Art — (Photo by: NBC Entertainment)
ANNIE LIVE! — Pictured: “Annie Live!” Key Art — (Photo by: NBC Entertainment)

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