Inside the Green Room: Interview with Shawna Hamic from Unfortunate

Before the critically acclaimed smash-hit parody musical Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch comes to Exeter Northcott in June, we caught up with Shawna Hamic (Orange is the New Black, 1776 on Broadway) about all things Ursula!

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Hi Shawna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up playing Ursula in Unfortunate?

Shawna: I’m an actor who is based in NYC. While I’ve been focused more on TV and film roles, I had just finished playing Richard Henry Lee on Broadway and in the National tour of 1776 when I received the call from my agents asking if I’d be interested in auditioning for the role of Ursula in Unfortunate. I hadn’t heard about the show before that moment, but Ursula has always been my favorite Disney Villain and I have always wanted to play her! So I gladly accepted the audition and it all went from there.

Production shot from Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch: Ursula sits singing whilst surrounded by puppeteers who are wearing leather harnesses and holding singing jellyfish puppets. Ursula is spotlighted in pink whilst the others are bathed in deep purple lighting.
Photo by Pamela Raith
Production shot from Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch: ‘teenage’ Ursula wears thick glasses and a cropped denim jacket as she is serenaded by a boy in a letterman jacket. He stokes her face as he sings and she appears to be smitten with a shocked expression on her face. They are stood by their school lockers, which are covered in doodles.
Photo by Pamela Raith

Are there any similarities between your personality and Ursula’s personality?

Shawna: In our story, Ursula had a traumatic childhood and as a big gal I experienced that myself. The name calling, the feeling of not being wanted or understood merely because you look different than most people around you. Those experiences shape you into who you can become. I think they either make you stronger or they break you in ways from which you can’t recover. At least not without help. My career is one where rejection is your constant companion. It’s just the nature of this business. Oddly enough, I was used to rejection, so while it hurts and can damage your soul for a while, I have the tools to stay strong and keep moving ahead. I believe in myself. I think Ursula is the same. She’s gifted in ways others aren’t and has successfully made her way in a world that would prefer she fail. I know it is our originality and our imperfections that we should celebrate. Our show helps remind our audiences that they should celebrate themselves in the same way.

Where did you draw inspiration from for your role?

Shawna: Well in my mind there wouldn’t be an Ursula without Pat Carroll or Divine. So I pay homage to those icons for sure in a tone of voice or gesture, but I am my own Ursula. Like I said, I have always wanted to play her because I know there is a part of me that is Ursula. Not the murdering, soul stealing witch, but rather the woman who rejoices in her own power and has the strength to go after what she wants.

Production shot from Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch: Ursula sits smiling upwards with her arms gracefully raised with a microphone in one hand. She looks empowered and majestic as she is raised in the air in front of a large disco ball and multicoloured stage lighting.
Photo by Pamela Raith
Production shot from Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch: Ursula is lit by a light source from below as smoke rises from the ground. She looks concerned. Behind her, Sebastian worriedly holds onto Triton.
Photo by Pamela Raith

For anyone who hasn’t been to see the show yet, could you tell us a bit about it?

Shawna: Unfortunate is the story of The Little Mermaid, but from Ursula’s side of things. It shows how and why Ursula became the octowoman she is and shows why you might not know what really happened. It’s a naughty, fun, and fabulous journey back under the sea which reminds us all to celebrate what makes you, you.

What is your favourite song in Unfortunate?

Shawna: I really do love the music in our show (written by Tim Gilvin, Robyn Grant and Daniel Foxx), but the song I always look forward to singing is Suckin’ on You. It’s an amazing 80’s/90’s pop duet which I get to perform with my glorious Triton – Tom Lowe.

I want audiences to leave the theatre celebrating what makes each of them unique. What do they offer the world and how can we use those unique qualities to make the world around us better? I think we need laughter and joy and all we can get of them to help each other. I hope our show brings a lot of each to everyone who comes out to see Unfortunate.

Shawna Hamic

Thanks, Shawna. We absolutely cannot wait to see you as Ursula in Unfortunate at the Northcott!

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