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Tony-Award Winner Patina Miller Headlines Charlotte Jazz Festival

Patina Miller
Jennifer Broski
Patina Miller, actress on CBS political drama Madam Secretary

She's best known as Daisy Grant on the CBS political drama "Madam Secretary" and she's also a Tony Award winning singer and actress. Patina Miller will take the stage Saturday night at the Knight Theater for the annual Charlotte Jazz Festival. She spoke one-on-one with WFAE’s Nick de la Canal about returning home to the Carolinas and paying homage to Nina Simone.

Nick de la Canal: Hi Patina, welcome.

Patina Miller: Hello. How are you? Thanks for having me.

de la Canal: I'm fine and I'm so happy to have you. So let's briefly start from the beginning. You made a name for yourself on Broadway throughout the 2000s and in 2013 you won the Tony Award for your lead role in Pippin. How's life been since then?

Miller: Life has been wonderful. Life is beautiful. And a lot of my dreams came true and they continue to come true. I got married and now I have a 20 month old. While being a working mother. So life is full, but super exciting.

de la Canal: On Saturday, your performance in Charlotte is going to pay tribute to Nina Simone another great musician from the Carolinas. What's the significance of your decision to sing Nina Simone?

Miller: Well the significance for me being a young black girl early on in my career I always listened to Nina. I always loved listening to her music and her music inspires me. You know from a very young age basically just to know that I can do and be anything that I wanted to be. And Nina was just authentically herself. And that was inspiring. You know it was inspiring to hear and inspiring to see. And why not pay homage to a woman who made it possible for people like myself to do what we get to do, you know, unapologetically?

And she showed me my strength, she showed me that it was okay to be strong and have opinions and just be yourself as a performer. And it's something that I admire. It's something that I want to impart on young people who listen to me. So it was a no brainer that I've always loved Nina Simone’s music and what she stood for and just her passion and the way that she was just had such an influence on a generation. You know why not?

de la Canal: So as we mentioned you're a native of Pageland, South Carolina it's about an hour south of Charlotte. I'm curious what musical influences you may have grown up with and what inspired you to become a musical actress?

Miller: Well, I should say I grew up singing in the church. So all of my musical influences growing up were just my grandmother, my mom, women in my church and women around me. Musicals didn't come until later in my life. And that was when I was around like eight or nine years-old, when I first understood what a musical was. Like, I could act and sing. That’s something that I could do. And so that was my first foray into the musical theater realm with Jennifer Holiday. You know? Seeing Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph all those divas in Dreamgirls. Heather Headley, all of them. Audra McDonald. That's where I started to really find my groove and see that I could do this. You know, there were people who looked like me, there were women that looked like me doing this thing that I wanted to do and so it really set me on a path to make my dreams reality.

de la Canal: Yeah. Finally what does it mean to you to come back to the Charlotte area and perform at the Jazz Festival this weekend?

Miller: Oh, it means a lot. I have never performed close to home, and it just seems right. It just feels good to be so close to home and be at the Charlotte Jazz Festival. I'm just so honored that I was asked to come and share my talents with everyone in the Charlotte area.

And I'm just really looking forward to us having a good time all together celebrating Nina Simone. And if you didn't know Nina Simone hopefully you'll leave and you'll want to hear her amazing music. But come hear my interpretation of some classic tunes written or performed by her so I'm pretty frickin excited.

de la Canal: Patina Miller, Broadway performer, you can also catch her on "Madam Secretary" as well as other programs and she performs this weekend in uptown Charlotte as part of the annual Charlotte Jazz Festival. Patina, thanks again so much.

Miller: Thank you.