How Hamilton Alum Phillipa Soo Gives Life to Another Strong Female Lead

Interview   How Hamilton Alum Phillipa Soo Gives Life to Another Strong Female Lead
The original Elizabeth Schuyler takes on a new role with CBS’ The Code.
Phillipa Soo as Lieutenant Harper Li in<i> THE CODE</i> on CBS Television Network.
Phillipa Soo as Lieutenant Harper Li in THE CODE on CBS Television Network. Photo: Sean Micah/CBS 2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Natasha of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Elizabeth Schuyler in Hamilton. The titular heroine in Amélie. Three original, daring, fresh roles; one actor. Phillipa Soo has been ahead of the curve in pursuing and originating strong women on the stage—and now she brings that same verve and vulnerability to her newest endeaver: television.

“Ultimately, for me, I‘m driven by great storytelling and great rooms with great people, and I‘m really enjoying working in this medium,” says Soo.

Phillipa Soo in <i>Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812</i>
Phillipa Soo in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 Chad Batka

Having made her TV debut in the fan favorite Smash, the Tony nominee returns to the screen in CBS‘ The Code, a new courtroom drama that follows Marines who also work as attorneys, prosecutors, and investigators. Soo plays Lieutenant Harper Li, a new Marine struggling to prove herself to her colleagues and family.

READ: Phillipa Soo Lands Role in CBS Pilot The Code

“She comes from a privileged background,” says Soo. “She went to law school and got out and instead of joining the family firm, she decided to join the Marines and serve her country.”

Soo, who has portrayed numerous strong female characters, finds yet another juicy role in Harper. “I think there‘s an assurance that I find in Harper—that she‘s driven and she‘s ambitious but she‘s still just so self-knowing—that I've found in a lot of other characters that I've played: young women who just know that's the path that they want to take so that's the path that they choose,“ she says.

Of course, no show has brought that message to the forefront the way Broadway’s Hamillton has and Soo recognizes the platform the Lin-Manuel Miranda opus has provided her and the legacy of which she is a part. “I look around at everything that‘s happened and I think ‘Oh wow, this is bigger than any of us,‘ and I could never have known that being in it.“ she says. “Now that I'm outside of it, I can sort of appreciate it and see it grow and at the same time, I still feel a part of it and I always will feel a part of it.“

Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones in <i>Hamilton</i>
Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones in Hamilton Joan Marcus

In fact, starting April 27, she will virtually reunite with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the creatives behind Hamilton to bring “Hamilton: the Exhibit” to Chicago. The two will be auditory guides through the life and times of Alexander Hamilton in an immersive 360-degree experience that will tour across the country after rounding out its sit in Chicago at the end of the year.

But fear not, theatrelovers. Despite her new steady gig on the small screen, Soo has no plans of leaving the theatre. “Of course I would come back to the theatre. I think that‘s the goal, actually,“ she says. Earlier this month, she made a one-night-only appearance in Nassim, the Off-Broadway play where a new actor takes the stage each night to perform a script they’ve never seen before.

READ: Phillipa Soo, Patrick Page, and More Join Nassim Off-Broadway

Amelie_Production_Photo_Broadway_2017_01_0221r_Phillipa Soo in AMÉLIE, A NEW MUSICAL, Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017_HR.jpg
Phillipa Soo Joan Marcus

Soo aims to gain experience in all aspects of the industry. “I want to know how people do their jobs so that I can do my job better, and maybe one day do another job that's not being an actor. Maybe produce, maybe write. We‘re all storytellers here, why not take a leap?“ she says.

“To be able to live and work and sustain yourself and enjoy the people that you're working with and feel like you're telling impactful stories, whether that's in front of an audience or behind a camera, it just depends on fate.“

The Code premieres on CBS April 9, 2019 at 9/8C. Check your local listings.

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