Napoleon W. Gladney - Wicked's Newest Addition

‘Wicked’ comes back to the West Coast for another prime performance. A show that has been a past favorite for many will be at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts starting February 20th. For more information please visit:

Napoleon W. Gladney! Courtesy Photo

MS: Congrats on landing a role in Wicked! How did you get your start in acting?

NG: Thanks so much! I actually got my start dancing as a kid. I was always glued to the TV imitating the moves I saw in music videos, award shows, movies, and even ice skating competitions. Eventually I was put into dance at a young age by a teacher I had in elementary school and things just snow balled from there. I did take breaks from performing because my parents thought it would be important for me to be well rounded so I played sports and pursued academic interests as well. No matter what I was doing I always found myself on the dance team or in the school play. I was hooked on performing and wanted to pursue it as a profession in high school. I went to a few summer arts programs in high school and went on to pursue a BFA in Dance Performance from Chapman University. 

MS: Is this something that runs in the family?

NG: Yes and no.  Ironically, my parents don't have much going for them in terms of dancing or singing. My mom did recently join her church's choir, which she has always wanted to do! I'm so proud of her. She finally sees how much time and preparation goes into performing. My mom is a numbers and figures person and has worked in the financial and accounting fields. My father is a consultant that started his career in computer science and IT, so there is a disconnect if you look on the surface. I do have family members that love to dance and sing as recreation. My family get togethers look like a scene out of a movie with people dancing and singing all over the place. I am the only person that has trained and pursued it as a career. So the influences are there.

MS: What were your families thoughts when you told them you wanted to pursue this sort of career?

NG: At first, my parents were a little cautious because they know being a performer is filled with rejection, low income, and instability, but when I really expressed how much I cared about pursuing my career and I worked hard for the training and performing opportunities I had as a teenager, they started to ease up on the worrying. They have always been extremely supportive of anything I've wanted to do. It just takes them a second to let me go on my own journey and make my own mistakes.

MS: Did you always know you wanted to pursue acting/broadway?

NG: Yes! I've always wanted to perform. I'm one of those people that still sweats and wiggles around in my seat when I watch shows. I love everything about this industry and I am so honored to be a part of it. 

MS: How did you prepare (schooling/natural)

NG: I have been training in dance since I was five years old. I still try to take a dance class whenever I can on the road. I have my BFA in Dance Performance from Chapman University, which made me a well rounded person and performer. I am also constantly learning everything I can about my craft. I take vocal lessons, dance classes, and brush up on my acting fundamentals whenever I can. I think natural talent is a great place to start, but training and preparation is what gives people a really strong foundation and longevity.

Wicked! Courtesy Photo

MS: Who is your idol/who would you like to be cast with?

NG: Wow, that's a really difficult question. The funny thing is that I adore and fall in love with whomever I'm working with. I think everyone has such a unique set of experiences and attributes that makes them idol worthy. So many people in this industry, whether a big star or someone just starting out has usually faced some type of adversity and has a great story to tell. I really enjoy getting to know who I'm working with and watching their journey unfold. So I don't have anyone specifically in mind I would like to be cast with. I want to work with everyone I possibly can!

MS: Words of wisdom for anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting/broadway?

NG: Know that you love what you do more than anything, because it does get difficult. See and learn as much as you can. I would also say, define success and some goals early on so you're not floating around.

MS: Future goals?

NG: Book more Broadway shows! I am still a baby in this field and I want to do any and every project or show I can. I just want to take it all in and do it all. I also want to choreograph and teach more. I love working as a choreographer and teacher and I want to transition to the creative side of things when I am older, so I would love to do more creative projects. 

MS: Best way for our readers to keep up with you?

NG: I actually just launched my website! It has links to all of my social media and will keep you up to date on any projects or shows I'm involved with. You can also contact me for performance, master class, and choreography opportunities via my site.


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