Get to know Shanice Williams: The breakout star from 'The Wiz Live!'

Shanice Williams isn’t in Jersey anymore! The 19-year-old is following the yellow brick road alongside Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo and more in the NBC production of The Wiz Live! Here are five things to know about the budding star who plays Dorothy.

Photo: Paul Gilmore/NBC

1. She's a Jersey girl.
Shanice knows a thing or two when it comes to missing home. The actress, who hails from Rahway, New Jersey, attended school across the country in Los Angeles. “I can totally connect with missing Home,” she told NBCBLK. “It's super easy to connect with Dorothy. I told [director] Kenny that Dorothy and I are the same person. We really are.”

2. She’s been connected to The Wiz long before the NBC production.
The young actress and musical go way back. “I was one of the ones in my generation who actually did connect with The Wiz,” the actress revealed to NBCBLK. “My dad and I would have our special moments where we'd listen to the soundtrack in the car every time we went out.” The Jersey native added, “I connected with it, and I was in love with the story way before I got this part.”

In fact, this isn't the first time she's starred in The Wiz. Back in junior high, Shanice performed in her school’s production playing Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North. At the time she was “too scared to audition for Dorothy,” she told the Post.

3. Broadway star Audra McDonald is her inspiration.
Shanice looks up to a six-time Tony Award winner as her muse. "My biggest inspiration is Audra McDonald," she told NBCBLK. "[Audra] kills Broadway. She kills TV. She kills film. She does it all. And I want to be just like her."

4. She beat out 600 plus Dorothys!
Before Shanice snagged the role of the heel-clicking character, there were a few, and by few we mean hundreds of others, who auditioned for the part. “We saw over 600 young women with a broad range of experience,” director Kenny Leon told the Post. "But I was drawn to a specific light in Shanice’s eye."

Stephanie Mills and Shanice Photo: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

5. She has the original Dorothy's seal of approval.
Stephanie Mills, who originated the role of Dorothy in the Broadway production of The Wiz, joins Shanice on stage in the live show portraying Auntie Em — and it appears she's happy with her successor. The 58-year-old revealed to E News!, "I told [Shanice] that this is her Dorothy. I don't want her to try to live up to what I did. It's hers. I passed the torch onto her."

Catch Shanice Williams on The Wiz Live! when it airs Thursday, December 3 at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.


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