I'm the Netflix star Shawna Hamic and I cannot wait to bring my outrageous show 'Unfortunate' to Blackpool

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Take a look at our exclusive interview with the star of an outrageous musical comedy heading to Lancashire next week.

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch takes to the stage at Blackpool Grand Theatre between Tuesday, May 21 and Friday, May 24 and stars Broadway and TV star Shawna Hamic (Orange is the New Black, 1776) as the lead role Ursula and River Medway (RuPaul’s Drag Race) as Ariel.

Before the cast splash into Blackpool with their must see show, we were able to catch Netflix star Shawna for a chat about all things Ursula, Blackpool and body positivity, see what she had to say below:

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What is Unfortunate?

Shawna: “Unfortunate is the untold story of Ursula the seawitch, it’s her side of the tale that we're very familiar with from the Disney movie, The Little Mermaid. So Ursula has been cast as a villain, obviously, for good reason, but this is a chance for Ursula to tell you her side of the story in a very fun and adult and fishy way.”

Shawna Hamic stars as the lead character, Ursula, in the musical 'Unfortunate' coming to Blackpool next week.Shawna Hamic stars as the lead character, Ursula, in the musical 'Unfortunate' coming to Blackpool next week.
Shawna Hamic stars as the lead character, Ursula, in the musical 'Unfortunate' coming to Blackpool next week. | submit

What is Ursula like and do you relate to her in any way?

Shawna: “I do! Ursula was always my very favourite animated character when I was growing up. Partly because I like a bad girl - because who doesn't - but I liked the fact that she represented something that I am. She's a big girl and back in that day, when Little Mermaid came out, there wasn't a lot of me on screen to see and to admire so it inspired me in ways, even though it was animated, that made me happy. So she's always been my favourite villain and now I get to play her! 

“But she's more than just a bad girl, Ursula, or in our version, at least. She's more fully fleshed out and has a backstory that she wants to tell people and so getting to play that every night is really really a joy.”

So is your love of Ursula the reason you auditioned for this show?

Shawna: “Oh yeah, they asked my agents if I'd be willing to audition but really it was more this show specifically because there's so many messages in our show of body positivity and embracing who you are, and what you bring as an individual to the world, that anything you are is acceptable, who you love is acceptable and should be celebrated. That's very important to me in my everyday life, to show that people like me, that people that maybe are considered ‘other’ by society, have value and import and should be celebrated more.”

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Unfortunate tells Ursula's side of the story we all know from Disney's The Little Mermaid.Unfortunate tells Ursula's side of the story we all know from Disney's The Little Mermaid.
Unfortunate tells Ursula's side of the story we all know from Disney's The Little Mermaid. | submit

Do you mean people judge you because of your size?

Shawna: “Of course… it's still a discrimination that you face every day, society wants us to be a size zero and if you're a size two, they think of it as big. Like, it's an absurd standard to try to live by, especially in the entertainment industry, but in everyday life too. Every single person that has messaged me  has been so thrilled to have somebody on stage that they can see themselves in like I saw myself in an animated character. 

“I feel like it's still one of the most acceptable discriminations nowadays, that there aren't a lot of protections for discrimination based on size. Growing up, everybody assumed I was lazy and untalented just because of my size and so while I may have started to be a performer to prove something, it's not the way it's worked out, now I just get to be myself but I know there's a lot of people that that think ‘fat’ if that makes any sense. As a person of size, it's just assumed you're not talented or that you can't have value in the world when in fact you can be talented and you can have value and do have value just by existing so this is my my attempt to show that. We all have something to offer and I just happen to be a person in a big body.”

Most people will probably know you best from Orange is the New Black- how does acting in a show like that differ to a show like Unfortunate?

Shawna: “Oddly enough, as big a profile as Orange is the New Black is and continues to be even though it ended many years ago, it actually was the first professional project that showed me they wanted me exactly like I am. In musical theatre, I show up for the fitting for the costumes and I bring all of the undergarments that I normally had to wear on stage, you know, things that suck you in because god forbid you flip flop a little bit, your tummy pooches out a little bit. So I had all of that with me [for OINTB] and the head wardrobe designer looked at me and she was like ‘those look really, really uncomfortable, how about we just tailor your clothes so that you look great and you're not uncomfortable, and you're just who you are.’ And it blew my mind because I didn't know that that was an option.

Shawna attends the Orange is the New Black Season 7, World Premiere Screening and Afterparty 2019 on July 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Netflix)Shawna attends the Orange is the New Black Season 7, World Premiere Screening and Afterparty 2019 on July 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Netflix)
Shawna attends the Orange is the New Black Season 7, World Premiere Screening and Afterparty 2019 on July 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Netflix) | Getty Images for Netflix

“I didn't know that there would be this giant show and I could be cast on it and then they would just want me exactly as I am. It changed the way I allowed myself to be treated by other projects from literally that moment on, I kind of don't take any more crap about my size from anybody in the industry anymore. So Oranges is the New Black changed my life on lots of levels, both ones you see in everyday life, like casting projects, but more it changed something in the way I saw myself and the way I allow myself to be treated and I'll always be grateful to that show for that.”

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And what’s your experience been like so far doing Unfortunate?

Shawna: “Oh, everybody is so lovely. I mean, I'm the lone American, which is so interesting. I have to be like ‘can you translate that for somebody who doesn't live here? What do you mean by that? Who is that person?’ So there's some references that I didn't get and it's funny, because they're like, ‘Oh, you don't have that in America?’ and I’m like ‘No.’ Like Itsu, I didn't know it was a sushi restaurant chain, I thought it was an abstract artist. So it's been very interesting to realise what I don't know, and some of them are very silly, but it's been lovely that they've been very patient with me and helping me learn British-isms. 

“So everybody's really, really lovely and I'm excited to work with everybody everyday. Tom Lowe is my Triton and he's so dreamy, it's so nice but just everybody's so talented and so welcoming. And I've been happy to go to all of these cities now that we're touring around, because every place I go to is new.”

Ursula with the "dreamy" Triton, played by Thomas LoweUrsula with the "dreamy" Triton, played by Thomas Lowe
Ursula with the "dreamy" Triton, played by Thomas Lowe | submit

How you feeling about coming to Blackpool?

Shawna: “ I've never been to Blackpool and I'm so excited about it. We saw the ad that the Grand had put out, just this fabulous ad for all the things around Blackpool that showed we were coming and it's really excited to hopefully be wanted as much as it seems that we are.

“It's also a seaside town and it's going to be warmer, which is nice. I feel like maybe the closest place it connects to the US is maybe Coney Island since I understand that it's sort of a pleasure town where things happen, fun and games. Blackpool has been for a while now one of the ones that I was like ‘Oh, this looks like it's gonna be fun, it looks like the people are gonna be amazing’, just based on comments and videos and where it’s located. So I'm really excited to bring our show and to have people that want to come and have a good time and celebrate who you are individually. I think Blackpool is a town that will embrace us.”

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Are you going to be doing anything else in Blackpool whilst you’re up?

Shawna: “I'm gonna have to look it up. I mean, send me any recommendations you want because I don't know what I should see! I definitely want to go to the shore. I definitely want to wander around. I think you guys have a tram system so I'll just get on the tram, and I'll take it to where it ends and then come back just to see the locale and to see what it has to offer.”

What about going to the famous Pleasure Beach Resort?

Shawna: “Um, I'm older! I do like roller coasters so yeah, maybe, but I don't want to scream because then I'll ruin my voice for the show. But I like people watching and I think that that feels like it would be a good place to people watch, so I'll have to check all of that out. I'm sure my cast is gonna go on the rollercoasters, let's be honest, and I will try not to be the old fuddy duddy who doesn't go with them.”

Some of Shawna's cast mates: River Medway (Ariel) and Jamie Mawson (Eric)Some of Shawna's cast mates: River Medway (Ariel) and Jamie Mawson (Eric)
Some of Shawna's cast mates: River Medway (Ariel) and Jamie Mawson (Eric) | submit

And finally, why should the people of Lancashire grab the remaining tickets?

Shawna: “You know you want to have a good time, you know you want to bring your friends and just enjoy a night out away from all of the troubles of the world. And we can offer you that, we can offer you a fun night, that's a little bit naughty and a whole lot fun so come and have a good time with us, we think you'll love it.

“We really do want you to leave our show, fully embracing everything that is yours individually to offer. We want you to love who you are and celebrate who you are and I think it's really admirable in the world that would rather try and put you in tiny boxes to fit the mould that here we are trying to tell you to do the opposite - break out of those moulds and just celebrate your individual joys and sorrows and realise that not every story you think you know, you might not know fully you know what I mean?

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“There's always another side to a story and maybe we can open your minds a little bit more and and share something that's maybe silly and funny but also offers a chance to just take a moment to pause, to go ‘am I seeing the whole story or is there more I should learn?’ And I think that's something we should all do in the world to try and live better lives and maybe our our show can help you do that so come see us!”

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