Susan J. Farese
We are thrilled to share this interview with equity Broadway performer Devon Hadsell, who plays Caitlyn Caussin in the ensemble of the Broadway mega hit – “Mean Girls“! Devon is also a principal role understudy (Gretchen, Mrs. Heron/Ms. Norbury/Mrs. George). She made her principal debut as Gretchen on July 24th.
I have known Devon since 2015 when she performed as Velma (and I was Director of PR/Marketing) in the regional professional production of West Side Story with San Diego Musical Theatre .
The Broadway production of Mean Girls was created by the team of Tina Fey (Book), Jeff Richmond (Music) and Nell Benjamin, (Lyrics), based on the 2004 Mean Girls film, starring Lindsay Lohan.
And now…enjoy our interview with Devon Hadsell
SJF: Thanks so much for this interview Devon! I know how busy you’ve been with the ‘Mean Girls‘ whirlwind of multiple nominations, awards, enduring the hectic schedule of eight performances a week, and then some! Let’s begin with you telling us about where you’re from, etc.
DH: I was born in Santa Barbara and moved to Napa when I was 5. I’m the oldest of 3 and have a younger sister and brother.
SJF: When did you first get interested in performing?
DH: My mom said I was singing before I could talk and dancing before I could walk. She put me in my first musical when I was 5 years old. I played Gretel in The Sound of Music at our community kids theatre which was called Broadway Bound Kids!
SJF: Why did you choose performing as a career?
DH: Since I was a kid, I’ve loved being on stage. There’s nothing quite like performing in front of an audience. My mom put me in dancing, singing, and acting lessons starting when I was 5 years old and I never wanted to stop. Nowadays, I do it because I love inspiring people.
SJF: Anything to mention about your college program at Cal State Fullerton ? Positives, challenges?
DH: I’m so glad I went to college for performing and that I found Cal State Fullerton. I grew in ways I never would have been able to if it wasn’t for their Musical Theatre BFA program. Because of the showcase that the seniors got to do in New York, I found my amazing bi-coastal agent and got a taste of the city before actually moving here! The biggest challenge was managing classes, shows, rehearsals, AND homework all at once, but because I had to do all that at CSUF, I can manage any schedule thrown my way now!
SJF: What do you think your strengths are as a performer? What are you developing/strengthening?
DH: I think my biggest strengths as a performer are that I’m versatile, I’m great to work with, and I’m a fast learner. I’m constantly improving my technique and ability in all fields of performing as well as building up the proper stamina for getting through 8 shows a week for at least the next year!
SJF: Would you like to obtain Master’s degree in the future?
DH: I think a Master’s degree is something I would definitely be open to because I see myself teaching at the college level one day.
SF: Besides your Broadway debut in Mean Girls, Any National Tours? Highs and Lows of touring?
DH: Highs and Lows: I was in the national tour of The Little Mermaid a couple years ago and I absolutely LOVED it! It’s actually what got me my Equity card and gave me enough money to move to New York! What was hard was always packing and unpacking your suitcase after a week or two, but I really enjoyed visiting so many different cities around the U.S.
SJF: Explain the ‘Mean Girls’ Story in a Nutshell…
DH: Cady Heron is a homeschooled student who moves from Africa with her parents (who are biologists) to a public high school in Chicago, Illinois. She befriends the “Plastics”, the three popular, “mean girls” of the school, and quickly finds herself becoming one of them. In the end, she realizes that it’s okay not to like someone, but that we should always be kind and treat people with dignity.
SJF: Tell us about your interview process- when/where, how competitive it was, how many callbacks? Was Tina Fey present?
DH: I went to 5 callbacks for this role. At the first audition, there were over 400 girls who attended. For the callbacks, we did a dance combination and eventually had to sing. At the fifth and final callback, they had narrowed it down to 20 girls, and Tina Fey was present. We had to do the dance combo three at a time and then come in and sing and read sides for all the creatives by ourselves. It was the craziest and most amazing experience!
SJF: I can just imagine the stress and tension with the audition and then those multiple callbacks! Wow!
SJF: Tell us about your ‘Mean Girls’ role(s), Understudying? Etc.
DH: I play Caitlyn Caussin, a high school girl in the ensemble. I also get to understudy Gretchen AND all of the roles played by the Broadway star, Kerry Butler, which are Cady’s mom, Regina’s mom, and Ms. Norbury! I actually made my Broadway principal debut as Gretchen on July 24th of this year and it was AMAZING!!! It was so incredible to get to perform in a lead role on a Broadway stage and to know that the producers and members of the company believed in me too. My family also happened to be in town so they got to see me perform in the role as well! It was one of the best experiences of my life!
SJF: That is so amazing! So thrilled that you made your Broadway principal role debut!
All photos courtesy of Devon Hadsell
SJF: Any advice for BA, BFA, etc. students and others?
DH: Broadway is hard and the work doesn’t stop once you get there. You have to realize that there will be pros and cons just like any other job. You also have to figure out ways to nurture your passion of performing because there are a lot of hard things you have to deal with in this business. Never give up, always push forward with your goals in mind, and never stop training.
SJF: How has it been adjusting to living in NY- roommate(s)? Safety, etc.
DH: Oh my goodness. I am NOT a fan of New York! Haha. Even with a Broadway contract, I miss California every day… It’s a VERY different way of living and it was a hard adjustment at first. When I first moved to NY, I was living deep in Brooklyn and it took me at least an hour to get into Manhattan for auditions, but it was cheap and I had my own room and a lovely roommate. Now that I’m on Broadway, I was able to move to a studio just outside the city along the water that’s only a 20 minute commute. When you move to New York, you have to get used to a different way of living. You have to deal with public transportation, insanely high prices for everything, people being stressed and in a rush most of the time, everything being dirty, and being cramped in small spaces for a lot of your day. This city is not very glamorous unless you have a lot of money haha.
SJF: Ah! But I love going to NY to see shows when I visit my family in NJ! Despite the humidity, crowds etc.!
SJF: Any pre-show rituals? Post show events?
DH: I always have a pre-show Starbucks next to me as I do my makeup. I also have a little space backstage where I always do my warm-ups. After the show, a lot of us go to a restaurant/bar across the street that just opened up called Haswell Green!
SJF: Do you have (or have you had) fears? Doubts?
DH: Yes! Even once you get to Broadway, you have fears and doubts. EVERYONE is talented so you have to continue to believe that you ALSO have something special to bring to the table with your talent.
SJF: Well said Devon! What Motivates you?
DH: I am very motivated by the fact that my performance has the ability to inspire others. Whether it makes people think about their lives, inspires them to live out their own dream, motivates them to want to change the world, or encourages them to connect with people, I think it’s a gift to have that ability.
SJF: That’s so astute! Hopefully I’ll get to see you perform on Broadway. I’m definitely inspired by your recent success!
SJF: Do you have any spare time hobbies, interests?
DH: I do! I love walks along the water, finding a new coffee shop, seeing other Broadway shows, and playing with puppies and kittens!
SJF: Cool! The last part about the puppies and kittens really brought the ‘AW” out in me!
SJF: Any particular role models in your life?
DH: I have many teachers who have been role models throughout my entire life. They have inspired me with their passion for performing and their love of their art whether it was acting, dancing, or singing. I am fortunate enough to still be in contact with most of them through Facebook and still ask for their advice when I need some guidance.
SJF: What was it like the first time with an audience for ‘Mean Girls’?
DH: It was UNREAL! My adrenaline was so high and everyone in the show was so excited! Our energy was unmatched! It was maybe even a little too heightened haha. It was a blast though. This show is so fun to share with family and friends.
SJF: Spill the beans about Tina!
DH: She’s extremely sweet! And surprisingly, she’s very quiet and reserved unlike her TV personalities. She’s so smart and kind and has such a wonderful and loving dynamic with her family.
SJF: Tell us about your Website…
SJF: Who are your Idols?
DH: Some of my idols are Michelle Obama, Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jimmy Fallon, and definitely Tina Fey!
SJF: Top values in life?
DH: My top value in life is kindness. It always makes the world a better place when you can act out of love and kindness than out of fear, hate, or jealousy. It takes a strong person to be kind, but I’ve found it’s always worth the effort.
SJF: Dream Role (besides the one you have now)!
DH: I’d actually love to play the lead in Mean Girls, Cady Heron, one day. I’d also love to play Christine in Phantom of the Opera and Clara in Light in the Piazza.
SJF: If you had to do it all over again…
DH: I honestly wouldn’t do anything different except to make sure I made a little more effort to stay in contact with friends and family. It’s so easy to get caught up in career stuff and forget about the things that really matter.
SJF: What 3 things don’t we know about you?
DH: 1) I am a cancer survivor! When I was 3 1/2 I was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor which is a child’s form of kidney cancer. They removed the tumor along with my right kidney and now I am deemed cancer free! 2) I am extremely organized and tidy and I weirdly think cleaning is fun. 3) I’d love to get into TV/film one day!
SJF: I am glad I asked that question. I would have never known about your surviving cancer at such a young age. Thanks for sharing that. As for the tidyness…interesting tidbit! Regarding TV/film, I have no doubt that you will pursue and be offered those creative endeavors!
SJF: Any difficult decisions throughout your life?
DH: The most difficult decision I ever made was to move to New York. I had no idea what I was doing, but just that I felt like I needed to do it. Needless to say, I am VERY glad I made that leap.
SJF: Thank you so very much Devon, it was such a pleasure to be back in touch and am so excited to hear all about Mean Girls and what’s in store for you in your future!
More Fun: Videos about ‘Mean Girls’: