Deborah Cox has a tough gig: She has to fill the diva-size hole left by Whitney Houston in the musical adaption of the 1992 smash hit movie The Bodyguard. Cox, best known for her 1998 chart-topper "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here," will play the pop superstar Rachel Marron, who falls for her terse, studly hired protector (Judson Mills has the Kevin Costner role), Tuesday through Sunday at the Kimmel Center.
I was on tour with Celine Dion. I remember going to see the movie in the theater. I loved Whitney's performance. I was so drawn in by the character and the love story. Seeing my all-time favorite vocalist on the big screen was epic. Whitney's presence -- she's such a force, and to see her on film was so amazing.
I think making it your own is about staying connected to those real moments that Rachel has, those moments with her son, how she continues to keep her guard up even though she's falling for her bodyguard. Out of those moments, you start to shape who the character is.
I had to change my whole approach, everything I knew about the music. I deliberately stayed away from watching the film again because I didn't want to play a caricature. But this is a different platform and medium. It has a different resonance. I'm just seeing what's on the page and figuring out how it plays out onstage. That's part of the process with [big musicals]. You have to get the show up on its feet and see how the music is intertwined within the scene, rather than just the film where the songs can stand on their own.
You really get more of an understanding of the back story of the love triangle that develops between Rachel and her sister Nicki [played by Jasmin Richardson]. While all of that is happening, it gets even more complicated because [Rachel's] son has taken a liking to Frank. It's a little more fleshed out than it was in the film. Then there's the songs: "Run to You" has been turned into a duet. "Greatest Love of All" she performs reflectively about her relationship with her son. There's a lot of really, really key moments that inform the audience of her personality and passion and drive and her guard.
Having the background definitely helps. There are so many similarities between myself and Rachel, and that helped inform what Rachel would be. There are things about me that are different than Rachel. She's [snarkier] than I am [laughs], but as a performer, I'm very professional, and I have high expectations when it comes to the band, the sound, how things are arranged. So I get it. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Those tendencies inform Rachel's temperament and what her personality will be.
It's the most physically challenging role I've ever done. It's quite a marathon. It's a very big show, so I'm literally living the life of a superstar in two hours. It's such a whirlwind of energy and focus, and it takes the wind out of me. In the moment, it's all there. I just pull from that energy night after night.
I do what I do. I love that I can reach people. But at the end of the day, I like my anonymity. With this role, keeping up with that pace is exhausting. I like to have the time away to just be me and to not be so engrossed in it all, because it's consuming. It's really a lot.