Eva Noblezada on Her Gripping Film "Yellow Rose," the Power of "Hadestown," and Filipino Representation
Eva Noblezada’s first role ever was in sixth grade, when her school was doing a production of Cinderella. She had one line as part of the ensemble and it was the only thing she uttered on stage during the entire show: "Why shouldn't he propose to me? The prince is giving a ball."
Fast forward to today and the 23-year-old is doing much more than dropping in for one-liners. In 2017, she played Kim in the first Broadway revival of Miss Saigon, which nabbed her a 2017 Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. Currently, you can catch her in the starring role of Eurydice in the much-buzzed-about, Greek myth-inspired Broadway show Hadestown, which garnered her another Tony nomination.
Beyond Broadway, Eva stars as Rose in the gripping film Yellow Rose, which premiered earlier this year. Directed by Diane Paragas, the movie follows the story of a 17-year-old half-Filipino teen in Texas with dreams of being a country star whose world is turned upside down when her mother is taken by ICE during the middle of the night. Rose herself is also undocumented, and hops between the home of an aunt (played by Lea Salonga), a safe house at Austin’s legendary honky-tonk bar the Broken Spoke, and more while figuring out what she’s going to do.
“Most of it was the fact that it was true to who I am ethnically. I'm half-Mexican, half-Filipino, and I grew up in North Carolina, so I had a lot of similarities with Rose and her relationship with Texas,” Eva tells Teen Vogue about what grabbed her interest in the part. “And I had never seen a script so up and in your face about immigration, especially from the point of view of somebody who's so young and she's having to learn with absolutely no resources.”
Growing up, Eva was able to split her time fairly equally between spending it with the Mexican side and Filipino side of her family, but largely didn’t see Filipino representation in the movies and TV that she watched. She remembers being obsessed with Disney films as a kid, describing herself as the little girl at her grandparents’ house “singing at the top of her lungs, half-naked with a papaya in one hand.” She was always belting the songs of Little Mermaid, Mulan, and more. She recounts how having someone like the Filipino legend that is Lea providing the singing voice for characters like Mulan and Jasmine in Aladdin was a major moment in hearing about someone like her in the entertainment she loved, but it wasn’t as if the characters were Filipino themselves. So Yellow Rose also has a special place in her heart for being able to be that Filipino representation she craved for.
“It's also a great way for Filipino-Americans to have representation in America right now because I didn't have that sh*t growing up,” Eva says, “For me, it was finally a chance, where I felt like this made sense. This is my story, this is the girl next door's story. This is the girl in the Philippines' story. This is a Filipino story.”