Getting Grovey

From near dropout to co-starring with Dolly Parton & Queen Latifah: A Houston native's incredible story

From near dropout to co-starring with Dolly Parton & Queen Latifah: A Houston native's incredible story

Angela Grovey nearly dropped out of the ninth grade at Elkins High School in Fort Bend ISD after her first taste of professional theater: A production of Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby at TUTS

Grovey's mother convinced her to stick with school, and she'll watch her daughter shake her booty on the big screen for the first time this month — as Earla, the choir choreographer in Joyful Noise — with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah no less. CultureMap caught up with Grovey while she was in Houston for a family visit and a private screening of the film, which comes out nationwide on Friday.  

CultureMap: What was it like working with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah? They're both such strong women, and both very different — were there ever any clashes?

Angela Grovey: Um, amazing. They're both such sweet ladies — very, very down to earth and eager to share their experiences with us when we needed help. It felt very surreal at times.

And as for clashes, not at all. It was kind of like we were a really big family. It was a musical, so we all got to work together in the studio before we started filming . . . and there was no room for anything besides creating really awesome work together. 

CM: Did the two leading ladies inspire you musically, either before or during the filming?

AG: Because of my roots, I have always had a big passion for country music. Seeing big acts at the rodeo, like Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, definitely inspired me. And on-set, Dolly talked to us about what it is like to be so freakishly talented . . . It was really inspiring to know her story, that she felt like she had a voice and there was a place for it to be heard. 

Dana, or Queen Latifah, put out a jazz album a couple of years ago, when I previously only knew of her rap. And then seeing her on-set, singing ballads and gospel songs, was amazing. She inspired me to not let anyone put you in a box . . . Constantly re-invent yourself. It was awesome to see her step into something I had never seen her do. 

CM: You act primarily in theatre. How did you make the transition from Broadway to Hollywood?

AG: The interesting thing is that the director saw me performing in an Off Broadway show and actually wrote the part for me . . . He asked me to come in and read the script, and that was it. 

CM: Tell me more about your role in the movie, as the choir choreographer. Do we catch a glimpse of you in the trailer? Did you feel like this part let you utilize your training? 

AG: I'm that lovely booty that you see in the trailer [at :45]! And I did feel like I got to tap into all the things I studied in school — music, movement and dance. I don't choreograph professionally, but I do teach classes to kids.
It's something that I enjoy. And I think it's important for people to see that plus-sized girls can move!
CM: What's up next for you? 
AG: This season is all about working on new musicals. I was working on one in LA called Leap of Faith, which is supposed to be coming into Broadway this fall, and I hope that they're going to ask me to be a part of that production again. I've got my hands in a few other things that I can't go into detail about just yet . . . Possibly another motion picture!
News_Joyful Noise_movie poster
Joyful Noise will be released in theaters Jan. 13.