Jessica Keenan Wynn might not be a household name yet, but the musical theater actress is about to hit the big screen in the highly-anticipated sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, playing Young Tanya, aka: Young Christine Baranski!
NewNowNext caught up with Wynn during Make Music Alliance’s annual event, Make Music Day, where this year, Mamma Mia-branded karaoke trucks were parked in cities around the country, allowing people to sing their favorite ABBA songs. We asked Wynn what it was like playing young Baranski, working with Cher, and how she landed a role on The Golden Girls when she was a 6-month-old baby.
What was it like making Mamma Mia 2?
It was the best experience of my life. It is the only time I can say that I’ve been in a movie with Cher and Meryl Streep. It was a very strange experience in the sense that everyone who worked on the film, they all said this was one of the best filming experiences they’ve ever had. So I’ve peaked, and I’m okay with that.
How did you prepare to play a young Christine Baranski?
I’ve been watching her for so long that I could kind of pull her out effortlessly, and by effortlessly I mean she has informed so much of my acting roles up to now, so I definitely re-watched The Birdcage, and I watched more Cybill. She has this sensibility about her that is so refined and elegant, and it was a joy to wear that for five months while we were shooting. She is a dynamo, truly.
Do you have a favorite ABBA song?
It’s actually “Adante, Adante.” It’s a beautiful song that Lily James sings in the movie. Aside from that, “What’s the Name of the Game,” I love that. I sing it in the shower.
And what was your favorite song to film?
“Mamma Mia” was so much fun because it’s super high energy. It took two days to film the number, and we had the best time playing the Dynamos. The energy in the room was palatable.
So can we talk about how you were on an episode of The Golden Girls?
I still get $20 residuals for it! Doing an episode of The Golden Girls is probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s a great icebreaker, or if I’m in an audition and they want to see my credentials I can say: “I was a 6-month-old on The Golden Girls.”
How did that come about?
My aunt was an agent. I was a Gerber baby, so they were like: “Let’s put her in a Golden Girls episode,” and it was just perfect timing. It’s changed my life in a lot of ways, it’s inspired a lot of songs when I perform my own concert, and hopefully it will make a good story in my memoir one day.
And your grandfather was a movie actor too…
Yes! It’s pretty wild to go back and watch basically home movies of my grandparents in Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and The Clock.
I read you have a picture hanging in your dressing room of him with Judy Garland?
I grew up worshipping Judy Garland. They were in a movie together called For Me and My Gal, my grandfather with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly all in a scene together. I look up at it and it’s very humbling.
What can you tell Mamma Mia fans about the new movie?
The script is better. The script is clever, witty, charming and heartfelt, and you are still getting a continuation of the story you loved from ten years ago. I think everyone is going to burst into glitter, and have just the best time in the movie theatre, including myself.
Did you get to meet Cher?
Yes. Which was horrifitying because she’s Cher. I got to go to the set to watch her sing “Fernando,” and it was like an intimate concert experience. Not only was I there, but Pierce was there, and so was Meryl… we were just all in awe.
Mamma Mia: Here We go Again! hits theaters July 20.