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.”
Eva and the film deftly depict the fear that undocumented people face of being deported and the horrors inside detainment facilities through the eyes of Rose’s mother (excellently portrayed by Princess Punzalan) while also balancing them out less heavy moments. Even as Rose is navigating the world without her mother, she’s also becoming more and more confident in her abilities as both a country singer and young adult.
“I'm very grateful that Diane's approach to the film was yes, it's about immigration. Yes, it's an awful thing of her mother being taken away from her, and her having to figure out life, but that's life. There are also joys in life. There are hardships in life, there are times you want to cry,” she says. “To have a film like this that didn't involve you seeing her enjoy her youth sometimes, that would be ridiculous. And then it would make the hardships not as intense because she's still trying to figure out who she is.”
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.”
Eva shot her scenes for Yellow Rose over 17 days in Austin, Texas, a short period of time since she's been majorly busy with Hadestown. It’s her favorite show that she’s ever done, a story that consistently has her flooding with a rush of different feelings. She says she can’t do the show without being swept into it, every single performance has her feeling emotional. It centers on the stories of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology, along with Hades and Persephone — two different love stories with their own versions of romance and heartbreak. For Eva, the show taught her what love is and while taking on a character like Eurydice might be taxing for some, the show is actually what gives Eva her own recharge.
“I tell people that Hadestown is my therapy because it really is, you know? You cannot avoid feeling and detoxing things in your body, in your brain, in your soul that you don't need,” she says. “When I am talking to you now, I'm Eva, 100 percent. When I go on that stage, there should be no trace of Eva on the stage. That’s my chance to go, ‘Yes, we had stresses today. Yes, we might've had things we regret or didn't say things that you wished you did. Yes, you might’ve felt a little insecure. That all needs to away now, and you need to tell this amazing story.’ That's the motivation, that's the therapy, that’s the meditation. It's everything in one. And also, you get to cry and get paid for it, which you got to love, you know what I mean?”
Editor's note: This story has been updated for clarity.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue