Forget Roxie Hart, because the name on everyone's lips in New York City is Pamela Anderson.
The Baywatch star made her Broadway debut as the headliner in the iconic musical Chicago on April 12, telling E! News that she has "never worked this hard" and loves "the challenge" her time in the show has presented to her.
Though Anderson, who is also working on her memoir and a recently announced Netflix documentary to share her version of her life, describes herself as a West Coast girl, the actress, mom to The Hills: New Beginnings alum Brandon Lee, 25, and musician Dylan Lee, 24, has settled quite nicely into life in the Big Apple. From her daily walks in Central Park to the faces she most excited to see in the audience, the 54-year-old star exclusively opened up to E! News over e-mail about her time on the East Coast as she prepared for her eight-week run in Chicago.
Hint: It involved digging deep into the emotions dredged up by how she's "misunderstood by the press."
E! News: You've said that you feel like you've been rehearsing your whole life for Chicago. Why do you relate so deeply to Roxie Hart's story?
Pamela Anderson: I've had a wild life to draw from, many ups and downs. I never knew what I was rehearsing for, but looking back, I see that I was preparing to do something more than even I could imagine. There is a vulnerability and strength in Roxie—I relate to that: Overcoming hard times with humor and grace, quick on her feet, being misunderstood by the press—and eventually turning even the most upside down things into something good with heart.
E! News: What kind of preparation are you doing for Chicago?
PA: I have never worked this hard. It suits me. I love the challenge—long rehearsals. I love to go home tired and feel a sense of accomplishment.
I am soaking it all up like a sponge. I have always imagined myself as a dancer or singer (in my head), but I never thought it would be a reality.
How could I ever dream to be on Broadway? It's crazy and they are crazy for having me, but I am so grateful. It's a leap of faith. Singing is courage, but it is also technical—a muscle—and I'm learning so much. I'm getting stronger every day.
E! News: Did you have any nerves about stepping into such an well-known role?
PA: Of course I'm nervous, it's an iconic role. It's been played by my favorite women. I don't want to let anyone down.
E! News: What are you most looking forward to on opening night?
PA: Seeing my sons in the audience. They are very proud, protective and have been my biggest supporters. The audience is a character in the show. It's vaudeville style and a real connection is important. I want people to leave the theatre with a new sense of knowing who I truly am—
raw, a real person with deep feelings and depth.
E! News: What has been your favorite part of the experience in New York?
PA: I'm new to New York. I've never stayed here any length of time. I'm a West Coast girl, but I'm in love with Central Park. I enjoy my daily walks to see all the dogs off-leash getting along so well. I miss my dogs, so it makes me happy starting my day in the park. I walk for miles every day. I love it so much that I'm contributing to the Central Park Conservancy, to have a family tree that will always be there. Central Park is the heart of the city.
E! News: We love the close and supportive relationship you have with your sons. Do you have any advice for them as they continue their careers in Hollywood?
PA: My kids need no help from me in that department. They navigate Hollywood brilliantly. They have the tools they need to succeed within themselves. That's real success as a parent. They are paving their own ways and are naturals at being themselves. It's rare. I've never been a meddler. I support their dreams. They are healthy, wise, beautiful, romantic, talented and they know they are loved.
E! News: Are there any hair products that you rely on to maintain your signature blonde hue?
PA: I color my own hair and my "updo" is easier than you think. I use one long French pin—done!
E! News: What are your go-to vegan snacks for long days rehearsing for Chicago or on set?
PA: My assistant cuts up lots of veggies. I'm a grazer. I also don't eat after 6 p.m. or before 10 a.m., and no sugar ever. I also received lovely welcome packages from plant-based food companies Field Roast and Lightlife. I've particularly enjoyed Lightlife's tempeh, a traditional Indonesian superfood made from fermented soybeans. It's supercharged and exactly what I need.
E! News: What advice do you have for those who are interested in adapting a vegan lifestyle?
PA: Little by little, make changes. Gold star days are vegan days, but if you don't always get there don't give up.
Anderson stars as Roxie Hart in Chicago through Sunday, June, 5.