Go away with … Zurin Villanueva


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Currently on tour with “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” (https://tinaonbroadway.com/tickets/), Zurin Villanueva plays the icon herself. Portraying a living legend can be intimidating, but the actress said she did a lot of prep work to do justice to the real-life Turner. “I feel like I’m still preparing,” she said. “I am constantly learning more things about Tina and adding some to the show. It never stops and I love it. I did plenty of squats and planks, worked with a rock singing coach and did plenty of YouTube university to learn all things Tina.” Being on the road means that “home” is a new place every day, but the actress said it’s also a great way to see the world.

Q: When you’re on tour, how much time do you have to explore the cities you’re in?

A: I definitely don’t get to explore as much as I would like, but I try to get one thing in per city. I went to Paisley Park – home of the late Prince – in Minneapolis. I left invigorated and very inspired. His moxie to be exactly who he wanted to be, his love for his craft and his generosity is still striking.

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Q: You filmed “Murder Mystery 2” with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. What was that experience like?

A: I play Jodie Turner Smith’s personal assistant [Imani]. Doing scenes with Adam and Jennifer was like watching the easy banter of an old friendship. The cast and crew were friendly and so supportive. I was encouraged to try things. I was honored to work with them.

Q: Which of your characters would make great traveling companions, and conversely which would be a nightmare to take a trip with?

A: I feel like Tina would make a great traveling partner since she’s been everywhere and is always laughing. I definitely wouldn’t go anywhere with lmani. She’s entirely too intense!

Q: What was it like growing up as a minority?

A: I didn’t feel like a minority at all. I grew up in Brooklyn. I had Black neighbors and friends, and I went to schools with a majority of Black children. That sense of community helped build my confidence. I had a great childhood.

Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?

A: I love so many places, but I really loved the Philippine islands. I went to Boracay and stayed at the Shangri-La Boracay resort. The food and beaches were incredible, the people were sweet and the prices were low. I recommend hitting the huge mall in Manila for a great shopping spree and the amazing, cheap food court.

Q: Where do you recommend that people visit in the United States?

A: If you haven’t already, you must hit Austin, Texas. The food, the nightlife, and even the thrift stores are awesome!

Q: What was the first trip you took as a child? And did you love it … or not so much?

A: The first I remember was a Disney cruise. I remember all the fun activities they had for kids. So, yes, we had a ball. I think I was four years old, so I only remember it in flashes.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A: I love to talk politics with people in different countries. It’s astounding how similar things are for the working man across the world.

Q: If you could only pick one place to eat, would you prefer a food truck or fine dining?

A: I’ve eaten at the best food trucks in the most random places, so I’m a sucker for them. Variety is king!

(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow “Go Away With…” on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)

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