With an impressive array of credits spanning Broadway, television, and film, including standout roles in the Broadway productions of “Rent” and “Wicked,” Eden Espinosa has consistently mesmerized audiences with her versatility and powerful voice. Yet, it is her portrayal of Tamara de Lempicka in the musical “Lempicka” that has truly allowed her artistic brilliance to shine, earning Eden her first Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.

“Lempicka” tells the story of Tamara de Lempicka, an artist whose life was as vibrant and complex as her paintings. Set against the backdrop of tumultuous historical events, the show delves into themes of identity, survival, and reinvention. Tamara, a pioneering figure in the art deco world, was known for her bold personality and style. Her paintings and inspirational story continue to captivate contemporary audiences and were notably featured in Madonna’s music video “Vogue”. Her queerness and the challenges she faced in concealing her true self are particularly resonant as we celebrate Pride Month this June.

Eden’s connection to the role of Tamara de Lempicka spans over a decade, beginning with a casual reading at. Captivated by the show’s unique sound (story and music by Matthew Gould) and the rich, complex role of Tamara, Eden embarked on a journey that would see her embody the character through various iterations of the production. 

The final performance of “Lempicka” on May 19th was an emotional event, marking the end of a significant chapter for Eden and the cast. The theater buzzed with an intensity that Eden describes as unparalleled in her career. The closing night was a celebration of the journey they had shared, leaving a lasting impact on everyone involved. 

In this interview, Awards Focus delves into Eden’s experience exploring portraying Tamara de Lempicka, the moment she heard of her Tony nomination and the emotional final performance. And while still grieving over the end of their Broadway run, Eden offers a glimpse of what opportunities she might look towards for her next act.

Awards Focus: First of all, congratulations on your first Tony Awards nomination. How did you hear the news of your nomination? Were you watching the nominations live? 

Eden: Yes, I was at my best friends’ house, and we turned on ‘CBS Mornings’. Immediately, my face popped up on the screen, and they announced my name. We didn’t realize the show had started yet, so at first, I was confused. I knew the nomination was a possibility, but I didn’t quite think it through. I was wearing a sweat suit and didn’t have any makeup on. [Laughs] I had to borrow some lipstick because I knew I would have to talk to news channels and other media on Zoom calls. It was a joyous morning, that’s for sure!

Awards Focus: You’ve had a long history with this show and the titular character Tamara de Lempicka. How did you originally get started with “Lempicka”? 

Eden: Yeah, it’s been an 11 year journey, 9 years of me playing Tamara, but 11 years since the first very casual reading that I did at Yale in which I played Rafaela, actually. 

I had seen a concert presentation of ‘Witness Uganda’, which Matt Gould co-wrote, and I fell in love with it. I messaged Matt to see if he had any other projects I could hear. He sent me “Lempicka” and from the first read and listen, I was captivated by its unique sound. Musically, I had never heard anything like it. Plus, finding such a rich and meaty role for a woman of a certain age is very rare. I also fell in love with Tamara de Lempicka’s essence. That was my introduction to the piece over 11 years ago.

Awards Focus: Was that also the first time you had heard of Tamara de Lempicka? What did you learn about her that inspired you to want to take this role on? 

Eden: You know, I had never heard the name but once I started doing some research, I immediately recognized the paintings, mostly from the Madonna “Vogue” video and other references through Madonna. So, I realized I definitely knew this aesthetic. Over the years I would continue to dive into books, articles and such that were written about her. 

Ironically, the deeper I got into her world, the less helpful the actual facts about her life were. She was known for being a chameleon and giving versions of truths, half-truths and even lies in order to navigate various situations and conceal certain things about her life like queerness, being Jewish and her origins. So the specific details weren’t important but the essence of why she had to conceal them, her fortitude to survive, to provide for her family and to reinvent herself over and over again is what fascinated me. That’s the essence I wanted to bring to our story of her life. 

Awards Focus: What challenges did you face, and what approaches did you take, in portraying a character who transitions from a young woman to a much older and sophisticated personality over the course of the show?”

Eden: Our director, Rachel Chavkin, is such a brilliant visionary and very theatrical. When we started playing with the idea of having an older Tamara at the beginning and end, I asked if I’d have a different wig or makeup, and she said no.

So, I sang a different version of our opening number, and this low, gravely voice just started coming out of me. The challenge of spanning all the years without the help of wigs and makeup was both fun and challenging as an actor. It became one of my favorite parts, transitioning from old to young and back again.

Roles like this are often seen for men, like Valjean in ‘Les Misérables,’ but it’s rare for women. The challenge and the invitation to make this work were so enticing and intoxicating for me.

Awards Focus: You’ve dedicated a significant portion of your adult life to playing this character. Beyond describing the essence of Tamara and your connection to her, do you see much of her in yourself, or much of yourself in her?

Eden: For a while, I struggled with the idea of whether I could fill this woman’s shoes. When I first started playing the role regularly, there were uncertainties. I had previously been passed over for bigger names, had to re-audition, and deal with all the usual challenges. When it finally became mine, it was during a time of personal turmoil, navigating a separation and divorce. I felt like a small and diminished version of myself, and it led me to question my ability to inhabit the character fully. But somehow, I always felt that Tamara had her hand stretched out to me, urging me forward. 

There are a lot of things about Tamara that in a woman, is not considered attractive or likeable. I think that my contribution is bringing a little bit more humanity and compassion into the character. Despite her flaws, I wanted viewers to understand her motivations and decisions. My goal with any role is to find empathy and understanding, rather than judgment. In the end, viewers may not agree with her choices, but perhaps they can see her in a more compassionate light.

In the latest iteration of the role, I feel like I was able to finally get to that place of not watching myself, not editing, not caring and really just stepping into myself and her and taking up the space that her story deserved.

Awards Focus: How have audiences responded to your performance and the depiction of Tamara and how has that changed from when you first started playing her? 

Eden: I think their response to her has softened and there is more of a lean forward to know more about this person. In hindsight, when you think about how we were supposed to go to La Jolla pre-pandemic and possibly go to Broadway, it’s like everything worked out as it should. People still weren’t entirely ready to hear about these themes and to see a strong, complicated, queer woman in in the center of a story. That’s fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time. 

But the thing about our show is that people are still talking about it, still having conversations, and still asking questions. It’s very on-brand for Tamara’s character to burn bright like a supernova and then dissipate a little. Who knows what the future holds for this show and its future iterations, but I know it has touched the hearts of many and will continue to do so.

Awards Focus: What are you most proud about in this long journey that you’ve had with “Lempicka”? 

Eden: I’m proud that we caused such a splash, and that splash looks very different from different perspectives. We were one of two musicals this season that wasn’t based on familiar intellectual property, like a book, a movie, or a catalog of music. We told a completely original story, and all of our departments fired on all cylinders to share our unique perspective and point of view. I’m proud that over the years, our team could have made it shiny and pretty and wrapped it up in a bow, but we didn’t. We stuck to the story we wanted to tell. In today’s climate and on Broadway, that is very brave and a big risk. I’m proud of our producers for it, and I’m proud of us for it. 

Awards Focus: The Original Broadway Cast recording of “Lempicka” releases on June 12th. Are there songs besides the iconic “Woman Is” that you are excited for new audiences to hear?

Eden: Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity for our cast album to come out while the show was running to help perpetuate our following and increase curiosity in “Lempicka”. I think our show is very singular sonically with Matt’s melodies, our orchestrations and the way that the musicians tackled the score. I think that’s going to cause another little wave of fandom once it comes out and I’m excited for that. 

Besides the ones that have been pumped out already, I’m excited for audiences to find the other little gems that are in the score such as “I Will Paint Her”, “The New Woman” and “In the Blasted California Sun” which is towards the end. I’m also excited for audiences to hear the song “Plan and Design” I performed with George Abud who played the character Marinetti. 

Awards Focus: As “Lempicka” has ended its’ Broadway run, what memories stand out from the final performance that was on May 19th?

Eden: As sad and bittersweet as they are, the end of a run creates some of the most electric moments. I’ve had the privilege to be a part of some iconic ones like the closing of “Rent” on Broadway and the closing of our LA company for “Wicked” which was insanely memorable. 

The final show was just overwhelming for all of us on stage and out in the house. In my entire career, I have never experienced anything like that. From when we got our closing notice to the final performance, I think the cast was just literally vibrating on a frequency that was like, we are going to leave no crumbs left. We are going to take advantage of every moment with this piece and with each other. And from the second the show started, it was just ovation after ovation. I had tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why but the frequency in that theater was just unbelievable. And I will never, ever forget it. If we had to end, it was the most glorious, glorious ending. I couldn’t have asked for a better one. 

Awards Focus: With “Lempicka” having concluded, what type of project do you envision pursuing next or hope to be considered for?

Eden: That’s a really great question. You know, I have to be 100% transparent that it’s going to take me a long time to get over this grieving process. I’m devastated. So jumping into another project at this moment seems very far. But I would love to do a play. I’ve had writing projects and have been kicking ideas around in my mind. I’d love to play with being an Associate Director for something as well. But if I had to join something in a musical, I would want it to be something totally different for me. I’m the type of actor that wants to be challenged and try new things. I don’t always have to be the center of the story. So that’s why a supporting role would be fun. Something light, something maybe charactery and funny. 

About The Author


Ben Lei is a journalist, blogger, and founder of The Dork Files blog. Lei is a frequent contributor and influencer on entertainment and pop culture topics, writing about cultural issues through the lens of film and television. Ben lives in California with his wife, Stephanie and two young children, Emmy and Grady.

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