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PBS special spotlights Pageland’s Patina Miller

By Rob Owen
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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  • Watch Patina Miller

    “Live from Lincoln Center presents Patina Miller in Concert”, various times through March 31. Check PBS listings.



PASADENA, Calif.

It has been quite a year for actress Patina Miller, who grew up in Pageland, S.C.: She won a Tony for her lead role in Broadway’s “Pippin,” booked roles in TV and film, and now she’s in the spotlight on PBS’ “Live From Lincoln Center.”

“Patina Miller in Concert” features music from a variety of genres – from classic R&B to Broadway tunes.

“I’ve been influenced by a lot of music, a lot of people,” Miller said at a press conference. “I grew up in the church. I don’t know if a lot of people know that, but this is basically about my start, this little 9-year-old girl with a dream.”

In Pageland, about 42 miles southeast of Charlotte, Miller said there were not many artistic opportunities.

“Movies – that was my way in, and watching programs like PBS arts. That was my introduction,” she said. “We weren’t fortunate enough to go to Broadway and see Broadway shows. So what I learned was from watching TV, watching my favorite actors on television. And I got the bug, and I used to sing around the house all the time and really bug my mom so much.”

Miller attended a summer arts program three towns away, was cast in “Annie” at camp, attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and then got a full scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. She made her Broadway debut in “Sister Act” in 2011.

“My mom and my grandmother were both very strong women, and my mom always said, ‘They can tell you “No.” You can’t be afraid to hear “No.” They all might say “No,” but at some point, someone is going to say “Yes” and take a chance on you, and you have to believe in yourself and you have to believe in what you do and what you are as a person and stick to that,’ ” Miller said.

Miller’s busy year will just keep getting busier. In addition to continuing to star in “Pippin” on Broadway, she’s filming a role in the final two “Hunger Games” movies.

“I filmed part of it in October. They let me off the show to go and do that. So that was very nice of them. And then I start filming a little bit in February, and I’ll do a little bit at the end of April through June,” Miller said. “I play Commander Paylor. She’s one of the rebel leaders in the districts. … So I do have to be physically fit for the role.”

In addition, Miller has landed a role as a press coordinator on the CBS pilot “Madame Secretary” about the personal and professional life of the U.S. secretary of state (Tea Leoni). This show is in contention for a slot on CBS’ fall prime-time schedule.

If “Madame Secretary” gets picked up, it will be a return to TV for Miller, who also had a role on the daytime soap “All My Children” while she was on Broadway.

“It was so crazy to be thrust into that world,” she said. “You learn you don’t have rehearsal time, you just learn your blocking. It taught me how to prepare for everything, and I got to work with a lot of amazing people. Susan Lucci was fabulous; she came and saw me in (‘Pippin’).”

Miller said she grew up on daytime soaps and was perhaps destined to appear on one.

“My mom loved soap operas, and her favorite character was Patina on ‘General Hospital.’ So that’s how I got my name,” she said. “I hated my name growing up because people called me names, but when I got to be about 12 or 13, the cool thing about me was my name. It made me stand out and realize standing out is good. I started to love it.”

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