How 'Hamilton' 's Renée Elise Goldsberry Overcame Her Fear of Getting Fired to Win a Tony

The star of Peacock's new comedy Girls5Eva has come a long way since the early days of her Tony-winning work in the Broadway hit

From the moment it debuted on stage, Hamilton was the talk of New York City and the theater world from coast to coast. Yet one of its brightest stars, Renée Elise Goldsberry, was "still like a deer in the headlights" and missed the early buzz.

"I was so desperately trying to hold on to the job," Goldsberry tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "The thing I was most afraid of was being recast, honestly. I was standing among superheroes."

Goldsberry, 50, who won a Tony for her performance, more than held her own with superstars like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs.

"I was white-knuckling it," she says. "But I had to act like, 'Yeah, this is what we do. We go to work and act like we aren't completely floored by the brilliance.'"

For more from Renée Elise Goldsberry, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

renee elise goldberry in hamilton
renee elise goldberry
Ben Gabbe/Getty

Since then, Goldsberry's career has soared. In her new project, the Tina Fey production Girls5Eva on Peacock, Goldsberry plays Wickie, the diva of a one-hit-wonder girl group from the 1990s. Also starring Sara Bareilles, Paula Pell and Busy Philipps, the series follows the group as they try make a comeback 25 years after their glory days.

renee elise goldberry in girls five eva

"Wickie is so self-absorbent and has this chip on her shoulder like she's owed something because of this immense talent she believes that she has," says Goldsberry. "But life has really humbled her. That presents an opportunity for her to see them and their greatness, and to stand back for a minute and support and promote the talent of these other women, and see them for the first time. It actually is ironically the road to her own fulfillment."

Most of all, she says, it was an absolute blast to shoot, despite filming happening during the pandemic. "We were just spit take laughing at each other," says Goldsberry. "I can't even look at them or myself in the mirror and not laugh hysterically. We shot this in COVID. We had an election. There was an insurrection going on. The world outside was unrecognizable. And what we got to do is hold onto each other and bring this world to life and laugh. And, God, did we need to."

renee elise goldberry
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Next up, she's heading off to start production on the much-anticipated Marvel series She-Hulk. But her high-flying career is merely the cherry on top for Goldsberry. After years of trying to both start a family and get work, she decided to focus on family. For years, she and her husband, New York attorney Alexis Johnson, 51, tried to have children. Now they are blessed with two: Benjamin, 12, and Brielle, 8.

"I used to say to myself, if I had to choose between sitting on my deathbed around Oscars and Grammys or sitting on my deathbed around a bunch of ungrateful descendants, I would pick the latter," she says with a grin. "To be here today, with my daughter outside in the park, my son going to basketball, living the drama of regular life that was so hard for me to attain, I'm so grateful it's here for me — it's enough."

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