'The Color Purple' Cast Confidential: Jennifer Hudson and co-stars discuss their Broadway fitness regimens

Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks at the opening night after party for "The Color Purple" on Broadway at the Copacabana on December 10, 2015, in New York City.


Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks and Cynthia Erivo made their Broadway debuts last month in the revival of "The Color Purple," and from now through the end of March, the actresses will perform eight live shows each week. While all that stage time does require strength and stamina, all three women say their most important workout tip is to listen to their bodies. Here's how the Broadway babes stay in peak performance shape.

AP Photo/Frank Micelotta

Jennifer Hudson performs onstage at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. She says she has a pretty relaxed approach to exercise in general, keeping it simple and practical. She always takes the stairs.

Jennifer Hudson (Shug Avery)

Playing the sultry Avery, Hudson's wardrobe consists mainly of negligées, but Hudson isn't self-conscious. In fact, she's found the stage to be kinder than the screen.

"Being on Broadway kind of makes me relax a little more because I don't always have to be in front of a camera every day," Hudson said opening night. "Sometimes they're like 'Oh my God, is she eating cookies? Is she bringing another treat?' but I know how to balance everything out, so I don't go past what I should have. It's about what you're putting in your body."

In fact, Hudson, who's maintained a weight loss of 80 pounds for more than four years, has a pretty relaxed approach to exercise in general. She keeps it simple and practical.

"I have the highest dressing room," she says. "I have to walk up three flights of stairs about 10 times throughout the whole show every day, so that's my exercise."

When she does hit the gym, she's listening to:

"I love Jason Derulo's song 'Trouble' with me and Iggy [Azalea], not because I'm on it, but I like the song. And I like Jazmine Sullivan's 'Masterpiece.' Even though it's not fast, that song just makes you feel like you can conquer anything."

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Actress Danielle Brooks attends Netflix's "Orange Is The New Black" screening. For her first several weeks on stage, Brooks was shuttling between filming her show and performing live on Broadway.

Danielle Brooks (Sofia)

For her first several weeks on stage, Brooks was pulling double duty, shuttling between filming her Netflix show "Orange is the New Black" in the morning to five hours of Broadway rehearsals, and then a live performance at night. So rest is what Brooks' body needed most. Now that Season 4 of "Orange" has wrapped, she has a little more time to hit the gym, but she's working on eating sensibly, too.

"I don't have much time to work out, but I'm trying," she says. "I try to work out with my trainer twice a week. Right now, what's getting me through is eating healthy. I'm constantly having greens and water, water, water."

Brooks' hour-long sessions vary between full-body workouts, lower-body routines focused on the legs and days when it's all about the arms. She can already see improvement.

"He has me doing all kinds of moves. I hate doing burpees. But I'm really good at doing pushups now, which I couldn't do before," she says.

Labeling her first session with her trainer as "really, really bad," the actress, who uses rap, like the Ying Yang Twins, to get her through her workouts says she has no choice but to make her physical health a priority.

"It's funny because I care so much about this craft that to sustain all of the work that I am doing, I have to be healthy -- physically -- when it comes to exercising. I actually do not enjoy exercising, but when you care about your job as much as I do, you have to say, 'let me do that.'"

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Cynthia Erivo attends the Broadway opening night party for "The Color Purple." She likes to do body weight work at home to help stay in shape and calm her nerves before live performances.

Cynthia Erivo (Celie)

Theatregoers might be shocked to see Erivo's figure, which is hidden under an apron and Palazzo pants for most of the show. But one glance at the petite singer-songwriter out of costume -- particularly her arms, which rival those of First Lady Michelle Obama -- is all you need to confirm this declaration from her: "I'm a fit fanatic."

A high-intensity workout the night before the play's official opening was the only thing Erivo said could calm her pre-curtain nerves.

"I do a lot of body weight work," she says. "I haven't been able to get to the gym so I do a lot of it at home. I have a weight band that I use and I lift."

She's also mindful of her diet. "I'm a very, very healthy eater, so it's proteins, greens, proteins and more greens -- and lots of water," she says.

And while she occasionally blasts tunes by Robyn, the actress said she actually doesn't listen to much music when she works out.

"Sometimes it's just better to listen to your body," she says, "because it can tell you what it needs."

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