Samantha Pauly 'Never Thought' She'd Be on Broadway Before Starring in “The Great Gatsby ”and“ SIX ”(Exclusive)

The Broadway star, known for her role as Katherine Howard in 'SIX', tells PEOPLE she 'does not take for granted' getting to originate the role of Jordan Baker in the musical

<p>Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman</p> Samantha Pauly (center) in

Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Samantha Pauly (center) in 'The Great Gatsby'

It’s 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 25, and Samantha Pauly has one hour to get to New York City's Broadway Theatre.

“I probably look crazy right now with my hair in these curlers,” the 34-year-old Broadway star tells PEOPLE with a laugh. “I thought I would be up all night, but my alarm sprung me from my sleep at 9:30, so I took a shower, did my Neti Pot for my chest infection, took my dogs for a walk and started doing my hair before heading to the theater for my makeup.”

Despite the hectic morning, Pauly’s calm demeanor would hardly suggest that it was opening day for the Broadway adaptation of The Great Gatsby, in which she stars as Jordan Baker. “The Great Gatsby has not been done in musical form, but it’s a story that is so iconic,” Pauly explains. “For us to get to breathe life into these characters that people have loved for a long time is so special.”

Pauly, who auditioned for the role in March 2023, says personifying Jordan Baker “has been on the brain” for over a year now. “We've been rehearsing from 12 to five still during the day and then doing previews at night, and I feel like I am still discovering a lot of things about [Jordan],” she says.

“With a show that’s already up and running, you come in, you get your couple weeks of rehearsal, they throw you into the show and you’re kind of off to the races,” Pauly says. “But to create something from the ground up is a really special experience that I absolutely do not take for granted.”

<p>Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman</p> From Left: Noah J. Ricketts and Samantha Pauly

Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

From Left: Noah J. Ricketts and Samantha Pauly

This is not Pauly’s first rodeo bringing a character to life in a new show. She is best known for originating the role of Katherine Howard in SIX, which also marked her Broadway debut. “SIX was already up and running in London, but the writers were very adamant about us making the characters our own and making the U.S. version what we wanted it to be,” she tells PEOPLE.

She adds, “To be able to do that with a group of girls that have become some of my best friends in the world was so special, and to now be able to do it again — I never thought I would be on Broadway, period. So this is far beyond the scope of anything I thought I would do in my life.”

Related: Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada Bring The Great Gatsby to Broadway 'In All Its Glamour and Glory' (Exclusive)

It might be surprising to hear that a woman who has originated two characters on Broadway did not grow up thinking she was destined for the stage. “I didn’t grow up a theater kid. I didn't start until the end of high school,” she says. “I don't listen to show tunes. I'm not good at staying up on new s---.  My parents are not artistic. So I didn't have that when I was younger, which I feel like is probably better for me because it's my job. I leave it at work and then I just have other things that I like to do.”

Along with her costars, Pauly says her family and fans from SIX are all coming to support her on opening night. “They are there. They are out in full force. They are crazy. I love them all so much,” she gushes.

<p>Jenny Anderson</p> Samantha Pauly

Jenny Anderson

Samantha Pauly

While Pauly misses her SIX girls — “We were very lucky”, she says — the Broadway star is grateful for her “incredible” The Great Gatsby ensemble. “This cast is so incredible. Everyone is so nice. Everyone is so supportive of each other. Everyone is there for each other,” she says.

With opening night finally here — the show, which garnered a 77th annual Tony nomination for best costume design of a musical, first started previews on March 29 before officially opening on April 25 — Pauly can reflect on her career thus far and what comes next. “There's so much about SIX that made me who I am, that made me a version of myself that is able to now do this other show and this other character, which is really great. It came into my life when I needed it and gave me the things that I needed,” she tells PEOPLE.

Related: Here Are All of the Broadway Musicals Based on Books Playing This Spring

She adds, “I would love to stay in Gatsby for as long as they will have me, and after this, if I can originate something again.”

“Or, if I can, I am dying to do Wicked. But because this business is so unpredictable and so crazy, I'm trying to be better at just living in the moment,” Pauly continues. “So for now, I'm excited to open this. I'm excited for the show to be up and running and for the summer to be here. I'm happy with today.”

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