Kristin Chenoweth gets to sing, stir the pot and more on GCB
She may be small in stature, but one of the reasons it’s hard not to love Kristin Chenoweth is because she’s such a powerhouse when it comes to anything she does. Whether she’s acting, singing, vamping on a talk show or standing up for gay rights, Chenoweth does it all with equal parts passion and conviction. And now she’s back on our televisions on a weekly basis with the premiere of ABC’s GCB.
Created by Robert Harling (who brought us Steel Magnolias, Soapdish and The First Wives Club) and Executive Produced by Sex And The City creator Darren Star, the series takes a comedic look at life in the South, namely Dallas, and Chenoweth chews up the scenery as meddlesome diva Carlene Cockburn (yes, Cockburn), who goes on the defensive when her high school nemesis (Leslie Bibb) returns to town.
Besides Chenoweth and Bibb, the cast also includes Designing Women alum Annie Potts, handsome David James Elliott, Marisol Nichols, Miriam Shor, Jennifer Aspen and sexy Mark Deklin, who plays one of the husbands, and who happens to have a taste for his sexy ranch foreman.
During a recent chat with AfterElton.com, the intoxicating Chenoweth talked with us about her new gig, the gay elements at work in both GCB and in society as well as her upcoming tour and her real thoughts on the possibility of playing Dolly Parton sometime in the future.
AfterElton: Kristin, the show is so fun. I have to ask you, Carlene’s last name is Cockburn. Now what is going on with that?
KC: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m sorry, what are you implying? Are you saying there’s something about cocks? And burns? I don’t know what you mean. [laughs] When I first heard that that was her last name, I was like, Bobby [Harling], are you trying to kill me? But evidently there’s lots of Cockburn’s in that part of the United States.
“There’s one in every church,” said Chenoweth (with Jennifer Aspen & David James Elliott)
AE: In the pilot, Carlene comes off like maybe a villain or a bully, but is she? What do you think of Carlene?
KC: Well, you know, here’s the way I view Carlene, I don’t think she’s a bully because I love her. I think you’re going to understand why she’s sort of protecting herself, because she’s been bullied. She was so bullied, she’s the ugly duckling and Amanda Vaughn (Bibb) tortured her through high school. So who doesn’t understand not wanting to be around that person. I mean, I had a person in high school that tortured me. I don’t really want her to come within the Broadway community and start auditioning for shows. That wouldn’t be good. And I think Carlene is protecting herself, and, yeah, she’s a villain in that she knows how to stir it up a little bit.
AE: Since every villain has an Achilles heel, will we find out what Carlene’s is?
KC: Yes, and there’s 10 episodes for you to find that out, and I’m going to tell you something…Bobby Harling has given me a gift and her name is Carlene and I cannot believe some of the things I get to do in these episodes, just me, as an actress and as a performer. He knows how to write women so well, and, I mean, Carlene is a complicated little turkey, but she’s really happy with her husband, you’ll see.
Carlene’s faith is strong…but so is her ability to challenge the Ten Commandments!
AE: Why do we love characters that might quote the Bible one minute and then, I won’t say break, but challenge the commandments the next?
KC: [laughs] Because it’s called real life. You know that. We do it. I do it every day, and it might not even have to do with the Bible. It’s called humanity and what Bobby has done so well is do it through church, and you know, put it in that world, which I don’t really know of a past show that has the church so in the forefront. But as I say, there is lots of humor to be had in church and some of my best memories and best times and the funniest things I have ever seen have happened in church. It is the Bible Belt, it is how we do it, it’s very real, and he’s just done an amazing job. And with Carlene too. I might be biased but I do love her.
AE: Now, as you know, whenever religion seems to pop up in TV or film or anything, some people tend to get their feathers riled up. Do you think GCB is going to rile some feathers?
KC: Oh, yeah! It would be impossible not to because there’s going to be a group of Christians that will maybe be offended but as a Christian myself, I would never do anything that made fun of my religion, or Jesus, or the Lord, or any of that. I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be a part of it.
There’s a difference, though, in having fun with and making fun of. I want to show the world I’m having fun with it, and if anything, there’s a sense of hope. If anything, these women are challenged by each other, but at the end of the day you probably know they have each other’s backs. So, it’s really about that.
“I’m such a lucky girl,” said Chenoweth of working with hunky David James Elliott on GCB.
AE: Talk to me about working with [her on-screen husband] David James Elliot, who is a tall drink of water if you could ever have one.
KC: Oh! I’m such a lucky girl. I’m such a lucky girl. Carlene and Ripp have a very healthy sex life and let’s just say that those days for me are very fun. He’s hot, he’s funny…and the world is going to get to see him be comedic and that’s what I’m most excited about. He’s such an amazing actor and we’ve seen him play this one character for so many years [on CBS’s long-running Jag], and now we’re going to see him play something totally different.
AE: GCB is essentially a comedy, but do we get some kind of weightier subjects, or weightier messages throughout the show?
KC: I think they’re subliminal. I mean, it is a comedy. It’s all out, balls to the walls, comedy, and as the show goes on you’ll see that and I don’t know of the last hour-long comedy…I don’t know. But, yeah, I think the undertone is there, oh look she’s going to do the right thing, or, oh, no, there she goes, it’s off the rail. You know, I would not say that it’s not deep, I think that the subjects that we’ll be they’re pretty deep, but it’s all in how these girls act and react and that’s what makes it just so funny.
AE: Now when you did your TCA panel last month, I asked a question about the gay husbands on the show, or at least husband, and you said ‘There’s one in every church.’
KC: I’m so sorry, I know I shouldn’t have said it, but it’s true!
AE: Well, my question is, how true is that?
KC: You know when you go to church and you go ‘He’s not gay! He’s married!’ But what I love about it, yes, it’s in church, but it’s also…there’s many producers that are gay and are married. There’s people of business who are gay and they’re married. It’s in every walk of life and it does make it funnier that it’s in church. I used to say as a little kid, ‘Mommy, why is so-and-so married? He’s gay!’ She’s like, ‘Shhhhh, shhhhh!’
Carlene is often in cahoots with Cricket (Miriam Shor) and Heather (Marisol Nichols).
AE: You have come to bat for gay rights many times and I know it’s a big conflict for a lot of people and some people find an even ground and they can have their faith and be gay, but other people can’t see the two things together. Can they ever get along?
KC: Oh, you know honey, I hope that…you know, one of my purposes in life is just to say, ‘I’m a Christian, but I want people who love each other to be together, without conflict.’ Not everybody sees it like me, which is why not every gay person will feel comfortable. Some people feel that they must make a choice, which is why you see a guy in church, married with his wife or the guy who owns the oil company with his wife, the movie producer, all the people that make that choice for themselves. Again, I don’t judge it. People have to do what’s right for them. They have to take their journey. But I look forward to a day when each of us can live how we are and without shame and if you happen to be Jewish, you can be Jewish and you can be gay. If you happen to be Christian, you can celebrate Christmas and talk about Jesus and be gay.
I guess I always go back to, what would Jesus do? And that always makes people laugh because it’s so Pollyanna, and I do believe I had the bracelet when I was 13. But what would he do? I don’t think he’d be doing what a lot of people in my religion, or my faith, are doing or judging. He was doing the opposite when he walked this earth, whether you view him as the Messiah or not, he was a good man, and preached to us.
So I think that it’s that I’m so over the…that it’s not a law yet. It’s like ‘hurry up already,’ and I just pray that it changes. I want people to be free and be how they are. So many people kill themselves because they’re not going to fit in and not be okay and they slowly kill themselves with either drugs or they just kill themselves because they can’t live as a gay person and be a Christian, or be Jewish, or be whatever. There are more suicides by that than by anything. Or they’re bullied for being effeminate or whatever. It kills me, it breaks my heart, and when somebody is picked on that way, I won’t have it, if I see it. If somebody is being put down for that, I won’t have it.
AE: This is a loaded question but what else do you have going on? You always have a lot.
KC: [laughs] You know me! I don’t sleep. I’m going on tour in May and June. I had a record [Some Lessons Learned] come out in October, while I was shooting this show, which was hard. I was trying to promote and work but I’m going to go on tour all over the US, Australia and London, eventually, but you know, I’m trying to make those dates when it’s a little bit warmer. Yeah, I’m going to go on tour and I’m excited about it because I’ve never really committed to a full-on tour, I’ve done concert work everywhere, but I’ve never done like, never like, banged it out, like one after another.
AE: Dolly Parton has mentioned your name, if she were going to ever get her story up on stage. Is that something you would like to do?
KC: Is the Pope Catholic? Yes, I would be an idiot not to want to play her. My message back to her…well, she actually knows how I feel about her…that’s something that I think I could do, and I think that I understand her very well. And I’ve grown up watching her, so, yeah, I would love to play her.
GCB premieres Sunday, March 4 at 10/9c on ABC. For details on Kristin’s upcoming tour, visit her website.