You might know her because she originated the role of Glinda in musical phenomenon Wicked, or because you saw her hilarious portrayal of April Rhodes on Glee or her season on The West Wing, but soon you're going to know Kristin Chenoweth as Carlene, the GCB choir singer who since high school has grown from an unattractive, bullied teen into a gorgeous (and very insecure) HBIC (Head Belle In Charge). Earlier today, I got a chance to talk to Kristin about this weekend's GCB premiere, gospel music, and all those mean girls in high school.
You probably get lots of different offers, what attracted you to the part of Carlene?
Well, it's such a juicy part. When I read the script I didn't want anyone else playing her. I thought "I'm doing this!" This is too good to pass up, and she's a very complicated character and over the ten episodes you see why she's complicated, and how that manifests itself with these other girls, and I just knew I wasn't going to let anyone else do it.
On Glee, you got to show off your comedy skills. What are some of your comedic influences?
I love love love Madeleine Kahn, I think you'll see a little bit of her in Carlene. I love also, Dolly Parton, she's a very funny entertainer. Somebody asked her not long ago how long it takes to do her hair and she said, "I don't know, I'm never there!" I love Sally Field and everything she's done, I also love Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore. These women paved the way for women like me. Hopefully you'll see an amalgam of different kinds of comedians in Carlene.
Will you be singing regularly on GCB?
Well, I think Carlene is the type who gets herself a solo, so I think you'll see her do that a lot. But you're going to see other people sing too, and I'm not sure how Carlene feels about that.
Obviously a lot of your character's experience comes from being bullied in high school. Did you have any experience with mean girls in high school?
Oh yeah! I grew up in Friday Night Lights land, and if you were different at all you got picked on. Nobody ever believes me because they think "Oh, you have the pefect life!" But I have a very interesting speaking voice, I'm short, and I'm pretty happy, I'm a pretty easy target. Back then—there was a girl who said, "I just want to beat your face in!" and I said "Why?" and she said "Because you're happy." And I said, "Well, I'm not worth the punch! Please don't hurt me!" I think if you're human, you've been bullied, probably. There's always someone.
You're from Oklahoma, so you've obviously spent some there. Have you spent time in Texas? How familiar are you with Dallas and the "Bible Belt" area?
They are very similar, Texas and Oklahoma, but everyone knows Oklahoma women are nicer. I just want to throw that out! But all kidding aside, I've grown up shopping at Neiman's, we'd drive to Texas and Dallas and do our shopping and that was always a good memory for me. I've done theater there, I've sung with the Philharmonic there. I love it, and I think GCB is a beautiful love letter to the city, and I hope they're proud of us.
How are things going with your co-stars? You have a clique of friends on the show, are you finding that natural chemistry?
Yeah we are, and that makes me so happy because what if they were mean girls? That would suck. These girls are so fun, and they love their parts. When you have a group of people who want a good show, there's not a lot of drama, and I prefer it that way.
How about your on-screen husband, are you guys clicking?
Oh, yeah! I mean, have you seen him? He's hot! And we really get along well and we have fun together. I'm really glad they cast [David James Elliott, from JAG], because he's funny, and I don't know that America has seen that side of this actor.
Any chance of a crossover gospel album coming out attached to GCB?
I would never say never. My second album was a Christian album, and I loved it. I got to sing a lot of songs by singers who influenced me growing up, like Sandy Patty and Amy Grant. I sort of did an homage to them. But I'd love to do another one, I run into a little problem because I am a Christian, but I'm a very open-minded Christian and that doesn't always set well with my own kind. But obviously I'm a person of faith and would always want to sing about that.
GCB premieres this Sunday, March 4 at 10pm on ABC.