Sorkin plays kiss 'n' tell with Chenoweth (Toronto Star)

Studio 60 shows Kristin's quirks 700 Club, CNN imitation all true

While many showbiz pundits are offering their suggestions about how Aaron Sorkin could best fix his troubled NBC series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, everybody seems to be missing the most obvious solution: Just ask Kristin Chenoweth.

It's been one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood that the pivotal, tortured involvement on the show between Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) is based on the real-life relationship Sorkin and Chenoweth shared several years ago.

"Well, what am I to say?" sighs Chenoweth sweetly when asked to comment on the situation. "That's tricky stuff. Some of it is literally verbatim me, and some of it is not me at all."

At this moment, she's miles away from the Sunset Strip in every sense of the word.

She's currently rehearsing for The Apple Tree, the Roundabout Theatre production of a musical set to go into previews at New York's Studio 54 on Nov.28. It's one of this year's most hotly awaited shows, thanks to the Tony Award-winning presence of Chenoweth.

But as she sits on a dilapidated couch outside a West Side rehearsal hall — wearing oversized glasses and Dutch boy cap — she looks more like the little girl from Broken Arrow, Okla., she began as, than the toast of both coasts that she finds herself today.

"It's hard," she says simply about the whole Studio 60 situation. "It's hard on a very private level. I once told Aaron, `Unless you accept Jesus Christ as your personal saviour, then get the hell out,' and he laughed for two minutes. Then I see it on the show in a different way, which I'm not really sure about.

"Yes, I went on The 700 Club to promote an album of Christian songs I had recorded and yes, Aaron and I argued about that, but it doesn't mean I want to watch that disagreement flung up on the screen for all America to see."

She twists at a random piece of her trademark blonde hair. "I'm trying to be supportive of the show, but it's hard. I'm not going to lie. I used to sit at home at night and do imitations of (CNN host) Nancy Grace and the next thing I know, they wind up on the air."

Her mouth twists into a mischievous grin. "We're still extremely close and Aaron called me up on the phone a few weeks ago to ask me what I thought about Mel Gibson. I said, `I'm not going to tell you what I think, because it's going to end up on the show.'"

She gets serious again. "I know some people are looking for failure for him, but I want that show to stay on the air. I think Sorkin is — and it's not just because I love him — I think he's a genius."

A lot of people use the same word to describe Chenoweth, who has had one of the most eclectic careers in modern show-business.

She was born in 1968 and grew up in the part of America known as "the buckle on the Bible belt." She was a sorority girl who performed at Opryland USA. She was also first runner-up in the 1991 Miss Oklahoma pageant and won a scholarship from the Metropolitan Opera's national auditions.

She threw it all away to go into musical theatre, where she quickly rose to the top, snagging a Tony Award for her delicious performance in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The smash hit Wicked came next, with Chenoweth charming everyone as ditzy blonde witch Glinda.

The West Coast beckoned and she left to do a flop sitcom called — what else? — Kristin, as well as supporting roles in films like Bewitched, The Pink Panther and the current comedy Running with Scissors.

She also spent two seasons on The West Wing as media guru Annabeth Schott, but even though Sorkin created the series, that isn't where she met him.

"He offered me The West Wing many years ago," she recalls, "but I couldn't do it because of Wicked. Then, when I finally got cast in the series, he sent me flowers with a note saying, `Just my luck, I'm not on the show any more, but you are.'

"Then he called me up to ask me out, but I thought he was just being nice, so I didn't return the call. He called me back. We went out and that was it. I adore him."

It's strange how Sorkin put a certain amount of Chenoweth into the character of Harriet Hayes, but he's left out some of the more fascinating parts, as well.

Get Chenoweth talking about her religious beliefs these days and you'll find a complicated, committed woman, struggling to reconcile herself with what she sees around her.

"It's getting to the point where I don't even want to call myself Christian, because the connotations of that word today are hate, non-acceptance, judgment — everything I believe Christianity isn't supposed to be about.

"When you think about it, Jesus was a poor liberal Jew. If he were alive today, he'd be working with people who have AIDS. I wonder how he would have felt about the people who call themselves `Christians' today."

She takes off her glasses and rubs her eyes. "The Christian right has come out against me because I believe in gay rights. And a lot of people in show-business mock me for being Christian. I just have to feel the way that I feel.

"You know, it's funny. I have parents who are right-wing Republican Christians and yet they somehow raised me to love everybody, not to judge everybody. When did that all change in America?"

It's a very good question. The kind of question that would make Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip a lot more interesting.

- RICHARD OUZOUNIAN

Wicked' star follows Hollywood's path (Sioux City Journal)

By Bruce R. Miller Journal staff writer

LOS ANGELES : After more than a year on Broadway, what's left?

How 'bout life in an "RV"?

For Kristin Chenoweth, hitting the road is the next phase in a career filled with right turns. After winning a Tony for her work in "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," the 4'11" Oklahoman landed her own sitcom, starred in a TV version of "The Music Man," returned to Broadway for the blockbuster "Wicked" and wound up as a regular on "The West Wing."

Now, she's one of Robin Williams' annoying neighbors in "RV" and, before the year is up, she'll be seen in three more films.

"I'm so grateful to get to do film and television and theater," she says. "What I'm doing now is learning -- I'm growing as an artist and an actor." Broadway, though, will always be a part of her life. Music is Chenoweth's calling card.

Blessed with incredible range, she's a regular on the concert circuit, singing Broadway standards, contemporary Christian songs and selections from her own albums. Those gigs fill what few spaces she has left in a career that seems stuffed with opportunity.

When she goes to sing in concert halls, Chenoweth always asks a director to critique her performance.

"I worry if I'm too broad because I'm used to 3,000-seat theaters," she says. "I need to know if I should add more or take away a little bit. Maybe if you're true and honest, it's all the same."

On "West Wing" (where she plays an assistant to John Spencer), Chenoweth knows she can't "sell it to the back row. It's still a little bit heightened because of the energy of the show. But it's not like playing 'Wicked.'"

"Wicked," in fact, is the credit that gave Chenoweth a whole new fan base. Cast as Glinda the good witch (in a prequel of sorts of "The Wizard of Oz"), she got another Tony nomination and a chance to show all the colors in her talent palette -- singing, dancing, acting.

Now, "I can go anywhere in the United States and girls from age 12 to 18 turn up to grab me and say, 'You are a role model.' The transformation from being a superficial person to a real person resonates with them. Girls are living that life now."

Composer Steven Schwartz wrote the musical with Chenoweth in mind. She was treated like a rock star after every performance and watched as the cast album shot up the charts. "If there's a movie, I'm attached," she says. "They have to pay me a lot of money not to do it. So if you see Reese Witherspoon, just know that I got a house in the hills." She laughs.

Suspended several times in the air (in a big bubble), Chenoweth had her share of close calls and mishaps during the show's run. How much did she bring to the show? "A lot," she says. "We all have to put our stamp on it."

Interestingly, Chenoweth never saw anyone in her role until she had been out of "Wicked" for several months. "I appreciated what she did," she says of the replacement. "She brought her own thing to it. She can't be me and I can't be Barbara Harris."

Chenoweth, though, can be Dusty Springfield. She's currently preparing a screen biography that will find her playing the '60s pop star.

"She lived a tortured life but she also had a great sense of humor. She was petite. She battled her religion with her sexuality. There's a lot of stuff there for people to learn and grow from."

Chenoweth says she'll play the singer in her early, formative years and her later, successful ones. "She was this Catholic schoolgirl -- kind of chubby, pimply faced, who made herself into this woman with a sound. I just can't wait."

Meanwhile, there's a recording career to consider. Chenoweth did a CD of inspirational songs that has done well with Christian audiences. But, she cautions, don't look for her to win a slew of Dove awards.

"I'm a very controversial figure in the Christian world. I don't believe if you're gay or you have a drink or you dance you're going to hell. I don't think that's the kind of God we have. The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world are scary. I want to be a Christian like Christ -- loving and accepting of other people."

Politics? Don't even get her started. When she was cast on "The West Wing," Chenoweth didn't even know some of the cities that had to roll off her tongue. "I thought Ramallah was a purse brand."

When her father watched the show, he called and said, "Kris, you sound pretty smart on the TV. I can't believe that's you."

"I'm learning a lot," she says.

As "West Wing" winds down, Chenoweth will segue into film and keep her options open for Broadway. There's a rumor she'll star in the Dolly Parton story, but a return to New York seems distant.

"There's still a dream of mine to be in 'My Fair Lady' but I don't want to be 'My Fair Lady' with just a little speck of dirt across my face. I want to make her homeless and gritty and really have a transformation. Yes, I'll always go back to the stage. I just don't know if I can do a long run because of the concert tours."

And "RV," the vehicle that could bridge the gaps? "It's a transition piece," she explains. "What I'd really love to do is a movie musical."

Chenoweth was, and still is, Leo's kind of girl
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Still mourning the loss of her beloved West Wing co-star John Spencer, who died of a heart attack Dec. 16, Kristin Chenoweth enjoyed a much-needed laugh Sunday night at a party at the home of her pal Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm).

"He was like my father," said Chenoweth, who not long ago enjoyed a conversation with Spencer about their own mortality. "We talked about how we wanted to die, and John said, 'I just want to go quick.' And he did."

Just a few days after Spencer's death, on what would have been the Emmy-winning actor's 59th birthday, the whole West Wing crew and cast gathered at Spencer's empty house for an impromptu memorial. "It was very helpful for us to talk about him — and we even had a birthday cake for John."

West Wing writers had been laying the groundwork for a red-hot romance involving Chenoweth's character, Annabeth Schott, and Spencer's Leo McGarry. Just last week, Chenoweth was still shooting scenes alluding to a developing romance.

"They had me all happy, singing," Chenoweth said. "It was very awkward. I think the writers are frantically planning something appropriate to honor him, but we don't know what."

Chenoweth and Hines appear together as the wives of Jeff Daniels and Robin Williams in the comedy R.V. It's due in theaters in March.
The buttoned-up star of The West Wing loses her business suit (FHM)
Kristin Chenoweth is a woman of contradictions. She’s 4-foot-11 and tips the scales at 95 pounds, yet she sports an Amazonian’s curves. She’s a Tony-award winning Broadway star, but she’s a diva with decidedly un-tony dining tastes. “Don’t be takin’ me to ‘nice’ restaurants,” Kristin says. “I don’t like anything I can’t pronounce. I like Applebee’s, Arby’s and Dairy Queen.”

Though proudly Christian, the 37-year-old forged her way playing Nicole Kidman’s naughty neighbor in Bewitched and the not-so Glinda the Good Witch in the original cast of Wicked, the award-winning musical. She’s as sweet a Southern girl as you’re likely to meet, but if you try to pick her up with a line like, “Are you an angel or am I dead?” she’ll fire back, “I think you’re dead.”

Raised in the Tulsa, OK, suburb of Broken Arrow, Kristin sang at her Baptist church from early childhood before going on to receive her master’s in opera performance from Oklahoma City University. Since winning her Tony in ’99, she’s multitasked across the entertainment universe. She’ll be singing onstage with Plácido Domingo in Washington, D.C., this spring, she’s currently finishing up her second season as Annabeth Schott on The West Wing and her third album is in the works. Plus, it’s about to become a Kristin Chenoweth world at the multiplex: She’s currently appearing on the big screen alongside Steve Martin in The Pink Panther (“He’s hot because he’s funny. If a guy’s not funny, forget about it. I’m bored stiff.”), and next month, she’ll headline with Robin Williams in RV before returning in Running With Scissors this fall.

With all that work, it’s no wonder Kristin is single. Or is it her cartoon-like speaking voice that’s the problem?

“I don’t suck helium—this is how I actually sound,” Kristin says. “If you want someone with a husky, sexy voice, call Demi Moore. If you want Betty Boop, I’m happy to oblige.” And, as a bonus, there would be no Ashton Kutcher to suffer. Sounds perfect.

Is it true that during the filming of Bewitched, Nicole Kidman said to you, “I want your boobs”?
Yes, and I was like, “Don’t even go there, Miss-porcelain-skin-and-legs-as-tall-as-my-whole-person!” I would take one of her legs, just one! I’ve always wanted just a normal-sized foot. I’ve been complaining my whole life that if I were tall, people would say I was “gorgeous.” Because I’m little, they say I’m “cute as a button” and “adorable.” But, hey, as my mom says, “At least they’re not callin’ you a bitch.”

Why are guys so breast-focused?
I don’t know. I’m surprised men can even see mine because I’m so short. But guys are very visual creatures—they like leg, they like chest. But, well, I don’t know why! I don’t get the fascination.

Do you have to downsize the men you date, or do you go for tall guys?
I’m a super-size-me kind of gal. I mean, I love men of any height, but I do prefer a taller guy. And you know what? Most taller men don’t mind the more petite girl. I don’t know if that’s because it makes them feel even bigger.

You’re successful and ambitious. Do you intimidate men?
Yes. I like to be a girlie girl but I’ve got so much going on that I need respect and compromise and all that. I believe that, ultimately, men like to be taken care of. And I like to be that woman. At the end of the day, what man doesn’t want a woman to say, “Hey, roll over. Let me rub your back”? That’s what a guy needs. And I truly want to be able to give someone everything, but I haven’t mastered the balancing-work-and-love thing yet. But I promise to get better.

You’re single and your bedtime companion is a Maltese. How are dogs preferable to men?
You don’t have to get dressed up for ’em and they just love ya. Dogs don’t care if your hair extensions are falling out or if your breath stinks. More than likely, theirs does too.

When you do get dressed to kill, what does the outfit look like?
The miniskirt with boots is always good.

You’ve played a lot of bad girls. Are you ever envious of them?
Definitely. I wouldn’t do the things they’ve done, but I get to live vicariously through the characters. Somewhere deep down there’s a bad girl in me.

Maybe you’d be a girl-loving bad girl? After all, you are playing a lesbian in the upcoming Running With Scissors. Did you do any in-depth research?
That’s one part of the role I did not research. Although I did kiss Annette Bening in the film.

How was Ms. Bening as a kisser?
Very good. But I said to her, “You know what? Unless you’re going to take me to dinner and a movie, that’s as far as this is going.” FHM

View some of the pictures from this article here.
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