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?
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.
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
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