Q&A: Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes

The stars of Promises, Promises on drinking, American Idol and tweeting on Ambien.

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  • Photographs: Dale May

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Photographs: Dale May

It's not often you catch two esteemed Emmy winners so insanely giddy—except, perhaps, on awards night. But when Broadway diva Kristin Chenoweth and Will & Grace show stealer Sean Hayes sit down to chat, they're completely buzzed...even though they're totally sober. The close friends have long wanted to work together, and now that they're playing opposite each other in the first Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, they're thrilled. Based on Billy Wilder's classic film The Apartment, the dark musical comedy (with songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, book by Neil Simon) chronicles the misadventures of Chuck Baxter (Hayes), an office drone who tries to get ahead by lending his apartment to company execs for their extramarital trysts. But complications arise when he falls for his boss's mistress (Chenoweth). Lounging cozily on a sofa, the costars enthuse about the show—and each other.

Kristin, you're eating a salad. Are you trying to make up for all that alcohol you downed during the shoot?
Kristin Chenoweth:
Oh, no! We didn't drink anything. It's just that last night I had 21 Rolos.

You counted?
Chenoweth:
It was a little sickening, but I was PMS-ing.
Sean Hayes: I do that with Famous Amos cookies. You don't feel like you're eating a lot of them, but then 55 later...

You two have a palpable rapport. How did you meet originally?
Hayes:
The mine shafts...
Chenoweth: [Laughs] You make me laugh! We met in Canada. He was doing Jerry Lewis [in the 2002 TV movie Martin and Lewis]....
Hayes: And she was doing Marian in The Music Man. We were introduced, and then we started calling each other at night.
Chenoweth: It was love at first sight. It seems like we've known each other for all time.
Hayes: We'd pass each other in the halls, as they say. We'd hang out at our lockers, but we never had class together.
Chenoweth: This is the first time we've made out.
Hayes: [Sleazily] Yezzzz.

Has that been going well?
Chenoweth:
[Batting her eyes at Hayes] I enjoy it.

How about the rest of the rehearsal process?
Hayes:
Great! Rob Ashford [the director] is extraordinary. It's exciting that this show is his Broadway debut [as a director]. I think we all feel the pressure of wanting to do a good job.

Kristin, you have a Tony, and Sean, this is your first time on Broadway. Do you worry about how critics will respond, and whether you'll make the short list come awards season?
Hayes:
I never, ever, ever think about any of that. All I think about is, How does this scene work? How does this line work? If I approach it from any other angle, I'm just setting myself up for disaster.
Chenoweth: Amen. And I just have to say: People are going to be amazed when they see Sean do this part. This show couldn't have been revived until the right person came along.
Hayes: You mean people. As an actress, Kristin has upped it a notch, if that's even possible. People are going to be like, "Holy crap! I didn't know she had that in her...."
Chenoweth: Thank you.
Hayes: And by that, I mean me.

Sean, you did a reading of Promises in 2008 with Anne Hathaway. Do you know why the part was recast?
Hayes:
That's probably a question for the producers. That was the initial "let's throw this together and see what happens" reading. We just wanted to hear it out loud.... With all due respect to Anne—who's a phenomenal actress and a wonderful person, and I actually think she may have felt this way, too—but I really do believe that we ended up with the best possible actress in the world to do this part.

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