Kristin Chenoweth | Interview outtakes

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth Photo illustration: Jamie DiVecchio Ramsay

I recently interviewed Kristin Chenoweth in connection with her new ABC series GCB, which premieres this Sunday, but first I had to persuade her to stop talking about Chicago. We spoke a few weeks ago (days before she came to Chicago to tape Rosie O’Donnell’s show), and apparently the pint-sized actress-singer is quite smitten with our fair city. Which bodes well for her upcoming Cadillac Palace concert, announced earlier today. “I’m so excited because Chicago’s my favorite city in the country. I love it so much,” she said. I asked her if she tells all the reporters she meets the same thing about their cities. Here’s her response, an outtake from our recent published Q&A:

“No, I don’t. Here’s who I like: I like San Francisco, I like New York, I like Oklahoma City because I’m from there. But I love Chicago, and here’s why: I love the hotels, I love the shopping, I love the orchestra—you guys have one of the best orchestras in the world, the orchestra is just unbelievable, I’ve sung with them twice. And also the best food in the world, so there you have it.”

“Well,” I said, “thanks for that nice plug for the city—” But she continued: “I freakin’ love Chicago! And I love the Nordstrom. It’s the best Nordstrom ever.”

We proceeded to talk about GCB and other matters. A few more outtakes:

The South depicted in GCB is very Dallas—ostentatious displays of wealth, big houses, big hair. How does that compare to the South you experienced in a suburb of Tulsa?

Mine was much more small town. What we did for excitement was the main drag and went to Sonic. I did not grow up poor, but I did not grow up with an exorbitant amount of money. My daddy had his own business that did really well for a long time, and then it didn’t, so I’ve had both. I’ve had money, and then I’ve had to do a pageant so maybe I could get to OCU.

So that happened with your dad’s business while you were growing up.

Yeah, and his whole thing was work hard, play hard, and he came from absolutely nothing. He didn’t even have a bathroom inside his house till he was 13. I don’t know if you know a lot about the oil business, but he was in construction, and the late-’80s hit and things went kind of awry and just dried up, and a lot of the people that he was in business with dried up, and because he has integrity he would never do things half-assed. He taught me a lot about the value of a dollar and how you have to work for it and how you have to be thankful for it and how you have to give back. And when I had a lot of money, I didn’t understand that. It was when we didn’t that I got it. A lot of my relatives are farmers and ranchers so I’ve been outside of that whole city world. We went to Dallas to go shopping, so that tells you what we had. We went to Neiman Marcus once a year to go clothes shopping, me and my mom.

As you’re talking about this, your Southern accent’s getting stronger and stronger.

[Laughs] I know. I had to work for so many years to lose it, and I guess when I think about being at home, it does come out. I was in Tulsa visiting an old friend about a month ago, and we went to my house that I grew up in. My dad had built a pool in the house, and it had a slide, which I don’t even think they’re legal now. The guy recognized me that lives in the house now, and he said I want to show you something, and he took me around the back and he showed me where we’d signed our names in the cement that my dad had poured. It said the Chenoweths. It had my parents’ names and Mark and Kristi, which is me and my brother, and he said, “I’m so glad that I never paved over that because I have proof that you lived here.” That house seemed so big to me when I was growing up, but, you know what, it’s just a normal four-bedroom ranch house.

Are you really playing Tammy Faye Baker in the Broadway musical Rise?

Yeah, I’m committed to that show. It needs some work. The music is unbelievable—people need to get ready. Henry Krieger, who did Dreamgirls, did the music. I would say it’s a couple years away. I know that I will go back first next spring and do On the Twentieth Century on Broadway, revive that Madeline Kahn role, and then hopefully on the next hiatus, if GCB is still going, I will do Rise: The Story of Tammy Faye. And the reason I love her and loved her so much, she was the first person in Christian television to put a person on the air and interview somebody who had AIDS. In that time, that was unheard of. And what she said—and people should go back and watch the interview—was we should never judge, we should only love you, what your family and what you must be going through is so hard. So Tammy Faye Baker, she had her demons, too, but I’m telling you something: That was a woman who really did her best to walk what she believed. I mean, the mascara alone should win me a Tony Award.

GCB premieres March 4 at 9pm on ABC.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)