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Kristin Chenoweth in On the Twentieth Century
Photograph: Joan MarcusKristin Chenoweth in On the Twentieth Century

Kristin Chenoweth talks the Tony Awards, Glee and life as a perfectionist

Broadway’s biggest night is here—it’s Tony Awards time! Kristin Chenoweth is your (emotional) guide

Written by
Kara Mayer Robinson

Kristin Chenoweth is a 4'11" soprano who’s Broadway to the core, with full-on opera training and major acting and dancing chops—the Oklahoma native originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked and is up for a Tony this year for her portrayal of an overconfident actor in the screwball comedy On the Twentieth Century. (Those who aren’t Broadway aficionados will recognize her from her roles on Glee and Pushing Daisies or the gobs of other parts in her 18-year theater, TV and film career.) Before she and Alan Cumming tackle the Great White Way’s biggest night on Sunday 7, Chenoweth, 46, reveals that there may be a trembling nerve or two under that gregarious demeanor.

RECOMMENDED: Read more about the Tony Awards

How are you feeling about hosting?
Well, I’m scared. But that’s why I do things. If you live life without taking risk, you will never know success.

You’re following in some famous footsteps, like your good pal Sean Hayes, who hosted in 2010. Did he offer any tips?
“You’re gonna get critiqued anyway. So just fuck it, have fun.” I love Sean in such a way. The heart is ginormous, and the talent is ginormous. Me and Alan—we’re not really what you’d call vanilla. So we’re gonna go with that. I like vanilla, but I’m more of a chocolate-strawberry-pecan praline–type girl.

Have you seen many of this year’s nominated plays?
No, because we’re all on the same schedule! I saw The Elephant Man. I was beside myself—I was so emotional. I was very drawn to Patricia Clarkson. And I want to see Kelli [O’Hara] in The King and I.

Speaking of Kelli, who’s up against you for best lead actress, you both studied at Oklahoma City University. Did you ever cross paths?
No, I was just old enough to miss her. But my voice teacher at OCU was also Kelli’s, and I helped set her up with my agent. I’m so proud of her. I’ve always felt a little protective, and I’m so happy she’s had so much success.

So far, you’ve won an Emmy for Pushing Daisies and a Featured Actress Tony for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Any dreams of an EGOT?
That Grammy is elusive, but I’d love that. It’s what I wanted to be my whole life: a singer.

You were also nominated once before for Best Actress, for Wicked. Do you think if you had won instead of costar Idina Menzel, John Travolta would have mispronounced your name?
No, because I know him! But that was a great thing that happened, and I think Idina would agree. I’d be sending him flowers every day.

When did you last see Idina?
We did a photo shoot about nine months ago. We chatted about her son, who is so cute—I mean, look at the parents [dad is Taye Diggs]—and my dog, Maddie.

Is your dog named after Maddie Ziegler, from Dance Moms?
No, but I fucking love Dance Moms in every possible way. Maddie is off the charts. And [instructor] Abby Lee [Miller]—there’s only one of her. I invited Abby Lee and the dance kids to see the show, but they haven’t come yet.

So, that distinctive voice. Ever lose or gain a part because of it?
I’m sure both. I’m positive my speaking voice has gotten me roles, because people say, “That’s different.” I’m positive that it has hurt me. I’ve heard everything: “It’s annoying.” “Is it real?” “Did she suck helium?” “Is she 12?”

Your small frame is unique too. Has that been an issue?
The word perky gets on my nerves a little. If I were tall, would I be considered perky? Being petite does bring on the perception of, “Oh, you’re so cute, let me put you in my pocket.” I’ve been picked up a lot—I mean physically, not by men. Santa and the Easter Bunny would wave to me in the mall until I was 16. I’d be with my friends, saying, “Don’t, Santa, don’t.”

What was it like working on Glee?
It was weird when [cast members would] say, “I’ve looked up to you my whole life.” You’re like, Wait a minute—I’m 38. But it means you’re making your mark.

If you weren’t an actor and singer, what career would you like to try?
Forensic science. It interests me how people do horrible things. You know what I saw recently that I’m addicted to? The Jinx. I watched it twice.

What else do you watch?
I also like Game of Thrones. Anything on Bravo—don’t judge me. And My Strange Addiction: “I can’t stop eating Bounce dryer sheets.” “I’ve eaten my dead husband’s ashes.”

Is it true you’re a perfectionist?
Yes, in my work. I guess I have some OCD. I have to have gloves on. I have to be hand-sanitized, my whole body. I have to have Vicks in my nose when I travel and before I go on Broadway. I have to have quarters.

Quarters? For what?
I don’t know, I just like ’em. It’s weird. I have a big jar. I take quarters out of my wallet, I put them in a jar.

Oh, and forgive us for not saying this earlier: Congrats on your nomination!
A Christmas miracle! I can’t believe it—it’s been a while. I usually don’t get nominated for this award anymore.

Will you write an acceptance speech?
I never do that. I think it’s bad luck. Plus I want to be surprised.

Do you have a “gracious loser” look ready?
Yes, I’ve got that down.

The 69th Annual Tony Awards airs on CBS Sun 7 at 8pm.

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