Embracing the Baroness: Talking 'Sound of Music Live!' With Laura Benanti
Stephen Moyer and Laura Benanti in "The Sound of Music Live!"
There may have been haters out there, but in the end, love conquered all. Last night's live telecast of NBC's production of the "The Sound of Music" climbed virtually every household in America, garnering an astounding 18.5 million viewers, marking the network's biggest Thursday night since "Frasier" went off the air in 2004, and its biggest night in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic since the "ER" finale.
And at the center of the night, Broadway veteran Laura Benanti's name lit up Twitter for her turn in what is generally the least sympathetic role in musical theater: that of Maria's romantic rival, the Baroness Elsa Schrader.
Apart from her stage work, Benanti has a long list of TV credits to her name including leading roles in short-lived NBC shows "Go On" and "The Playboy Club." She is also a recording artist, having released a live performance album this year.
See Benanti perform "How Can Love Survive?"
We spoke with Benanti by phone from New York as she came down from the big night.
Are you celebrating today?
No, just doing a fitting for "Nurse Jackie." It's back to work.
You've played Maria before onstage. How did you feel about switching sides?
I felt really good about it. I felt excited to be looking at that piece through the lens of a different character. I played Maria 16 years ago so I have lived a lot in that time. I know what it's like to be hurt. I find the Baroness to be so intelligent and witty and sexy and that is the kind of character I'm interested in playing right now.
Are you more like the Baroness or Maria?
I think I'm a mix. I don't think I'm as wide-eyed and naive as Maria. Nor do I think I'm as jaded as the Baroness.[Related: Speed Date With 'The Sound of Music's' Other Woman, Laura Benanti]
How did you make people feel safe to stand with the Baroness?
I think you find the humanity. What I try to bring to all my roles is a sense of humanity. People are not good or evil. That's boring. People behave in certain ways based on the lives they've led. I think there's a darkness in everyone and a light so I try to cultivate both of those things, and also through the lens with a sense of humor. I worked really hard with Rob Ashford and the other actors to create a character who is a real human being, who has a disappointing situation happen to her but handles it with elegance.