Kristin Chenoweth Looks Ahead to ‘Hairspray Live!,’ ‘American Gods’

Debra Birnbaum

Kristin Chenoweth, who’s been performing since childhood, has made her mark on the stage, screen and television, with memorable roles on “Wicked” and “The West Wing.” Never one to sit still, she’s taking on the role of Velma von Tussle in NBC’s upcoming “Hairspray Live” (Dec. 7) just as she’s wrapped a two-week run in New York City with her concert “My Love Letter to Broadway.”

How do you juggle everything?
Girl, I’m tired! I’m going to be honest: It’s my Achilles heel. The thing I have to work hardest at is finding those times to take a break, to refuel, to recharge, to get alone time. As soon as “Hairspray’s” done, I’m going to take a month and chill out. I’m probably going to get bored day two!

Why did you sign on for “Hairspray Live”?
I love the part. She’s got a great number called “Miss Baltimore Crabs.” It’s about living in the past, about her former days as a beauty queen. I also think it’s interesting to watch a mom live vicariously through her daughter. That’s always been a fascinating relationship — an unfortunate trait that I’ve witnessed. My challenge will be to make a very unlikable character fun and likable.

You’re an accomplished performer — but how will you prepare for doing a musical on live TV?
Oh God, I’m a wreck. I’m so nervous. The deal is this is a one-time shot. When we’re on Broadway, we get the next night to make it better, to fix the mistake. But this will be mistakes in front of millions of people. My goal will be not to fall in a pit. Or have something fall on me or blow myself up. Of course I’m kidding. I want to totally be the character. I want to nail it.

You’ve had such a great partnership with “American Gods” creator Bryan Fuller.
We’ve never left each other’s side since “Pushing Daisies.” Not just professionally, but as friends. We shouldn’t get along on paper. But he’s like my brother. We both love horror films. We love weird stuff, like taxidermy. Lots of stuff that people wouldn’t know about us. What he thinks is funny, I think is funny. What he’s drawn to, I’m drawn to. He’s a complete Trekkie. I’m a sci-fi fanatic. It makes sense that we found each other.

What role is still on your bucket list?
The usual suspects, like Dolly, “Mame,” and “Gypsy.” But I think the role that’s next may not even be written yet. I have this weird feeling it’s being written now.

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