Entertainment :: Television

Kristen Chenoweth gets mean on ’GCB’ (’Good Christian Bitches’)

by Fred Topel
Contributor
Wednesday Feb 29, 2012
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The new ABC drama starring Kristen Chenoweth is curiously titled "GCB." These three letters seem innocent enough, but if you’ve read the book by Kim Gatlin, you know it stands for Good Christian Bitches. When Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) moves back home to Dallas, she meets the gang of mean girls who rule the neighborhood.

As Carlene Cockburn, Chenoweth plays the meanest girl. It is a change of pace from the usual sweetheart role she plays. "I love her villain-ness," Chenoweth told the Television Critics Association at a recent press event for the series. "It’s very different for me to play that part, get to say what I think, what she thinks is real funny. I love it because we all thought it, but she gets to just say it and unabashedly and with no apologies."


Fun to say, ’bad hair day’

Wisteria Lane ain’t got nothin’ on the suburbs of Dallas. The GCBs go way beyond the desperate housewives. "All these people, their problems are real to them," Chenoweth continued.

"The big barbecue, the affair, the this, the that, they’re real problems in their community, as we know. And it’s fun to just be able to say, ’Ooh, bad hair day.’ It’s just fun, because you think it. So she’s so fun. Delicious."

The show takes advantage of the Broadway star’s multiple talents. Chenoweth will sing on "GCB," but it won’t be the full Tony award winning voice. "I do sing but remember it’s Carlene Cockburn singing," she said.

Oklahoma, from which Chenoweth hails, isn’t as south as the setting of "GCB," but the state has its share of GCBs too. "Yeah, nicer versions, nicer versions. Everybody knows Oklahoma women are nicer than Texas women... I’m just teasing. Not really."

Dressing up like Carlene Cockburn has been a whirlwind of high fashion with casual sex appeal. But what she likes best puts her in the league with television’s most famous fashionista: Carrie Bradshaw. "The shoes are pretty great. I might’ve taken one or two pairs. And there’s a couple of scenes with just a robe. I like that. That’s real comfortable after hour number thirteen."


Bullied in high school

New York and Los Angeles have been home to Chenoweth since her acting career took off. When she returns to Oklahoma, it’s usually associated with a concert or event, which brings out those who knew her when - including the girls who treated her badly in high school.

"It’s funny. I just had a concert where one of the mean girls from my hometown in Oklahoma showed up at the stage door. I was told, ’So and so is here.’ My assistant had heard me tell stories about her and I said, ’I think not.’ It felt so good. I mean, I’ve moved on, but it made me feel a little bit of that."

To be clear, Chenoweth is usually the bigger person when it comes to old conflicts. She rarely holds anything from the past against someone. "They want help, they want you to help their kid. Usually when it involves their child I will suck it up because a kid had nothing to do with it. But yeah, I’ve had a lot of people come back to me."

You still never know though, the child of a bully could still grow up to be just like their mom. "I know. Hopefully, and I have met a lot of them (childhood acquaintances), I hope to be a good example. But that time it did feel good to not let ’so and so’ backstage."

How could anyone not love Kristen Chenoweth? From her Broadway appearances (a Tony-winning turn in "You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown," originating the role of Glinda in "Wicked") to her numerous television appearances ("Pushing Daisies," for which she won a Emmy Award, "Glee" and her appearances on "Glee" and "The West Wing"), her exuberance and talent have endeared her to many.

It wasn’t the case in high school.

"There was a daily horror of a person who said she just wanted to beat me up because I was so happy, and I just kept telling her, ’I’m not worth the punch.’ But she was probably my worst nightmare. She was a bully."


A ’Smash’ fan

Hollywood can be mean too. By that time, though, Chenoweth knew how to deal with bullies. "I’ve had people say not so nice things about me, but that’s okay. That’s their opinion."

"GCB" enters a TV season where there is actually a show - "Smash" -- about Chenoweth’s home turf: Broadway. The hit NBC’s series even mentioned her in the pilot episode. Chenoweth was never considered for a role in the show is very excited to be watching it each week.

"I loved it. I think that Katharine McPhee is pretty special. I know practically all of the people in it and the producers are, like, my best friends. Michael Mayer, obviously. He directed me in ’You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown’ which I won a Tony for. So, I obviously want it to do well because it’s my peeps. I’ve just met [Megan Hilty] twice and I just loved her. I thought that she was perfect for this show, perfect."

"Glee" also gave Chenoweth a recurring role, with a few songs, as a high school dropout from glee clubs past. For now, "GCB" will command all of Chenoweth’s acting time.

"This is my main priority now and April Rhodes has been a blast to play. She is a has-been drunk and so that’s fun, but Carlene has her own problems and I enjoy it."


Back on tour

Music remains a vital part of Chenoweth’s career. "I’m going on tour in May and June. I’ll be all over the United States and Europe. It’ll be everything that I do: dancing, singing, opera, musical theater, country, original songs, all of it."

Even with a new tour in the works, Chenoweth still can’t quite get over having become a headliner. "I love to see someone in the audience that hasn’t paid to see someone else -- that they paid actually to come see me. When I played The Met my brother said, ’Dude, there’s nobody opening for you. You’re it.’ I was like, ’Yeah, I know.’ It feels real good to know that they came mostly if they wanted to come."

Those paying fans may know Chenoweth from her stage work, her screen work or her albums. If you know one side of Kristin Chenoweth, you know all of her, she says.

"To me it’s one and the same. I love translating a song. There’s nothing better than to do it in front of a live audience, but I also love translating this character in front of a camera this big and hopefully making people laugh. What we’ve discovered about this show is that it’s an all out comedy. Yeah, that word dramedy is there, but it’s a comedy, and Madeline Kahn and Sally Field, those are the women that inspired me and hopefully that’s what we’re keeping going."

One of Chenoweth’s biggest fans is the legendary singer/actress Dolly Parton. Parton has suggested Chenoweth play her. Chenoweth is just waiting.

"Well, yesterday I heard that she said that I should play her again. It all started with her saying that many years ago, and of course I want to play her, but she better freaking hurry up and write it. I’m going to be visiting her plastic surgeon if she doesn’t hurry. I’d love to play her. What’s not to love about her? Everything. I love her. She knows how I feel about her and I’d love to play her."

"GCB" premieres Sunday on ABC.


Comments

  • Fred Reyes, 2012-03-03 10:36:10

    We’re all waiting for you Kristin!


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