It’s rare that an entertainer has an equally successful career on Broadway, in movies and on television. But then Kristin Chenoweth is rare! In the horse-racing world, she would be what’s known as a Triple Crown Winner, except for the fact that Kristin also has a recording career which makes her…well, a Quadruple Crown Winner!
On TV, Kristin is most notably known as Deputy Press Secretary Annabeth Schott on the last two seasons of The West Wing; she earned an Emmy playing Olive Snook on Pushing Daisies, the wonderfully quirky comedy about a pie maker who can touch dead people and bring them back to life; and she has made several guest appearances on the hit show Glee.
On Broadway she earned a Tony in 1999 for her role in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown; in 2003 she originated the role of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in the hit show Wicked; and in 2010 she starred in the revival of Promises Promises with Sean Hayes.
When it comes to movies, Kristin has been in Bewitched, and too many others to mention here; but suffice it to say that comedy is her forte, with the exception of movies like Running with Scissors, in which she played Annette Bening’s lesbian lover, and Into Temptation, where she played a suicidal prostitute – two roles many of her fellow Christians were not happy about. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Initially I tried to interview Kristin for the November 2010 issue of Luxury Las Vegas magazine because November is National Adoption Month and Kristin is quite open about being adopted. The timing, however, didn’t fit with Kristin’s work schedule.
But I was able to interview her for the December 2010 “Entertainment” issue, which worked out perfect because this bubbly, talented, petite woman with a huge voice is the personification of “Miss Entertainment.”
Here’s a segment the CBS Sunday Morning show did on Kristin that showcases her talents.
Kristin exudes compassion, integrity, and fortitude. In this day and age when so many people are followers rather than leaders, when people remain silent rather than speak out about prejudice and hate, Kristin doesn’t hesitate to talk about her beliefs even if it stirs up some ire.
Playing a prostitute and a lesbian were clues that Kristin isn’t your typical Christian, and with all the gay bullying that had happened just a few months earlier, I was eager to hear what she had to say. Kristin didn’t disappoint. She had plenty to say and left no doubt about where she stands:
“Running with Scissors came out at the same time I released my Christian record, “As I Am,” which definitely wasn’t a hit with the Christian Right,” she said. “When people say to me, ‘You’re cute and talented; you don’t know what it’s like to have your own kind turn on you,’ I say, ‘I certainly do know what it’s like and it doesn’t feel good.’
“That moment in time made me realize that one of my life’s purposes is to speak out about I believe in and say, ‘I’m a Christian and I believe in gay rights.’ I’ve always felt compassionate toward people who are different. When I was a kid, my mom says there was a girl with thick glasses and that’s who I went over to. There was a boy across the street who got tortured for being a fag, excuse the term but that’s what he was called, and I became his friend. A girl followed me around who people called a dyke and I befriended her.”
LIFE LESSON: Having been bullied in high school, I am very sensitive to this issue. I’m very aware how important it is to give a word of encouragement or befriend someone who is having a hard time. Sometimes the smallest gesture can really make a difference.
If you are not being bullied all I would say – cause I like to talk about the other side of it as well – is you know, be someone that nurtures, and if there’s someone in your class that maybe doesn’t have a lot of friends, be the person that sits with them in the cafeteria sometimes; be the bigger person.”
– Lady Gaga
Here is a clip where Kristin shares her opinions on seven things. The first thing she talks about is whether it’s easier to be a Christian in Hollywood or a recovering crack addict. Gotta love Kristin.
During our conversation, Kristin and I talked about the rash of gay teenage suicides due to harassment and bullying. There was fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas from Greenburg High School in Indiana, who hung himself from the rafters in the barn on September 9, 2010.
On September 22, 2010, eighteen-year-old Rutgers student and accomplished violinist Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a secret video tape of him kissing a guy was posted on the Internet.
The next day thirteen-year-old, straight-A-student Asher Brown shot himself in the head at his home in Cypress, Texas. Ever since arriving at Hamilton Junior High School two years earlier, Asher had endured taunts because of his slight stature because he didn’t wear brand name clothing, because he called himself a Buddhist, and because he was accused him of being gay.
“Sometimes you’re just born to do something,” Kristin continued. “Maybe that’s why God gave me a talent. I’ve been a proud advocate for equal rights and have supported GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) causes for as long as I can remember and I will continue to speak about them until my dying day.
Sometimes you’re just born to do something. Maybe that’s why God gave me a talent. I’ve been a proud advocate for equal rights and have supported GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) causes for as long as I can remember and I will continue to speak about them until my dying day.
“I grew up Southern Baptist and I remember when I first started feeling uncertain about some of the teachings I was raised on I said, ‘Grandma, do you think maybe they’re wrong? In my heart, I just don’t think being gay is a sin.’ ‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘but Jesus told us to love everybody without judging, so I try to do that.’
“I subject everything to the Jesus Smell Test. He was an issues guy who staunchly refused to dish out or swallow spoon-fed answers. He told people to search the scriptures and think for themselves. I’m not on the fence about certain old-school fundamental beliefs. I don’t believe non-Christians automatically go to hell. I believe gays should be able to get married. I also support gay adoption. I’m sure there are people in the church who are having heart attacks when I say that. I understand people have been ingrained to believe a certain way, but I’ve been exposed to a different way of life.
“The bullying has to stop. Nobody deserves to feel that they aren’t worthy of living. What if being 4’11” was considered abnormal? That’s the way God made me. How dare I not accept it! Many of my gay friends say, ‘Do you think I chose this?’ Of course not. I wanted to be a ballerina. Do you think I chose to be 4’11”?
“I get very emotional when I talk about this. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. I am a Christian so how can I not accept people for who they are. Christian means someone who follows Christ and Christ accepted everyone. Unfortunately there are a lot of Christians who are righteous and very judgmental. I’m not a strict constructionist where the Bible is concerned. Like my grandma said, ‘You can eat the fish without choking on the bones.’ I want Christianity to be respected again and not have people turn and go, ‘Oh no.’”
Here is a great clip from an episode of The West Wing where Martin Sheen dresses down a smug, self-righteous talk-show host using quotes from the Bible.
Kristin is never afraid to speak her truth, poke fun at herself, or confront those she feels are spewing hatred or injustice. In May 2010, an article by an openly gay writer, Ramin Setoodeh, appeared in Newsweek in which Setoodeh said that Kristin’s Tony-nominated co-star in Promises, Promises co-star, Sean Hayes, “comes off as wooden and insincere” in playing the straight character Chuck, and that Jonatahn Groff has a similar credibility problem in the TV show Glee. Setoodeh questioned whether any openly gay actor could acceptably portray a straight character. Kristin called the article horrendously homophobic and criticized Setoodeh’s view as rationalizing the same kind of bullying that gay youths face in high school. Kristin argued that audiences come to the theater to go on a journey and do not care about an actor’s sexual orientation. The story was picked up approvingly by major media including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
Enjoy my full interview with Kristin Chenoweth as it appeared in Luxury Las Vegas Magazine.
In the “Up Close and Personal” piece, Kristin talks about adoption, Meniere’s disease, The West Wing, Glee, the conversation she had about marriage with Betty White, her book A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages and much more.
When I asked her what words of wisdom she tries to live by, she said: “It’s corrosive to be constantly embattled. Life requires peace. Peace requires balance. And balance requires a certain amount of ‘get-over-yourself,’ with some ‘to thine own self be true’ thrown in for good measure.”
Here is a clip of Kristin accepting an Emmy for “Pushing Daisies” which had already been cancelled by the time she won the award.
You can be sure that Kristin will continue to entertain us whether it’s in the movies, on Broadway with a new CD, or in a new TV series. Knowing her ability to make people laugh, she just might win another Emmy. Whatever Kristin does, one thing is sure – she will sing and act her heart out. I promise you, promise you.