Kristin Chenoweth On Her 'Glee' Future & Embracing Being Different

Kristin ChenowethI know I couldn't have been the only Gleek doing a happy dance when Kristin Chenoweth re-appeared on Glee last month. It's been a long, long time since we got to see boozy April Rhodes belt one out ... too long. April is one of the more colorful roles the triple-threat actress has tackled in her years floating from Broadway to film to TV, and now Chenoweth is taking on a slightly smaller but just as colorful role. Come April 11, she'll hit theaters as Gabi, a poisonous pink tree frog with some serious pipes in Rio 2.

The movie is animated, but Chenoweth's high-pitched voice and comedic timing are the perfect antidote to the brooding of her on-screen love object, the evil bird Nigel (played by Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement), for whom she will do anything.

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The Stir sat down with Kristin to talk about trying to find respect as a woman in Hollywood, her future on Glee, her childhood, and of course what she's got in common with a little pink tree frog with a taste for dirty deeds.

The Stir: What attracted you to the role of Gabi?

I loved Rio, so when I found out they were interested in me -- they had me come out to Blue Sky and take a look at the artwork -- I couldn't say no to this cute little face. Plus, I knew that I'd get to be sort of teamed with Jemaine, and I loved his character from the first one. The idea of a lovable villain is always good, so it was an easy decision.

The first movie had a cast of well-loved characters; did you worry about coming in and how you'd be received?

Of course! I'm an actress; I'm a little bit loco. It seemed to be one of those things, I remember when I joined West Wing, where you've got to step up to the plate or you're going to be left at the station. I wanted to be lovable, but I also wanted to be the character. I wanted to fit in; I'm the newbie. I had all the insecurities that we all would have, but again I just kept telling Carlos, You just ask of me whatever you want ... I will do it. If you ask me to cluck like a chicken, I will do it.

How are you like Gabi? I mean, obviously you're not a poisonous tree frog ...

Thank God! Although we might ask some of my ex-boyfriends about that!

I think being little, having this voice -- even though it's not as high as hers in life -- I can relate to not being heard and people are surprised when I have a brain. 

Rio 2 GabiDo you think it's because you're a woman?

I think we can talk about this ... women, we are fighting the good fight in Hollywood and in the business world and everywhere. I don't think it helps my cause to be 4'11" and sound like Betty Boop! But it's also what makes me different, and you have to embrace those things.

I tell a lot of young girls out there, when I was doing Wicked, they were always like are you more Glinda or more Elphaba, and I'm so Elphaba; it's just funny that I'm playing Glinda, although Glinda also had her insecurities.

Talking about different characters, we were so excited to see you back on Glee! Are you going to be on Glee for awhile, do we finally get some April Rhodes?

I hope so! I would love that! You know the things that come out of her mouth are so wrong, and yet I love her! I think that's the challenge with playing April, having these lines come out but feeling for her and laughing with herself. Nobody's laughing more at April than her.

You know, I would always love to come back. It's always been a question of my crazy schedule, but now that it's being taken in a different direction with Lea's character and Chris Colfer's character, I think there's a role where April can be on Broadway.

To play somebody who is a drunk has been fun, again lovable, somewhat of an underdog. I love her because probably in high school she was the shit, she was it, and in life it didn't work out that way. I think a lot of us can relate to that; a lot of people can relate to having a different path than you set out on. That's why I like playing her. 

Did you always want to be an actress? What was YOUR plan when you were a kid?

I wanted to be a ballerina! I just was never tall enough. I didn't have the right feet. I wasn't long enough, but I have the heart of a dancer.

It was my mom who told me "embrace the thing that makes you different, and if it's not ballet, you also love to play the piano, you love to sing, and you can't embody all of it Kristin." I didn't understand that; I was too worried and upset that I wasn't going to be 5'!

But ultimately she was right. She gave me the self-esteem. I had the right mom for sure. She gave me the self-esteem, and she helped me to understand what my purpose was, which is so important for young girls to help them find what it is they're passionate about.

When did you realize you had that VOICE?

It was in church, I was singing. I remember I was probably 7 or 8. I had this incredibly high soprano sound as a young kid, and it opened up and the church stood up. I went to a big Bible belt church, so when there are 1,000 people standing for you, you're like whoa!

My parents were engineers; they took me to Tulsa University and they had me sing for the faculty there. They said she's a prodigy with her range, with perfect pitch. [My parents asked] What do you want, Kristin?

My parents were not show biz people, and I said, I want to try out for the play this year and I want to be in the glee club, so instead of moving me to LA or NY and pushing me in that direction, they said OK, you get to be a kid! It was the right decision ... for me.

What is your favorite Kristin Chenoweth role?

 

Images via Jeanne Sager; Blue Sky Productions

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