National treasure Kristin Chenoweth spoke with Solzy at the Movies about the new Apple TV+ musical comedy series, Schmigadoon!
Chenoweth stars as the opinionated and morally shrewd Mildred Layton on the 6-episode series. The character is said to be based mainly on Mrs. Shinn from The Music Man.
Schmigadoon! is an amazing throwback series to the days of the Golden Age of Hollywood Musicals. How quickly did you say yes upon being offered?
Kristin Chenoweth: [Barry] Sonnenfeld calls me. I’m in Palm Springs and I read the script. I laughed out loud. I also cried. I said, First of all, this is going to be a hit whether I do it or not. But secondly, can I please be a brunette? Can I please have Joker maniacal lips? And can I please go there? And he said yes. That’s how quick it happened. And then the next thing I know, I’m on a flight and doing a 14-day quarantine.
With Broadway having to shut down because of the pandemic, how exciting was it to be able to work on a musical series of this nature?
Kristin Chenoweth: First of all, most of us all know each other. We’re very good buddies. I’ve known Alan Cumming—feels like to me as long as I’ve been alive. Dove [Cameron] has played my daughter twice. I know Fred [Armisen] and I have done a movie together. The only people I hadn’t worked with was Cecily and Keegan-Michael and they are the heart of the piece. And without that hilarious—he hates musicals, she loves them and then she’s trapped in it and loses her mind and he starts to love it, that is the key to the piece. Once I knew that was safe, then I was like, Oh, this is really—now Mildred and the mayor and all of us can be as—I mean, it’s a wacky world but if it’s not centered with that true comedic and heartfelt genius, then it wouldn’t have worked.
Also Sonnenfeld, I just gotta say, we’ve worked together several times. He’s like family to me and I trust him. I knew he would do it. I knew he knew the line not that there’s a very fine line with musical, especially on camera. When you go back even to Pushing Daisies, even though it was not a musical, it’s its own voice. It’s an original sound. Bryan Fuller and Sonnenfeld set that to tone as well. I trusted him.
What was it like getting to work with such Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key for the first time?
Kristin Chenoweth: First of all, their genius aside, let’s just not even talk about their talent because both of them are so incredible. I’m just glad that the world is getting to see Cecily not just be the comedienne and Keegan-Michael not just be the comedic. But these are true actors and people forget, Oh, they’re just the funny one. No, they’re showing the world their range. Look, I’ve been to the picnic, rodeo, and barbecue. I’ve done this for a second—film, TV, musical, concerts, all of it. For me to watch two people commit to a musical and not just take us on a ride but kill us, amazing. I was so proud. It’s not even for me to be proud but I was proud because this milieu is tricky and they stepped in those roles and did it.
What do you hope audiences take away from the series?
Kristin Chenoweth: Oh, Danielle, so many things. I hope the people that don’t like musicals will maybe look at things a different way now and come support Broadway when we open back up. And mainly, I hope it makes people laugh during a time when we could use a laugh, right. I think we all have PTSD. I think we need a laugh and I think Schmig—I call it Schmig. I think Schmig is filling that void for a lot of folks. And for me, that’s why I do it. I’m glad it’s on TV so more people can see it. And now, we get ready for Broadway to open.