[17 September 2008]
Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)
BURBANK, Calif. - Kristin Chenoweth is not “a pie person.”
“I love chocolate cake. I never met a cookie I didn’t like,” explained the famously tiny actress, who’s only being asked about dessert because she’s on the Warner Bros. set of ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” perched on a chair just outside a giant pie.
That would be The Pie Hole, the restaurant where Chenoweth’s character, Olive Snook, works as a waitress and nurses a secret yen for Ned (Lee Pace), a pie maker who’s not so secretly in love with a girl named Chuck (Anna Friel).
All three will be back on ABC Oct. 1, when “Daisies,” having survived the writers strike, returns with its first original episode in nearly 10 months. But in the meantime, Chenoweth, who claims to be a “terrible cook,” has one pie recipe to share.
“If I have to say (a favorite) pie, then I’m going to say a pie that I make, called the Butterfinger pie,” she told a small group of reporters in July, a couple of days before her 40th birthday and a few days after being nominated for a supporting actress Emmy for “Pushing Daisies.”
“And it’s Cool Whip and it’s smashed Butterfinger candy bars and you put the Butterfinger candy bars in the Cool Whip and you mix it up, and (put it in) a graham-cracker crust, and freeze it. The important thing is to freeze it. I took it out too early once, and served it here, and they thought it was French onion dip!” she complained.
“They put their chips in there.”
It’s the kind of thing that might happen to anybody, and it’s one of Chenoweth’s many gifts that the Tony Award-winning actress and singer with the Betty Boop-ish speaking voice still manages to sound like anybody, or at least like anybody from Broken Arrow, Okla.
Asked about reports that this season’s “Daisies” has her working with a pig, she said, “Fiona and I have really bonded, and all I can say is I grew up in the city, but my cousins grew up in the country, in Oklahoma, and I teased them, my whole life, for showing pigs.
“And now, they’re like, ‘Ha, ha, ha!’ typing me, ‘This is what you get!’ But fat Fiona is my buddy.”
Buddy or not, “she did bite me the other day, but it’s nothing like a brown recluse spider,” Chenoweth added ruefully, alluding to a recent bite that had left her with a brace on one finger.
She’d been recording a Christmas album at Capitol Records, when she was bitten by the spider, she said. “It started to swell and streak up my arm, and the record producer said, ‘Go. Now. To the hospital,’ and I was like, ‘No, it’ll be fine,’ and then the doctor said, ‘I’m so glad you did.’”
Chenoweth, whose on-again, off-again romance with “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin was mined for material in Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” - in which the Christian character played by Sarah Paulson was not-so-loosely based on Chenoweth - has stories of her own to tell, and she’ll be doing just that in a book next year, titled “A Little Bit Wicked.”
“I had a ghost writer, I’m not going to pretend I wrote it by myself. I worked on it solid for three months,” Chenoweth said.
“It’s about my adoption, but it is about my life. I didn’t want to call it a memoir, because I don’t think that fits yet,” she said, laughing.
One thing it’s not about is the search for her birth parents.
“It’s actually kind of the opposite, about what it’s like not to do that, and what it’s like not to have that family history, but to connect with the people who raised you,” Chenoweth said.
“I get so tired of hearing people talk about Angelina’s adopted son, Maddox, and her biological daughter, Shiloh. They’re her children. And it just kind of, I think, informs who I am and my relationship to my family,” she said.
At first, she was nervous about telling her family about the book, “because I didn’t want to hurt them. Because my mom’s always like, ‘You know, if you ever want to find your real parents ...’ But they were thrilled. Because I wanted to kind of give other people inspiration.”
Not to mention permission not to look if they don’t want to.
“There’s so much pressure,” Chenoweth said. “Every time I meet somebody, and they say, ‘You’re adopted - have you found your birth parents yet?’
“If you met my parents, you’d know, (Chenoweth) is so their kid. I mean, we don’t look alike. If I’m going to be honest, they’re tall, brunette, they can’t sing. They’re engineers.”
Asked about her brother, she said, “He should never, ever sing. Not ever.”
When it was suggested that her family probably wonders sometimes where someone like her came from, she nodded.
“I talk about that. I talk about like a little bit of depression that happened in my life and where that came from, and rosacea, and just things that people who aren’t adopted know about.”
She also talks about her work.
“I have a whole chapter about ‘Wicked,’ and other shows I’ve done.”
Does she dish?
“I’m not that kind of girl,” she replied demurely.
“But I also am honest, and I think that book is very truthful about experiences that I’ve had.”
To a reporter’s statement that “people say” she and her “Wicked” co-star, Idina Menzel, had a “tiff,” Chenoweth responded, “I know they did, and I do talk about that in the book.
“We had very different ways of working. Our processes are extremely different. But there is no denying what we brought onstage. And that was the most important thing. I’d be a liar if I said it (was) all happy and roses all the time - but do we hate each other? No. We couldn’t do that show and hate each other. I mean, there’s so much love there, you know, between us still.”
In her current gig, Chenoweth’s hoping that Olive, once she gets back from the nunnery to which she’ll take herself off in the season opener, will finally get in to the detecting side of “Pushing Daisies.” (For those who haven’t seen the show, the pie maker Ned possesses the power to bring back the dead - albeit briefly - and uses it to help solve murders.)
“I would probably be a detective if I were not an actress,” she said, describing herself as a “crazy nut” for shows like A&E’s “American Justice.”
“I signed up for a course at John Jay College of Criminal Justice during ‘Wicked,’ but of course, they changed our nights off. Usually, it’s Monday night, so they changed it and I didn’t get to complete the course,” which, she said, dealt with “blood spatter and direction of wounds and what kind of weapon causes what kind of wound ...
“You know, I’ve been offered to do a ‘CSI’ and I couldn’t do it because of ‘Pushing Daisies,’ but I would actually like to go on a real case,” she said.