Known for her chirpy voice, blond top, and diminutive stature, Kristin Chenoweth thinks you'd be surprised how different she really is from her quirky 'good-girl' characters. But that's not to say the Bible-Belt-native doesn't still have a heart of gold. She's teamed up with Listerine and America's Toothfairy -- a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring all children can receive the comprehensive oral health care they deserve -- for the 'Your Mouth Has Something To Say' campaign, which encourages children to be proud of their smiles.
To find out what her mouth has to say, Out chatted with Chenoweth about playing against her type, advocating for AIDS awareness, and -- just because -- Kathy Griffin.
Out: What's your first memory of the tooth fairy?
Kristin Chenoweth: Obviously I'm a big tooth fairy person -- growing up, not anymore -- but I always got $1. Back then that was pretty good. But now kids get like $20.
If you could choose anyone to be your personal tooth fairy, who would it be?
Carol Burnett, because she would make it really fun and make me laugh.
Considering that you're working with Listerine's "Your Mouth Has Something To Say" campaign, I want to know if your mouth ever gets you in trouble.
All the time! I've been known to use phrases on talk shows or in an interview that you just shouldn't use. I might have told PETA that I wear leather and eat meat.
A lot of the characters in your career have been good girls with a twist. Why are you drawn to those roles?
Sardonic humor. It's complicated to play that kind of person, so that makes it fun. I really love to work, and anytime I get to challenge myself with that kind of part, I love to do it. They've all been spun off of each other. If I just played myself, no one would watch. I'm pretty boring.
Which character is closest to who you are?
I did this Lifetime movie called 12 Men of Christmas and played a hardworking, single girl. Type-A personality. But that's it. Everyone else has been so different.
What is your dream against-type role?
I'd love to be in a horror film where I'm the killer. I think I'm going to make that happen, even if I have to write and produce it myself. It'll be called Don't Get in My Way.
That sounds like another Lifetime movie.
[Laughs] Or maybe Don't Get in My Way or You'll Get Your Head Chopped Off.
Congratulations on your new show for ABC, Good Christian Belles, due out this fall. What can you tell us about your character?
It's a group of women who grew up together in Texas and all go to the same church. Each of the personalities is so different, but what's great about playing this part is that she's the pot-stirrer. That makes her fun to play. Most people watching are going to be able to say, 'I know that person.' I'm excited to get back on TV. I've been on Broadway, but my plan was always to go back after Pushing Daisies.
Do you think it's telling that they changed the name from "Bitches" to "Belles"?
That's more of a network thing. You know, if I owned the network'
A church community was very much a part of your upbringing. So what was that like moving from Oklahoma to New York City?
Mind-blowing. The hardest transition was about life things: where do I get my groceries? Where are the people asking you if you want help? They don't exist here. Life is different, but I got accustomed to it pretty quickly. I love New York.
You competed in beauty pageants in Oklahoma growing up, and your platform issue was AIDS awareness. Why did you choose that?
I remember people encouraging me not to have that as my platform because they thought that would hurt my chances of winning. But I've always listened to my heart. Too many people I knew were getting sick and had died from AIDS. I watched my voice teacher waste away and a piano coach die. When you see that happen, it changes the way you look at the disease. It took our government so long to realize that this was an epidemic. It's not a gay disease, but you know what? It wouldn't matter if it were. It's a disease and it needs to be dealt with.
Do you think that issue is why you didn't make it to Miss America?
No. I don't think that was in God's plan. I'm a big believer in the journey. Twice I got first runner up, and I thought, You're supposed to hear this message. You are not going to be Miss America. I had two more years to keep doing it, but I knew it wasn't meant to be. I knew that I would have another voice in another area. Really, all I wanted to be Miss America for was to sing and get an agent. So, my reasons for wanting to win weren't right.
How would you describe your faith?
I'm a forward-thinking Christian, but it's actually rooted in a very old way of thinking. What would Jesus do if he were alive today? If he were alive, he'd be hanging out with the people who are poor or sick or in need. My only sense about myself is that I don't get to do that enough. I'd love to see Christianity get back to that. "Christian" is a dirty word now, but I'm proud of my faith. I'd like to be the face of this kind of Christian.
Seeing that you're a recurring guest star, what do you think we'll say when we look back on what Glee did for television?
The plays and movies and shows that reach people the most are the ones that point out our differences and challenges. When you look at Wicked, you see a supposed good girl and a supposed bad girl. But really it's just two very insecure, misunderstood girls. The same for what The West Wing did for politics, Glee is doing for the gay drama of high school. It's promoting discussions with our kids' if they're allowed to watch the show, that is.
And what do you think Glee is doing for the presence of Broadway on TV?
What it's doing not only for Broadway, but for Carrie Underwood and Fleetwood Mac, is those artists' sales jump when you hear them on Glee. People download the song immediately. Some of them don't even know what Cabaret is. I saw a lot of kids online saying, 'That 'Maybe This Time' song is so good.' I was like, "You don't know that song?!" But, whatever it takes.
This is kind of random, but I really want to hear about your friendship with Kathy Griffin.
I know she teases people pretty rough sometimes, but there's a really kind person in there who has a huge heart. I've gotten to know that side. She'd give you the shirt off her back, and I know she's done that in secret for a lot of people because she's not all about advertising what she does. She cares about the betterment of this community and our world. That's one thing that I really respect and love about her. And that she makes me laugh my butt off.