10 Qs: Laura Benanti on The Sound Of Music Live, The Good Wife & Performing in Her Underwear

3.31.2014

By Stacy Lambe

The Tony Award-winning actress knows not everyone was a fan of NBC's live adaptation of the famous musical

Photo: Nathan Johnson

If there's one thing about Laura Benanti, it's that she's a versatile performer. The actress may have gotten her start on Broadway but quickly proved she was as much of a draw on television as well as a reliably entertaining guest star for a diverse array of acts, such as the underwear-clad Skivvies and the Gay Men's Chorus.

In December, she won over a new legion of new fans as the Baroness Elsa Schräder in NBC's widely socialized event, The Sound of Music Live. "When you stop trying to please people, you’re more likely to," Benanti said of her performance that struck the hearts of Middle America. Now she's back onstage as Rosabella in a limited production of The Most Happy Fella at the New York City Center through April 6.

The actress answered Out's 10 most burning questions—about performing in her underwear and checking Twitter during the live peformance of The Sound of Music.

Out: How did you get involved with The Skivvies?

Laura Benanti: I had been friends with Lauren for a while and she started doing The Skivvies. I just thought it was so brave and cool and such a great idea, so I started performing with them. Although I tend not to get down as much as everybody else. 

That's right, you performed in a onesie. So you cheated a little.

I did Gypsy, I’ve done The Playboy Club, I’ve been in Playboy. I don’t necessarily want my brand to be, “She’ll get naked for anybody.” So I try to keep it really clever and silly and reveal as little as possible. Some of it’s also I’m just lazy. I don’t want to go to the gym.

What was it like seeing the Internet reaction to Sound of Music Live?

It was exciting. I’ve never had that before, especially the "Gays for Elsa." That was so funny to me. It made me feel so loved going in, and it was part of why I wasn’t nervous. I think it was part of why I was excited because I was like, “Guess who I’m doing this for!”

Did you look at Twitter or anything during the show?

No, I didn’t get on any social media until I left the stage and then I tweeted “Elsa out.” Then I only looked at my handle and people were saying nice things. It wasn’t until later that I realized that people were a tiny bit mean.

You've been cast on a number of TV series—such as Elementary, The Good Wife, and Nurse Jackie—what it's like joining these shows for just a couple of episodes?

Being a guest star is really hard. You’re coming into a well-oiled machine. Everybody knows each other and everybody knows what they’re doing, like The Good Wife. They’ve been inside the body of those characters for five years. I came in with this new, complicated character, and it was a little tricky for me. Josh Charles, who directed the episode, really helped me navigate my way through a freaky part.

You're playing Colin Sweeney's fiancée on an upcoming episode of The Good Wife. Can you give us a tease about your role?

When he’s around, people tend to die.

You recorded your album, In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention, at 54 Below. What is about that venue that draws performers in? 

The space is beautiful and the team really knows what they’re doing. It feels young and cool. Cabaret can feel really stodgy and awful sometimes, but this place never feels that way to me.

Plus, the space comes with so much history. 

So many people got pregnant in that room.

Do you have a favorite brunch place in New York City?

Yes, Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side is the greatest place I’ve ever been to. Get ready to wait in line, but it is so delicious. You don’t have to eat for the rest of the day. It’s so goddamn good.

Let’s play a game of Fuck/Marry/Kill with some of your co-stars: Josh Charles (The Good Wife), Matthew Perry (Go On) and Danny Pino (Law & Order: SVU).

I can’t say “kill Matthew Perry”: I’ll never work again… Fuck Matthew Perry, marry Josh Charles, and kill Danny Pino—but only as my character because our characters our divorced and we hate each other right now. You have to put that in there!

Bonus: What is your spirit animal?

I actually know this because I went to a shaman recently. That’s what my life is right now as a 34-year-old woman who is divorced. I’m going to shamans! My spirit animals are a raccoon and a falcon. Those felt good to me.

The limited production of The Most Happy Fella runs April 2-6. Tickets here.

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