Emmy-winner Kristin Chenoweth finally appears as Easter on Starz’s ground-breaking American Gods. Awards Daily TV talks to her about the experience.
Starz’s critically acclaimed American Gods finally revealed Easter in last night’s Season 1 finale. The wait felt a bit like waiting up for Santa on Christmas morning. Or the Easter Bunny on Easter morning. Take your pick. But Kristin Chenoweth, who plays Easter / Ostara, was well worth the wait.
Chenoweth creates a beautiful and fully fleshed character rather than dive into the expected stereotypes. Her Easter emerges as a bubbly fighter. She knows how to put on a show, and she knows how to play the game. Once Kristin Chenoweth appears onscreen, you simply cannot take your eyes off her. Members of the Television Academy would be wise to support her for the Primetime Emmy® Award for Outstanding Guest Actress on a Drama Series.
She is simply divine.
Kristin Chenoweth, you’ve worked with Bryan Fuller before on Pushing Daisies for which you won an Emmy. How quickly did he get you involved in American Gods?
Well, it was pretty simple. Two years ago, I was on Broadway doing the operetta On the 20th Century, and he called me and said, “Do you know the American Gods book by Neil Gaiman?” I said, “It’s interesting you say that because it’s now on my radar.” You know how when things come into your universe all at once? Like you hear something three times? It was on my list to read because I’m an avid reader. He told me before he was developing it, but he asked me to read it because there was something he was thinking of me for.
Neil Gaiman is such a good writer, but you’ve got to pay attention. It’s like Shakespeare in that you really have to know what you’re doing. I took notes because I needed to know what world we were talking about. Then, he told me it was the role of Easter, and I said, “No! I can’t play that part! I’m wrong for it.” He explained to me how he saw the role, and Neil was giving his blessing and was excited by it. I thought about it some more, and he let me read the pilot. I fell in love with the world, and I trust Bryan so much that I knew it would be very special. It would have his voice combined with Neil’s.
So, why did you think you were wrong to play Easter?
Just because of the physical description of her in the book. I didn’t fit that at all. That just goes to show you what we get in our brains when we’re reading something. I was actually talking to Joel Grey about this very thing. He said, “Kristin, when they were looking for the Emcee in Cabaret, they wanted a tall, leggy chorus boy.” He told me not to get in my own head. It was very freeing to hear that.
When you accepted the role, how did you start to figure out who Easter was as a person and how you would play the part?
It was very much about what we don’t know about her. Decisions that I thought and talked with Bryan about and made sure he was OK with. I think that the important thing with Easter is who is this woman? Why is she in the spot she’s in now? Has she just decided to be Miss America and live in a beautiful house and not challenge herself anymore? Was she put in her place? Who did it? Why? Is she good or evil? Those are the questions that informed how I played the role. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the answers. You’ll find out over time, but trust me, I know what they are. That’s the way I approach music and scene work. You have to find out what happened before, then you know how to play it.
In the season finale, I love that we find out Easter cracked the relevance issue where other old gods haven’t. She’s a survivor, isn’t she?
Yes! I describe her as a person who “went with it.” A lot of times as actors and artists, we find ourselves having that very interesting fork in the road. Are you going to continue to be your own voice? Or are you gonna go with it? Most of the time, I choose the first, but you point out something very important. Easter “went with it.”
Ian [McShane], Ricky [Whittle], and Gillian [Anderson] all worked together already by the time I came in. I was coming in at the end, and I wanted to make sure I was in the tone of the show. I wanted to fit in, if you will. That says something about Easter too. She just wants to fit in. I said to Bryan, “I just want to make sure I’m in the right tone. They’ve all been working so hard. I just want to make sure I fit in.” He said, “Umm, what you just said.”
You fit so well in with the other actors. You really carried it off seamlessly considering how little time you had with your co-stars.
Oh thank you! I’m very proud of it. I’m so happy I get to be in it. When we were looking at costumes, I’m all about shoes and costumes because, to me, once I put on those shoes that’s what really transforms me. I remember I saw the shoes with butterflies, and I thought, “Oh God, these are going to kill my feet, but you know what, Easter wouldn’t have it any other way.” She’s willing to sacrifice her comfort so that she can be out on the lawn with Jesus, run up and down stairs, and still just be her. When I saw those shoes, I thought this was going to be an interesting three weeks.
So you’re a woman of tremendous faith. Were you at all concerned about reactions to the show’s take on religion and Jesus Christ within the finale?
Yeah, I was not as concerned as much as I was positive it would ruffle some feathers. I guess where I stand on it, and this wouldn’t be surprising to people who know me very well, I feel very strongly about my faith. I feel that it’s very important as a Christian person and as an artist, by the way, to be open to the fact that there are people who look at things differently than you do. This is what works for me, and it’s what I believe. I’m not going to tell others that they’re wrong because they’re atheist or they’re Jewish. I’m also going to look at people who come before me have taught me, people I’ve never even met because I didn’t have the opportunity, and what the new can learn from the old. I think Easter finds herself in the middle. I think she’s of the past, and she’s looking to be relevant.
People need to understand that people of faith, especially Christianity, are not all the same. Just like the Muslim community. I’m in a group that sometimes seems very judgmental and not very accepting. That is the complete opposite of who I am.
How much of you is in your performance as Easter? The reason I’m asking because of Easter’s proclivity to curse and then instantly regret it. I feel like that’s 100 percent you. Am I wrong?
Twenty years ago, that was me. Today, there are some things that fly out of my mouth that I’m horrified by. [Laughs] It’s not something I like to lead with though. I feel like that energy when we say those words could be put to better use instead of a curse word. But as Placido Domingo said, “Sometimes, it’s just the only word that works.”
Where do we go with Easter in Season 2?
Easter finds herself in that area that so many of us find ourselves in which is “Where do we belong?” Nowadays, there are consequences for strong beliefs. Easter does not want to ruffle feathers. I think she finds herself vacillating between the old and the new.
American Gods airs on Starz. Episodes are available via Starz.