While Kristin Chenoweth is known for being one of TV and film's most bubbly and affable personalities, the beloved multitalented artiste can also nail down the role of an antagonist most flawlessly. Known for some iconic villainous roles over the course of her esteemed career, the 53-year-old actress is now playing the stifled and sharp-tongued Mildred Layton in the critically acclaimed Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon! down to a tee, firing up fans with her hilarious take on the character. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, the actress and singer explained why her character works so well, attributing it simply to two words.
"Pent up," Chenoweth told PopCulture. She went on to say that when she first read about Mildred, she told director Barry Sonnenfeld that she needed to have a very different look. "I played villains before, but I looked like this when I play them," Chenoweth explained while gesturing to herself. "I said, 'I need Mildred to be, not a hair out of place. I need her to have the Mildred Pierce hairdo. I need a mole.' I did not win that argument. He would not let me have the mole. But I said, 'I need the joker lips, the maniacal joker lips.' I asked the costume designer to make my corset a little bit too tight. I needed her to be in a bad mood."
Chenoweth's character in Schmigadoon! is the main antagonist in the series as she is not happy with new visitors, Josh Skinner (Keegan-Michael Key) and Melissa Gamble (Cecily Strong) while trying everything she can to get them out. Mildred also attempts to control everything in the town, including her husband, Reverend Howard Layton (Fred Armisen). Chenoweth plays the role with ease as she's a veteran in musicals, but that could also be one of the reasons why Sonnenfeld wanted Chenoweth to be part of the project.
"It's like being with my brother," Chenoweth said when talking about Sonnenfeld. "I don't know if this is allowed to say — but I also did a movie with him. He kind of discovered me in this movie called RV, about, basically, my family," she laughed. "And then he calls me, and Bryan Fuller called me together about Pushing Daisies, and then we did another huge hit called Space Chimps. Huge, animated movie. But when this came, he said, 'I really want to allow you' because again, I played the villain, but I've always looked like this. He allowed me to go for it, and then when he directed it, I knew it had to be in his hands, or we were going to be in trouble."
Chenoweth also gave a lot of praise to co-stars Key and Strong because she believes that Schmigadoon would not be a success without them. "When it's done poorly, we get made fun of as we should," Chenoweth said. "When it's done beautifully, people get on board. And we're asking people to get on board a show called Schmigadoon! The real key to the whole thing is Cecily and Keegan. Without them, the heart of the piece, the wacky characters could not exist."