2016-06-30
This interview originally appeared on Beliefnet in June 2001.

Living in New York, acting in L.A., and always hankering for home in Oklahoma, Kristin Chenoweth is constantly on the move these days. Beliefnet caught up with her during a stop back east to talk about her new show on NBC, "Kristin," about a Southern Baptist actress trying to make it in New York, and whether Christians are ready for prime time--and visa-versa.

As a Christian, are you considered strange in Hollywood?
It's surprising me that people are coming out of the woodwork and saying, Oh, I believe in God too, or I'm a Christian, or I'm very spiritual. But it's not very often.

How do you think people feel about you being a Christian?
When a show has a character like mine, and I don't think it's ever been done, people get nervous. They go, "Religious show!" The show's more about morality. I wanted to portray a person who is a Christian but who has real dilemmas just like any single young woman.

These are real dilemmas that we face. We're human. I talk to Christian women every day who say, "I want to be married. I don't want to wait anymore." I want to show the human face of Christianity with this show. I think we're on to something that's very different. Maybe we'll start people talking about it and even help people define what they believe.

Do you feel some pressure from evangelicals?
I think we have a show about someone who's good, or tries to be good. Maybe evangelicals are hoping that she's pretty close to perfect. But she's not going to be, because nobody is. Some of the best Christian women I know have made whoppers, I mean huge mistakes. And they'll be the first to say they asked God for forgiveness, and God forgave me and I moved on from it. That's life. That's the challenge of life.

The tough thing for both critics and evangelicals has always been characters who live out in the world but who have a Christian response.
Look, I love "Will and Grace." There's a very flamboyant, gay character on there, which seems to be fine with everyone. But the moment there is someone who is good or even mentions Christianity, people get nervous. I remember when "Dharma and Greg" came out, and she was supposed to be the Buddhist. It wasn't a New Age show. It just cracks me up. We've had some good reviews, but critics have been very harsh on the premise of the show, as if there is no one like Kristin. Why is that?
I don't know. I think it goes back to the time when Jesus walked on this earth. It was happening then. People get nervous about the truth. They don't want to hear it, because they might be forced to look at their own lives.

Do you have a Christian community in the show biz world?
When I moved to L.A., I thought, I'm moving into a new world; if I could just have one Christian girlfriend, Lord, that would be an answer to my prayer. And the assistant to the producer has become my best friend. We were raised in exactly the same way, in the Southern Baptist church. She helps me when I'm telling the writers, "Hey, it wouldn't be this way." I go to a real strong Methodist church about two seconds from my apartment in West Hollywood. None of them are performers, but they believe like I do and that makes them family.

Is television different from Broadway?
Broadway is such a diverse community. Everybody knows how I believe, and everyone believes, and it's not a big deal. But in Hollywood, if you talk about politics--especially if you're a Republican--or spirituality, it's just not something people want to hear about. But it's been amazing. People come out of the woodwork and say, "Thank you for doing this."

On your website, one person posted a message for you saying, "I remember seeing you singing at church." Do you get to do that much?
I hate to say that's how my career began, but in fact, growing up I wanted to be a Christian singer, that's what I wanted to do. But since I'm so sporadic, I have to go to church in L.A., then I'm in church in New York. I can't really join the choir because of my schedule. I can't say, "OK, scoot over, I'm going to sing." I only do it when I'm asked. I don't want to walk in and just own the place. But I do miss it.

What's your favorite hymn?
"I Surrender All."

Is that something you can really open up on?
It's not. But I do really like some of the songs Sandi Patti has done, hymns she made into huge numbers. I really like those.

Who else do you like among Christian artists?
I like Jaci Velasquez. I still like the old stuff. There a singer I still listen to, Evie Turnquist. Amy Grant--there's someone who's heard a lot of opinions about her career and her faith--and Sandi Patti and Michael English. These people have lived through a lot. Would you consider making an album with one of them?
Of course! I'd love to.

Who's your show business idol?
Judy Garland.

But as a performer who's a Christian, you're a bit of an original--not like Amy Grant--because of your Broadway roots. Is there anyone you watch as a model for your career?
No, I don't have anyone. Barbra Streisand has had an influence on me. Sally Field has had an influence on me. The critics say, "She's kind of like a young Bernadette Peters," but there's no one I can emulate. I guess you could say there's a lot of different sides to me that I'm hoping I can show.

You are so split between Hollywood and Broadway, you have a recording career, the Christian world and showbiz, where do you find a self that's really you? What do you hold on to?
Sometimes I have to fly home. I just have to be where I'm from. New York is more home than L.A., which has a little easier lifestyle, but as where I consider home, it's Oklahoma. My parents now live in Texas, and I go down there and see them as well. When I go back, I try to see everyone. We always get together and have a big meal. It's all about food.

You're not married.
No.

Do you ever wonder what's going to happen with you when you're not in your element spiritually?
I almost got married last year to someone outside of my faith. When it came right down to it, I knew it wasn't going to work. Part of the reason was that we didn't believe the same. I know many people who marry different faiths and it works out great for them. But for me personally, it's going to be important for me to marry someone who believes the same as I do. I need someone on my team, who gets it. Marriage is a hard-enough gig. I think it's important to consider the person's faith.



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