What it was like working with Shirley Jones and what’s up next in her career
By Lie Shia Ong
What happens when you’re a parent but you actually sort of stop parenting your kids? In the movie “Family Weekend,” Kristin Chenoweth and on-screen husband Matthew Modine find out when their teenage daughter, Emily (Olesya Rulin), takes drastic measures to convince them they need to pay more attention to their children and each other.
After the family misses Emily’s big jump-roping competition, she hits her breaking point and decides, with the help of her siblings, to take her parents hostage in hopes she can persuade them to become a family again.
MSN Movies spoke with Kristin Chenoweth, who plays Samantha, the career-driven, no nonsense high-powered executive about the movie, working with Shirley Jones and also what’s up next for her.
MSN Movies: “Family Weekend” really puts an interesting twist on the parent-child relationship because your teenage daughter actually wants you and your husband to pay more attention and parent her and her siblings. What was it like playing the role of the career-driven mom?
Kristin Chenoweth: [It was] so fun. I had to really commit to being — you know, I kind of view Samantha, which is my character, as having to become the “man of the house” because my husband kind of has not been keeping his end of the bargain and he’s an artist and not really working. She’s had to take over. So she’s tough. Obviously there is an event that changes her towards the end. Really committing to that person of being so tough and wired to just be the money-maker and the wheeler and the dealer and sort of shut off her emotions was interesting for me — but a good challenge. It’s so different from who I am. It was fun. It was frustrating basically being bound and tied every day.
I was going to ask you about that. Any funny stories from shooting those scenes where you were all tied up?
Yeah, they would yell, “Cut.” And they would forget that Matthew and I were unable to move. They would walk away! We’d be sitting there like, ‘We have to pee too, you know? Help us out!’ It was just like, don’t forget when you yell “cut” there’s people over here that need to be attended to.
You also had a few great scenes with a Hollywood legend, Shirley Jones. You didn’t necessarily get along in the movie at first. What was it like working with her?
Amazing. She’s a complete professional. She still has it. And also watching her play a unique role for her was cool. She played the hippie-dippie grandmother who burned sage in the house and plays with puppets. It was really interesting and fun to watch someone who you admire so much play someone so out of character, and so well. One thing I was reminded of while I was watching her was that, yeah, I’m a singer, so I admire her in a singing way, but she’s also a fantastic, fantastic actress. I had to get over … not treating her with so much respect in the scenes. That was hard because I do respect her so much.
At its core the movie is really about the love of family with a lot of funny moments sprinkled in. What do you want parents to know about the movie before watching it with their kids?
It’s more of a reminder that every family has its idiosyncrasies and their failures, and it’s what you do with them and how you evolve that’s what’s important. I think our movie shows that and I love that. That’s, to me, the whole point of doing it.
You have a special premiere coming up this Sunday on PBS. What can you tell your fans about “The Dames of Broadway: All of ‘Em!”?
It’s very much what I was trained to do. Getting back to that has certainly made me happy. I’m really proud of it because it’s not an easy program vocally to sing but acting-wise, it was fun to act. It was just so nice to get up there and do what I do, what I’m trained to do. And to celebrate these composers of our country: Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein and all the greats. There are a lot of songs that you know that are in there and some other gems that aren’t performed very often that I’m doing, too.
Your fans wanted to know what your upcoming projects are, and have you heard anything about a possible “Wicked” movie?
I’m going to Austin to sing at the Long Center for the Performing Arts April 6. Then I’m going to be announcing Australian dates soon for a tour. I’ll be over there. I’ll be at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. I’m excited to get to sing for that.
And I have heard about this “Wicked” movie, and I hope they do it and hurry up!
I don’t know if I could play Glinda, but I could maybe play Madame Morrible at the rate they’re going. I could play that part!