Actress Kristin Chenoweth received critically acclaim for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway musical “Wicked,” but this week, the 44-year-old Emmy winner is showing off her bad side in the new movie “Family Weekend.”
Now open in limited theatrical release and available at home with XFINITY On Demand, “Family Weekend” is the story of a 16-year-old girl named Emily (Olesya Rulin), who takes her neglectful parents (Chenoweth and Matthew Modine) hostage in a misguided intervention attempt after they miss her jump-roping competition. Over the course of a weekend, Emily and her siblings (Joey King and Eddie Hassell) attempt to repair their broken family and rediscover their love for one another.
I recently caught up with Chenoweth to talk about the new movie, her talented co-stars and her idea of a perfect family weekend.
David Onda: You’ve been particularly supportive of this film. What is it about “Family Weekend” that really speaks to you?
Kristin Chenoweth: For me, it was about the evolution of the family. Seeing how people can start out one way and become something that they’re really not and end up back together. I love that. Especially with my character, in particular. In a way, she had become the man of the household, she was the breadwinner and had to really step up to the plate because her husband wasn’t. And how she evolves and becomes kind of hardened. And then, of course, events happen and she becomes the woman she was all those years ago, and a better mom and a better wife and maybe not so focused on her career. I think there are lots of women out there that are having both and doing it well, and I think that Samantha, my character, has sort of lost her way a bit. I just enjoyed playing someone like her. I’ve never done that before.
Onda: Why does it take Emily so long to reach her breaking point, and how did the family get so far off track to begin with?
Chenoweth: It always starts at the top, and that’s the parent. When parents start checking out, kids start focusing on their own lives on their own. And that’s the greatest gift parents can give, is their time. And that’s what the underlining theme of the movie is – don’t forget what’s important. I think Emily has reached her brink. Her parents have not been available to her, and the other kids are unique and special in their own ways too, so it’s a dysfunctional family.
Onda: Joey King plays one those dysfunctional kids, and her character dresses up as various inappropriate movie characters, like Iris from “Taxi Driver.” She must have been a trip to work with.
Chenoweth: Total trip. You’re looking at this kid and you’re like, “Are you 45? What’s your actual age? Do you have that disease that that girl had in ‘Orphan’ where she was 111?” She’s amazing, and I predict big things for that child. I saw her last night, we screened [“Family Weekend”], and she’s now 12, I think. She’s 5’1”. She’s taller than me now. And she’s just the cutest thing and so sweet and so precious. I just adore her.
Onda: Olesya’s character is a speed jump-roper, and it looks like she’s really doing it herself. Was that a skill she already had?
Chenoweth: She trained for four months before she came. She is really good. There are some shots they had to do with a professional jump-roper, but she did do a lot of her own jump-roping. We would wrap and she would go train, because throughout the movie she didn’t want to lose the timing. She’s fast. I have to say, I was very impressed. I just couldn’t believe it. Four months of getting her speed and her pace and her heart rate. She had to work at it and she did it. I was really proud.
Onda: You play a very self-absorbed mom in this film, but you get to act opposite one of TV’s greatest moms, Shirley Jones, who plays your mother-in-law.
Chenoweth: It was really fun for me, because I admire her so. There was a time where she was it in the movie musical world. Obviously that is something I understand. For me, playing someone who’s just become so hard and has to be so stern with her – that was harder for me than anything, because I love Shirley. I did “The Music Man” remake, the movie, for ABC and she was the original Marion the librarian, and I just had to get over my intimidation and put it behind me and be like, “OK, get over yourself Kristin, and do it.”
Onda: The title makes the movie sound very family friendly, but there is a little bit of adult language here and there. Who is this movie for?
Chenoweth: Yeah, it’s an interesting tone. We all were talking about it before we started shooting. It’s that really fine line of dark comedy, but family oriented. I have to say, I think it’s kind of the perfect family movie for 2013. The family movie when I was 18 was totally different. But, now, it’s a little edgier and the kids are having to deal with totally different things than I was having to deal with. I think it’s awesome that it kind of hits exactly the right place. The tone of it is for now.
Onda: What is your idea of the perfect family weekend?
Chenoweth: Ordering in and watching a movie. How pathetic is that?
Onda: With your dog, of course.
Chenoweth: With my dog. And, like, myself.
Onda: Well, at least she won’t tie you to a chair.
Chenoweth: That’s why I got one that’s about 6 lbs. There’s no mistaking me for the appetizer. She’s one of those dogs that doesn’t know she’s little. She’s kind of like me. She doesn’t know she’s little.
“Family Weekend” is now open in limited theatrical release and available with XFINITY On Demand.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.