Five Questions With ‘Hairspray Live!' Star Kristin Chenoweth

The Tony and Emmy Award winner is no stranger to live performances, but says she still gets anxious when only having one shot to nail her performance

If you think you've seen Velma, you haven't seen anything yet.

Tony and Emmy-award winning performer Kristin Chenoweth is set to put her own special spin on Velma Von Tussle in NBC's rendition of NBC's Hairspray Live! which airs Dec. 7. 

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "Hairspray Live!" takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teen Tracy Turnblad's dream is to dance on "The Corny Collins Show," a local TV program. When against all odds Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store.

Tracy's mother is the indomitable Edna, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white "Corny Collins Show."

Chenoweth is joined by an all-star cast which includes Harvey Fierstein, Martin Short, Ariana Grande, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Sean Hayes and Rosie O'Donnell

We caught up with Chenoweth, who spoke about both her attraction to the role and what still gives the veteran performer a case of the jitters after all these years.

Q: What initially attracted you to the project?

A: I heard rumors they were going to do Hairspray and then I got a phone call saying they want you to do Velma. I thought she was a fun character. Then the elections happened.  There's nothing greater than entertainment. We could be doing any musical and they're doing Hairspray at the exact perfect moment for obvious reasons. It's a show about what unifies us instead of what divides us. I think that’s where we’re at in the country.

Q: Does a project like come with less anxiety since you have experience performing live on the Broadway stage?

A: I love performing live. It's my favorite way to perform. But it’s also one time. When I’m doing a film you can cut or repeat. This is a one shot deal. I don’t get anxious over doing a live performance. I get anxious over only being able to do it once.

Q: Have you been able to coach or assist some of your co-stars who've never performed live before?

A: I’ve been in rehearsals now and not one person...not one..seems like they haven’t done this before. That’s a testament to how well they cast it and how well it’s being directed and choreographed. Everyone feels at ease. There’s a sense that we’re in it together, so we’re like a bonded family. That’s why I love theater so much. You come together in a special way. We’re in this together. 

Q: Have any of your co-stars surprised you with how well they've adapted to the live concept? 

A: No one because each and every one of them has performed to their ability. I’m speechless because I think each of them is making the performer next to them better.

Q: You see yourself doing more projects like this in the future? 

A: If I’m asked and if it feels right. This is an opportunity for my relatives in Oklahoma who can’t afford to go to a Broadway show and get a hotel and dinner to watch. This is everything that I love and I’m so glad NBC started it. 

Kristen Chenoweth stopped by “Late Night” Monday and chatted with Seth Meyers about working with Jennifer Lopez and returning to Broadway in “On the 20th Century.”
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