AfterEllen: An Interview with Idina Menzel
L.A. is fine — the sun shines most of the time — but in New York, you get to do things like meet Idina Menzel, who, in case you’ve been living under a rock, originated the role of lesbian Maureen in Rent and witch Elphaba in Wicked (for which she won a Tony). She’s also appeared in the film Enchanted and played rival choir director and Rachel’s mother on Glee.
Idina is about to kick off a tour on Oct. 28, beginning with three shows at the Kennedy Center. Yesterday, she sat down with a group of journalists, bloggers and tweeters at NYC’s Joe’s Pub to talk about the prospect of playing gay again and if there will ever be a Wicked movie.
Joe’s Pub is an intimate performance space with a stage, a bunch of cocktail tables, and a couch running along the back. All the New York bloggers seemed to know each other and were congregating at the tables so I shyly took a seat on the couch. Idina walked in with no fanfare and, shunning the stage, plopped herself down on the couch as well. She took questions for about an hour and was extremely soft-spoken and self-deprecating, but very eloquent. After the event, she stood outside alone and thanked everyone for coming. Here are some highlights (other than my own highlight of proximity)!
What Jonathan Larson said to her before Rent premiered:
I know this is going to be something that’s going to change your lives.
On missing New York:
For me, what I love about New York is that when you’re feeling lonely or depressed you can get out and walk it off and maybe encounter other people who are feeling the same way. In L.A. you’re just stuck in a car all by yourself, and for someone who’s maybe got some neuroses, the last thing I need to do is sit in a car by myself listening to sad music … in traffic. You go on an audition and then get in the car and obsess. Here that happens, but you get out and you walk and you see people from all walks of life and you get some perspective, you don’t see huge billboards reminding you of the show you didn’t get.
With whom she would like to duet:
Bono, Jeff Buckley (if he were alive still), Annie Lennox, Michael Buble, Barbra Streisand and Christina Aguilera.
If you’re going to marry a man, why not have it be Taye Diggs? Idina and Taye got together during Rent and have a 13-month-old boy together. He currently stars on Private Practice.
Does she watch Private Practice regularly?
No I don’t. Lately he and Kate Walsh[‘s character!] have been getting it on so … There was one morning where I was like “Oh, maybe I’ll bring the baby to work and visit you on set” and he was like “Yeah, today’s not the day.”
When asked if she would work with Taye again:
Yeah, I guess. In theater where someone else is there to really direct. But too often I have him help me with audition material and we get in a big argument.
We did the Sesame Street thing together and I had this line reading of the way “allergy” was supposed to be said and he felt that he was right but he was using it wrong and I didn’t want to usurp my husband in front of everyone. But I mean, he was wrong and he was telling me how to do it and Elmo was there!
Idina later revealed she wrote “eat me” on her derriere to tease Taye on the last performance of Rent.
When asked about the possibility of a Wicked movie:
They’ve already told the both of us [her and Kristin Chenoweth] that we’d be too “long in the tooth” by the time it’s made, which I thought was absurd until I was cast as Rachel’s mother. I told the producers just to do it like Avatar.
It will be a long way away. Maybe I’ll play the green witch’s mother. It will be like Vanessa Hudgens [as Elphaba].
On removing green makeup night after night:
Orange Neutrogena in the pump.
On whether she was paid by Neutrogena to say that:
And I finally got around to asking some big gay questions.
AfterEllen.com: You obviously have a huge gay following and a lot of the projects that you do, you’ve played a lesbian or they are gay-centric projects. Is that something that just happened or did you actively try to be —
IM: Can you explain to me, what is it that gay-centric means? I mean it’s one thing if you play a lesbian but —
AE: Well certainly Rent, but also Wicked, I think gay people really identify with that play and some see it as a metaphor for being gay.
IM: As an outsider or that kind of thing? Someone who’s not accepted? Alienation? It’s kind of a chicken and the egg thing but I feel like I put out some kind of energy that attracts certain types of roles and I tend to write songs that are inspired by that subject matter too.
AE: You did the “Give a Damn” campaign.
IM: I did, yes.
AE: So clearly your heart is in this.
IM: Well, yeah, I have many friends and it’s something close to my heart and Cyndi Lauper was another influence of mine. I kind of think, I don’t know, that’s the one thing that makes sense in my life in terms of all the different genres and being a hybrid is sort of all these characters are people that need to be empowered and be accepted so maybe i have to experience that in my own life.
As for what’s next, Idina announced that she’s recording a new album. No release date is set yet. She said she hopes there will be a sequel to Enchanted and hopes to be a part of it. She also has started a foundation called “A Broader Way,” with the goal of opening a summer camp in the Berkshires for underprivileged girls. The campers would perform a night on Broadway. How cool is that?!
You can find more information about the upcoming tour at idinamenzel.com