Easter is here, ya’ll! And it’s here in the form of the lovely Kristin Chenoweth. Well known for her role as Glinda in the Broadway musical Wicked, we’ll be seeing a whole new side to the actress as she embodies the Goddess of Spring aka Easter aka Ostara in tonight’s season finale of American Gods. We got the chance to talk a little bit to Chenoweth about her role as Ostara in American Gods, how she got her role, and the process she took to developing the character.
She talked about bonding with showrunner Bryan Fuller over their love of the horror genre and getting casted as Easter:
“Bryan and I bonded right off the bat at Pushing Daisies. I quoted something in a take from Hannibal Lecter, from The Silence of the Lambs, and he went, ‘You like that genre?’ I said, ‘It’s my favorite.’ Until I die sliced and diced, I haven’t made it. Thus this relationship was born because it doesn’t really go with what you see, right? And that’s Easter. And, when he said I want you to play Easter, I said, ‘Oh no.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s the spirit.’ And this is how Neil and Michael and I want to approach her in the book. She just appears a few times in the book, but she’s got a strong presence. But when he said, ‘She’s got this kind of façade, but she’s really boiling [inside].’ I said, ‘Okay, now you’re talking. I get it. I’ll just sharpen these [her nails] a little bit.'”
And while many of us know Easter as a Christian holiday, Ostara’s first scene is not only a play and satire on the Christian holiday, but also helps in introducing the character of Ostara to the audience.
“There’s an opening sequence where she is talking to all of the Jesuses, who she’s invited to her house to celebrate their day. Which she’s a little pissed about, because remember she existed long before Jesus did, and he’s chosen her day — the celebration of earth and fertility and all beautiful things — to resurrect himself. And she now has to figure out how she’s going to be politically correct and tolerant and accepting of them. One of the things I enjoy most about the opening sequence is that we have the view of how we’ve been taught our whole life of what Jesus looks like, and in this case we have several different ways and several different actors. And, I like that. That’s how Bryan’s mind works. She’s hosting a party for them. Bitterly, but she’s doing it.”
Although she had some reservations about playing the character, it was Fuller who convinced her of where to go with the character. “I thought, again, I’m not called upon to do that often,” Chenoweth said. “That’s fun. I’ve played a very smart girl in a White House, a drunk has-been, a Glee person, a good Christian bitch, a waitress who can’t get a date. This is new for me! I’m enjoying it!”
She also talked about playing a pagan goddess and what it meant to her to embody a character like that:
“It’s not just about chocolate and bunnies. The word pagan makes a lot of people, where I’m from, nervous. It’s almost like, ‘Oh, is it satanic? Is that bad?’ But when you look at the word and you really calm down, like I had to do with my mom when I told her I was doing this part, she was like ‘Oh are you trying to kill me?’ I said, ‘Mom, pagan is tradition. It’s actually tradition.’ And as a Christian person, trust me, we know about tradition. I like the fact that I’m a person of faith in this role of [being] a goddess acting with thirteen different Jesuses. Ostara is like, ‘Are you kidding me? Calm down Jesus, before you ever were, I was here.’ I like the fact that she’s trying to make everyone feel comfortable, and yet, she’s the one that’s dividing them. Does that make sense? It’s ironic.”
It’s been a long road to Easter and now that we’re finally going to meet her, we’ll also see her come to face some of her own skeletons. Chenoweth described Wednesday as a character who reminds Ostara of her shortcomings, her failures. “Nobody wants to be faced with that,” she said.
“I never viewed her as getting angry, and when Bryan said, ‘No, I want you to play that [feeling of] getting ready to boil over.’ I say that she’s been taken off the shelf, dusted off, and been given permission by Wednesday to go. And when you get a taste of what you once were, you remind everyone of why you were so great. And, that’s one of the main ins for me, of how I played her. You know, when I played Glinda in Wicked, and you have that iconic vision. And we obviously have Billie Burke in the movie, there’s that. But it’s, again, what happened before that made her good. Why is she Glinda the Good? Why is Easter light and airy and sweet and kind? Maybe because, she showed her real colors before, and it didn’t always work in her favor. I think that’s what we’ll see. And when he comes in, again, it reminds her of all of that. She’s evolved. She’s tolerant. She’s happy. And then he comes in. It’s like when someone comes in and reminds you of the mistakes of your past.”
But as far as where Easter will be falling in the war between the gods, Chenoweth played around with that.
“You know Switzerland, right? I think it’s interesting when you’re watching a show and there’s that person who just won’t commit? I’m always yelling at the TV and this is horrifying to my family but I just, yell constantly. And I hope people at home are yelling at her in the future, going, ‘Decide! Just be it!’ And that’s what I want for her. But I do think that eventually you will see her hands get a little dirty. I just don’t think people want her on their bad side.”
It looks like we’re going to be ending the season on a high note as Chenoweth teased that we will be seeing Easter and Media in a scene together. I love seeing Gillian Anderson on my screen at any time, and seeing her interact with Kristin Chenoweth is going to make it even better.
“It’s old world versus new world, but they’ve found a way to connect, and now they’re BFFs. But then you see them have a moment, and that’s also very fun between two strong women, to have that moment. What this TV show is allowing us to do is just delve into the characters. We’re getting to do it and show it. That’s also cool to me. “
And even though Easter might be typically interpreted as a bright and sunny character, Chenoweth was encouraged by Ian McShane to channel the darker side of the character and draw from her own sorrow for the character.
“When I was there, I was working with Ian and Ricky a lot, and I had a dog that was with me for 14 years. She passed away when we were in Canada, and I thought, ‘I don’t really feel much like Easter.’ I just don’t feel like her. I don’t feel like doing it, and I told Ian that, I said, ‘I’m sad.’ And he said, ‘Play that.’ Such a great note. Just play that. I think it helped me a lot, because that is what’s made her this. Taking on an iconic role is a little scary, but I’ve done it before and I think you have to find your way in. That was Easter, trying to find my way in, and finding a way to stay, and that’s her too. I’m very honored just to be in it, and especially having read the book, and now becoming a true fan of the originator, the author, Neil Gaiman. This was something I admittedly didn’t know about, and now when you read something like him, it unlocks some of the mind. It’s a key to, in this case, four different worlds. There are no rules. I like that.”
Of course, like many of the cast, Chenoweth talked about the presidential election of 2016 and how that shift in power effected her and influenced her approach to the character and the project, along with the other strong women that influenced the character of Easter.
“When I came in it was August, and so we were in the thick of the election. Forgive me, no matter how you voted, I don’t judge anybody, but I was looking at Hilary and I was like, she’s getting slammed for being a strong woman, if she were a man it would be different. This is a subject that we all know, right? So, that’s what I was feeling, and I was feeling for her. And it’s interesting that I took a little bit of her in with me. When I look at women that I admire, even Dolly Parton, this is a woman that has sacrificed, has not had a child, lived a life on the road. Yeah, she has a husband, but you know what I’m saying. She’s made her own money, she’s never sold a note or word of hers, she owns everything, which is why she’s rich. She’ll tell you that!
So, I look at all these women who are strong and I admired what made them strong. I look at Sally Field, this is a woman who had to fight and beg and audition, the place she was in her life, for Lincoln. And convince. And she had no ego about it. She knew she was so right for it. I just look at women and the decisions they’ve made and I admire it. And I kind of take them in these parts I play. But I think that, Easter, in particular, has a little bit of politician in her and she’s a half-step off.”
And speaking of half-steps and full steps, does Easter sing?
“You know, I ask, every time I do a part, I say, ‘Does she sing?’ And I think she does sing, but I don’t think she’s very good. I think she’s a little askew. But you know, when you’re playing a goddess, you have to think, what makes her imperfect? That makes it interesting. And you know, obviously when I play a part that’s not in a musical, I think, ‘Does that person sing? How do they sit? Do they brush their teeth three times a day? Do they never brush their teeth?’ those kinds of questions. And I think that for Easter, that’s one host duty that is not really the best for her. She’s probably not a great — she’s just a half step off.”
Are you as excited as we are to meet Easter now? It looks like we’re going to be getting a big dose of Easter in this finale episode and I can’t wait! The season finale of American Gods will air tonight on STARZ!