Making a name for herself as a model at a very early age set the stage for a career on screens large and small - as well as the Broadway stage itself many, many times over - for iconic beauty Brooke Shields. On April 24, she takes on the role of the Baroness in a starry Carnegie Hall concert mounting of Rodgers & Hammerstein's much-loved musical classic THE SOUND OF MUSIC, co-starring previous InDepth InterView participant Tony Goldwyn as Captain Von Trapp in addition to the subject of next week's upcoming InDepth InterView playing the role Maria, rising star Laura Osnes. Sharing her insights on her many notable Broadway appearances since her big bow in GREASE in the 1990s - including thoughts on her stints in CABARET, CHICAGO, WONDERFUL TOWN, The Addams Family and more - Shields opens up about her affection for the theatrical form and her desire to pursue even more plays and musicals in the future. Additionally, Shields comments on her role opposite Miley Cyrus on HANNAH MONTANA, as well as her sitcom days on SUDDENLY SUSAN as well as her upcoming film appearance in HOT FLASHES. Plus, all about her impressions of THE SOUND OF MUSIC and her affection for the classic score, original film and its stars as well as the challenges she faces taking on the tricky role of the Baroness in the gala Carnegie Hall concert event. All of that and much, much more!
More information about the gala concert presentation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Carnegie Hall on April 24 is available here.
Maybe This Time
PC: Since conquering the TV medium with SUDDENLY SUSAN you have certainly done a lot of theatre - it seems to be your focus these days, while dipping your toe in film and TV, as well. Is theatre the main thing?
BS: Yes - exactly! [Laughs.] It does seem like I do a little of everything - but, yes. It is.
PC: Your most recent stage appearance on Broadway was in The Addams Family. How have you seen audiences change since your Broadway debut in GREASE back in 1995?
BS: Well, you know, it's odd, because I think - what I am always amazed at is that it doesn't change, there are just additions to it. You know what I mean?
PC: Could you elaborate?
BS: Well, in the audience, it'll be somebody like yourself that's in the younger generation, but, the older generation is still beautifully loyal and still there, too - it's like: the same people that came to my Feinstein's show came to The Addams Family. But, now, at The Addams Family, grandparents and parents are bringing their kids because, for instance, they like Nickelodeon and THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF; or, FURRY VENGEANCE is their favorite movie - or, they know me as Hannah Montana's mom.
PC: You cross many demographics.
BS: Yes - it's been really humbling. It's such an honor, in a way, because the older fans - the ones from my generation, who have been around; they haven't lost their faith. [Laughs.] Not yet, anyway.
PC: They're still fans.
BS: But, they are bringing on younger people with them - I'll be with a group of people and an 8-year-old will come up to me and she'll say, you know, "Are you Hannah Montana's mom?" And, it's mind-boggling to me because the demo just gets wider and wider, whereas you just sort of expect whole generations to not have a clue who you are - they were born twenty years after you came around, so why should they, really? It's really humbling.
PC: You have THE BLUE LAGOON generation from the 70s and 80s, SUDDENLY SUSAN for the Gen X-ers, and, now, the current youngsters know you from HANNAH MONTANA.
BS: Yeah, the younger people - the kids -say SUDDENLY SUSAN. The parents will say, you know, "My daughter recognizes you from TWO AND A HALF MEN or HANNAH MONTANA, but I told them I knew you when I was 17, too!" So, it's like this thing that they share with their kids - it's not like: who's Justin Bieber? Who's Selena Gomez? You know, I'll be watching TV with my kids and see the kids who my kids watch and be like, "Who is that? What channel is that even on?"
PC: You are point of reference.
BS: Yeah, it's like, these parents have a point of communication and reference with their kids because they both are aware of me - I'm a known entity, so they feel more prone to give me a stamp of approval because they knew of me when they were younger; when they were their kid's age.
PC: And the shows you do these days are usually perfect for a family of fans of all ages, anyway.
BS: Doing a show like The Addams Family was the perfect combination - you had people who liked the cartoons of Charles Addams; you had fans of the TV show; and, you had fans of the movies with Anjelica Huston. They all came. And, honestly, they all said that the one thing that they all had in common was that they knew me, so to hear that from so many people and to still feel relatively young but still have this wide fan base is really thrilling and a little daunting at the same time - you just hope to keep their interest, you know?
PC: Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Carter and some other former child stars have done this column and we discussed their respective experiences in the industry, coming up. Being an iconic child star yourself, how do you look back on your journey and do you feel there is a different struggle today that perhaps didn't exist back when you were coming up?
BS: Oh, for sure - I mean, just with the access that we have to those people we focus on and just how much we focus on them!
BS: Yes. I mean, I think that every generation probably thinks they are reinventing the wheel when they say, you know, "Oh, kids today!" But, I really do feel that way - it's crazy.
PC: It's a lot more challenging now, in your estimation?
BS: Yes. I was in an era where I was so sequestered and sort of kept safer - whether it was by living in New York City or by not going to professional children's schools or whatever. You know, the numbers are so much bigger than they used to be - the financial gains are so much bigger now than they were when I was a child. You know, back then, you didn't have access to as much - I was one kid with one mom; not a family of kids growing up in Hollywood with a mother who was really seeking out fame and attention. [Pause.] Reality stars - there is a frenzy for reality stars.
PC: You can say that again.
BS: I think it's so much more of a dangerous era as far as entertainment is concerned for those in it - I think you have to be even stronger. You have to have a stronger constitution and have stronger people around you. And, education is not really that appealing to young people in entertainment these days - because they don't have to be interested in it, really.
PC: It's all about getting rich quick.
BS: Yes - it's like, with the amount of money that they are making, and, if there is nobody around them emphasizing education or if it is not something that they have grown up with; you know, if you go to school to get a job, but the job you have is making you more than probably any degree you would be able to attain… not even considering the years it would take...
PC: A too true point.
BS: Then, with the immediate gratification you get from the financial bait, so to speak? It is all just so overwhelming.
PC: It's not a tough choice if you don't know any better.
BS: You know, that was never an option in my era - or, at least not in my particular situation.
PC: Have you seen paparazzi become an overwhelming force in celebrity over the course of your own career?
BS: Oh, yeah. I mean, it used to be Ron Galella and a handful of other ones, and you befriended them to a certain extent and tried to make good contact with them and hoped to God that their conscious somehow played into it. But, you know, Ron got as much attention wearing a football helmet as TMZ does getting punched in the face.
PC: As you said - it doesn't change.
BS: It's the same thing. And, I think that in every era you have a comparable thing - soon, I'm sure, you'll be able to plant a chip in somebody without them knowing it by giving it to them in a sandwich or something and then you can follow them around all day. [Laughs.]
PC: It wouldn't really surprise me at this point.
BS: It has just gotten exacerbated by the advances in technology - so, it's not a shock to me that it became its own industry and its own business; not just one part of the industry preying on another, but an industry in and of itself.
PC: And celebrity became its own business, too, wouldn't you agree?
BS: Well, I think it has - I do think that, to certain extent, it always has, though. It has always had the potential to precede whatever the talent or the activity or the vocation is - there has always been this sort of polarity where it was like, whether you were in the Algonquin or with the famous artists of their time in France, they'd all be discussing the same thing: "That guy became commercial, but I am making true art." It's just now in our language for today - you can argue it all the time and we do.
PC: What a fascinating perspective.
BS: Is celebrity more important than talent? What is longevity - can celebrity really have the same longevity as the combination of celebrity and talent? You know, those are all the sort of things that are fun to discuss at the dinner table with a lot of wine! [Laughs.]
PC: Theatre has a focus on the bottom line more than any other field in entertainment - if the show doesn't make the theater owners happy with the grosses, they are soon gone.
BS: Yeah - and, it doesn't matter how talented the cast is!
PC: Have you ever had the experience to be in a show on the verge of closing while you were in it or did you tend to boost the grosses in all cases?
BS: For me, they were all hits because, in every single instance, they asked me to come in when the show was flagging. Sorry to use a sports term - isn't that a sports term, "flagging?" I did go to college, Pat - I promise! [Laughs.]
PC: That's hilarious.
BS: In every case, I have been asked to come into a show that was otherwise in danger of closing, so the onus came on to me to keep the show open. And, in every case, I signed one contract and they asked me to extend every time. So, for me, every Broadway show that I have done has been a huge success because they asked me to stay longer.
PC: How wonderful to hear.
BS: But, keep in mind, in every show I have just been the replacement - but, there is a huge responsibility to be able to live up to the original or to be able to define the character on your own terms. There are a couple unique skills you need for that.
BS: To me, although I am in a unique situation in having not opened a show, I have found that to keep a show open can be as daunting as opening a new show can be - I mean, if you become the reason the show closes prematurely when they brought you in to keep the show open? That's a slap in the face and I am lucky enough to not have that yet happen to me.
PC: Without a doubt.
BS: I look at that as a huge testament to giving myself self-confidence to say, "Don't diminish the way you look at yourself because you are just a replacement," - as actors, we tend to constantly try to find ways to prove to ourselves that we are not good enough. I think that's just the psychology - it's like: "Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!" and, then, if they don't pick you, you feel like you aren't worth anything. And, that's so rarely the truth!
PC: It's self-sabotage.
BS: You have to just find ways to interpret it so that your self-value doesn't get diminished. So, I never go into something thinking that I am better than it, but I do realize the responsibility - the amount of talent that is there in the show is just extraordinary.
PC: The best talent in the world is on Broadway.
BS: To be a part of it, I have to say to myself, "Yeah - it's something you have earned over the last thirty years." If it's another tool that has to come into the equation to make it happen - if it's celebrity, great; if it's box office, great. Hopefully, the better box office then gives all those really, really talented people you are lucky enough to work with a chance to keep going and do what they do and it gives you a chance to feel valid on a talent level as well as a celebrity level at the same time. You know, if your celebrity gets you in there, you aren't getting in because of your talent. I mean, my God, it was stunt-casting when they put me in GREASE in 1996 or whatever!
PC: But you proved yourself to be worthy of the role and the show - and then some.
BS: Listen, I am not unclear as to why I got a job on Broadway, but, what I am also not unclear about is how I maintained that job on Broadway - because, finally, talent was allowed to come in. If I could hold my own and prove myself and just be a link in that whole chain that makes Broadway Broadway - which is: the cast and the crew and all of that; you are only as strong as your weakest link and I never wanted to be the weakest link.
PC: It's a lot of pressure for a performer in your position. Each musical employs sometimes a hundred people or more and they all look to you.
BS: Some of the stagehands came up to me after I extended on a show I did and just said, you know, "Thanks for keeping us through the year - now I can keep my house." And, I was just like, "Oh, my god - wow! Thank you for what you do and for letting me be an actress."
PC: Jennifer Westfeldt has done this column - as has Donna Murphy - and I was curious if you saw them in WONDERFUL TOWN before you stepped into the show?
BS: Yes, I did see Jennifer but I didn't see Donna because she was out. I got to see Jennifer and I really hoped that she would have stayed on - if only because I really admire her talent - but, there was something really special about being with Jennifer Hope Wills, too, and having us be the two newbies, sharing this responsibility and each being as terrified as the other one.
PC: It wasn't an easy show to do every night.
BS: We became our own team, though - and we got pretty extraordinary reviews for a replacement cast, I think.
PC: To say the least - and a fabulous new cast recording to boot.
BS: Yes - we did do another album. And, I mean, they told me that the Tony committee wanted to do a Best Replacement award because of WONDERFUL TOWN, but, something happened where we didn't get in - I think it's because we finished on December 31.
PC: No way!
BS: Yes - we finished on the 31. [Laughs.] But, you know what I mean: to have people come in and feel like it was a new show - a lot of people even came back because there was a new cast in it and they were all so happy with what we did.
PC: CABARET was a similar case of that - so many reasons to return again and again thanks to those superb replacements.
BS: Well, that was a very special situation, I think.
PC: It was. I was curious: did you perform with Raul Esparza in the show at any point?
BS: I think I only had like two shows with Raul, actually!
PC: I remember that when he did this column we discussed how LEAP OF FAITH out of town wasn't technically your first show together.
BS: Yes, we did CABARET together for like a week - right after 9/11, so my memory of it is a little hazy. It was a crazy time. We overlapped by a couple performances, though, I know. Matt McGrath was my main Emcee, I remember - he was just sublime.
PC: Do you think that CABARET revival would be done today? Do you think we have become more conservative in the last ten years?
BS: Well, with something like CABARET, you have people who would fight for the integrity of that - I think. Wouldn't they? I doubt highly that it would be an issue - God forbid! I hope it wouldn't be.
PC: Are Kander & Ebb roles particularly appealing to you? KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN would complete the perfect trilogy for you after your stints in CABARET and CHICAGO, I think.
BS: Oh, I would - there is something amazing about it. But, for me, WONDERFUL TOWN was really the perfect role. You know, it's not just about the music and lyrics, it's about the entirety of the project for me - to have music and dancing and physical comedy and drama and all of it in one thing without it feeling so tragic was exhilarating. You know, CABARET was really dark and every night you really sort of destroyed yourself, and, even CHICAGO had a heavy kind of heaviness to it - and, while those shows are brilliant, sometimes you feel like, "Ugh, I don't want to feel like that tonight!"
PC: Speaking of pitch black: your performance on NIP/TUCK was fantastic and I was curious if we can anticipate a reunion with you and Ryan Murphy on GLEE sometime soon - perhaps singing something?
BS: You know what? I called him a couple times and I left a message saying, "OK, I did NIP/TUCK for you, so when are you gonna put me on GLEE?" And, he has yet to return my phone calls! So, you know, he had me for what he needed me for and now… pssh! [Big Laugh.]
PC: That's so funny. Is THE SOUND OF MUSIC going to be your Carnegie Hall debut?
BS: Uh, yes! [Laughs.] Well, first of all, I do have to say that I was in Ms. Butleroff's ballet class and we actually did perform in Carnegie Hall when I was 6 - so, that's 40 years ago!
PC: What a grand return THE SOUND OF MUSIC will be, then!
BS: Yeah, right? But, in all honesty, the fact that this is a reality in my life is such a shock to my system! When Rob Fisher calls you repeatedly and even insists - I just am not used to getting those phone calls! I am really not. Something of this caliber and this iconic of a production and the pressure of doing a role that is mostly soprano like this one is - I am just going to do my best and hope to God that I merit being there!
PC: You're too humble.
BS: I can't imagine that he would throw me under the bus! [Laughs.] I just can't believe it is actually happening and I am just hoping I survive it - I am so, so honored. Honestly, I just can't believe I am doing it.
PC: What do you think of the film version and the fact that the Baroness does not have either of her songs from the stage show?
BS: Well, on the one hand, it makes it have more pressure - and, on the other hand, it takes the pressure away; you know, I am not playing Maria and I am not being compared to Julie Andrews! With that, it's like, "God, how do you reprise that?!" But, luckily, they found an angel with an absolutely beautiful voice to match to do this - Laura Osnes.
PC: You can say that again - what a huge talent!
BS: I am really, really glad she got to do this, too - especially in light of how BONNIE & CLYDE didn't get to keep going in spite of all their hard work. I am so happy that this is happening for her right now - she's so talented. Hopefully, they won't be comparing any of us to the film, though - there's no comparison they can make. So, I guess, in my mind, going from that, I can kind of see myself as originating a role this time. [Laughs.]
PC: Tony Goldwyn has done this column and is such a smart and generous guy. Are you excited to be working with him?
BS: Oh, I am barely able to breathe because I am so excited - I love him so much. I am such a fan.
PC: Is this the first time you have worked together?
BS: It is! And, whenever they have asked me on almost anything I have ever done about a co-star, I have always said, "Can you get Tony Goldwyn?" And, he never could do it! "Oh, he's busy!" "Oh, he's not interested." So, I am so excited that we are getting a chance to share a stage with this.
PC: Your first screen credit is opposite Christopher Plummer - Captain Von Trapp in the film version of SOUND OF MUSIC - in a TV film of Arthur Miller's ALL FALL DOWN. Do you have any memories of filming that?
BS: Yes. AFTER THE FALL was done like a filmed version of a stage production, so, my big debut - both onstage and on film, concurrently - was walking across the stage, sitting on Christopher Plummer's lap, and, then, walking off the stage. I remember he played Arthur Miller in that. [Deadpan.] Yep - that was my big moment.
PC: A star was born.
BS: [Laughs.] You know, I think I did OK, though - at least I didn't mess it up! But, who knows! I like to think that things do come full-circle like this, but I feel like the circles just keep looping and looping and looping and I will hopefully stay inside of them.
PC: And he just won the Oscar, of course, as well.
BS: And thank God for that! And, you know, it also encourages me - it's like: by the time I get a lifetime achievement award from anywhere, I'll have all the video ready! [Laughs.]
PC: I have a funny feeling a Tony may come first!
BS: From your lips, Pat! From your lips. That would be so great.
PC: What's next? You have a new film, HOT FLASHES?
BS: Yeah, I just wrapped HOT FLASHES. Truly, Carnegie Hall is the next thing I am concentrating on, though. I am just taking one tiny little step back and sort of saying, [Exhales.] "OK." You know, it's one thing to go where you are wanted and go where you are asked, but I really want to focus on deciding what the next thing is I really want to put my energy and effort into and not have it diffused by being sort of willy-nilly and going and doing everything and anything. I am saying no a little bit more than yes right now, just because I have worked so hard the last year and a half. Right now, I am asking myself, "Do I want to do this? Am I comfortable going into this? Let's see how this movie goes. Let's see what happens with television."
PC: Exploring your options.
BS: Yes - it's nice to just take a breather and focus on the Carnegie Hall concert; it's an amazing, amazing experience for me to get to have and I just want to enjoy it fully for what it is. Then, we'll see what happens after that. Who knows? If you call me tomorrow it might be a totally different story.
PC: You would be great in INTO THE WOODS, as well. What about a Sondheim role someday?
BS: Oh, boy - to be honest, there are some new roles coming up that I really have to sort of see if one of them might be the right thing for me to do next; maybe not carry something myself. It's hard - you know, it's hard at this age; I'm not the ingenue, but I'm not the character-actor, either. I feel like I'm not older-older, though - I still have some youth left in me! [Laughs.]
PC: And then some!
BS: It's nice to be considered for these roles that have a richness to them, too, so I guess I may have grown into them.
PC: Broadway offers the best roles for women of a certain age, in any event. You have options.
BS: Yes - it's much less age-discriminate. I think that that has been wonderful for me. I think that Hollywood and other mediums are just tougher for someone my age for many different reasons.
PC: This will certainly be something new even in your diverse career - a big gala concert at Carnegie Hall singing Rodgers & Hammerstein.
BS: You can't say no to something like this! It's like: you will never get a chance like this again! It's just like, "Oh, my God! This is so amazing." God willing, I will be a solid part of a cast and I will be a seamless member - that is my big wish.
PC: You don't have to carry the whole show this time, at least - for a change.
BS: No, but I also do want to merit being there - it's no joke; and, it's a one-time thing. The orchestra will be there and just everything about it - I can't believe I've been given this chance and now I just want to live up to it. [Sighs. Pause.] So, now I'm going to go throw up! [Laughs.]
PC: We have a lot to look forward to from you, then! Your Carnegie Hall debut, your new film HOT FLASHES…
BS: Yes. Let me just say that HOT FLASHES is a really amazing movie, too - I was working with a director who appreciates a woman who is not just twenty. Wanda Sykes, Darryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen - all these really great, eclectic women are in it; and, we all had to learn to play basketball! It's like, every time I do a Broadway show they ask, you know, "Do you tango?" and I say, "Give me nine days and I will!" "Can you climb a fence in high heels?" "Well, I've never done it, but I'll try!" So, we had to all learn to play basketball for this and it's a movie with a really great message - it's definitely not a chick flick. Susan Seidelman directed it and she directed DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN and, more recently, MUSICAL CHAIRS.
PC: MUSICAL CHAIRS has been getting a lot of praise.
BS: MUSICAL CHAIRS is about a ballroom competition in wheelchairs. It's really great. And, this, too, is in keeping with appreciating what we all can contribute and what we all can do.
PC: Well, we all can't wait to see what you do next, Brooke. Thank you so much for this today.
BS: Thank you so, so, so much, Pat - I really appreciate it. This was great. Bye bye.
Pat Cerasaro is a playwright and screenwriter currently in pre-production on his first feature film.|