Role Call: Laura Benanti talks Into the Woods, Supergirl, and returning to Broadway in Meteor Shower
Broadway veteran Laura Benanti is back on stage in Steve Martin's play Meteor Shower, starring alongside Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jeremy Shamos. In anticipation of this new role, which presented Benanti with a unique challenge, EW caught up with her to look back on some of her most memorable roles on stage and TV — from Into the Woods to Supergirl — and preivew the ones coming down the pike.
Cinderalla, Into the Woods (2002)
One of the reasons Benanti felt very comfortable in this role in Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale musical is that she did it at a community theatre in New Jersey when she was 14-years-old. "It was like coming full cirlce," she says. "Working with [Sondheim] was a dream come true. It was a culmination of everything I've ever wanted in my life."
What makes this role stand out the most, however, is that Benanti broke her neck doing pratfall in the show. "I certainly was challenged by the physical pain that I experienced in breaking my neck," she says. "Also, it was the first time I had experienced people not being very nice to me in terms of message boards speculating I hadn't really hurt myself and being treated not so well by some of the people involved. So, that was the first time I was like, 'Oh, not everybody wishes you well.'"
Louise, Gypsy (2008)
Starring in this 2008 revival, for which she won a Tony Award, was a healing experience for Benanti. "In a way after Into the Woods happened, I felt like not only had I broken my neck, but my love for the theatre sort of broke," she says. "I feel like Gypsy was the medicine for that. I feel like it healed and it brought me back to my first love, which is theatre." She quickly added, "Well, my daughter is my first love."
Erik Lee Preminger, the real life son of Gypsy Rose Lee — upon whose life the show is based — saw the revival and praised Benanti's performance. "He said, 'I was just so moved because I felt like I was watching my mother,'" says Benanti. "That was the highest compliment for me, because I wanted to bring her to life with heart and courage, because she was such a remarkable person."
Amalia Balash, She Loves Me (2016)
"I was pregnant with my daughter. I was in the first trimester, so I mostly remember just a ton of barfing," jokes Benanti, who actually loved doing this production because she got to sing in her full-blown soprano voice, which something you rarely get to do these days on Broadway. "It's very rare that as a soprano you get to also be funny. So, I was very grateful for that opportunity."
Astra/Alura, Supergirl (2015-2016)
Before Smallville's Erica Durance took over the role of Alura on The CW's Supergirl in season 3, Benanti played the role. In the first season, she pulled double duty as both Supergirl's mother and her evil aunt Astra, one of the seasons' big bads. This role was unlike anything Benanti had done before.
"That was awesome. It was incredibly fun," says Benanti. "I like to explore a bunch of different things and that was a muscle I had never sort of tested."
Unfortunately, she was unable to return in season 3 due to her other commitments to Meteor Shower and TBS' The Detour. "I was sad I couldn't return...but I'm just not able to go to Vancouver for that long period of time. So, I'm really sad. I really miss them, but I really couldn't do it anymore, unfortunately."
Laura, Meteor Shower (2017)
Steve Martin's absurdist comedy centers on Corky (Amy Schumer) and her husband, Norm (Jeremy Shamos), who invite a couple, Laura (Benanti) and Gerald (Keegan-Michael Key) over to their Ojai, California home to watch the meteor shower; however, chaos ensues and allows the play to explore "human behavior and human relationships and what's inappropriate and what is not appropriate."
"My character, in a way, is sort of the side of Amy Schumer's character that Amy does not allow to come forth. I'm almost like her id," says Benanti, who also got the chance to explore a part of herself that she normally doesn't to in real life. "I am not particularly sexy in real life, like it's not a part of me that I am super comfortable with on a daily basis. So, this character is very sexy — or, she's supposed to be — so becoming comfortable with that is interesting for me. Yeah, I would say that's probably the hardest part of me."
(Meteor Shower is currently in previews and runs until Jan. 21, 2018).
Edie, The Detour
Benanti recurred on the raunchy TBS comedy in season 2 as USPIS Agent Edie, and was upped to series regular status for season 3, which sees Jason Jones' crazy family relocating to Alaska — and Edie is right on their tail. "I become obsessed with the family, and even though I'm relieved of my duties at the postal inspection service, I take it upon myself to bring them down," says Benanti. "It's really funny, some of the funniest scripts I've ever read."