DIVA TALK: Tony Winner Bernadette Peters Chats About NJ Concerts, "Smash," "Coming Up Roses"

By Andrew Gans
05 Oct 2012

Bernadette Peters on "Smash."
Photo by Eric Liebowitz/NBC

It was recently reported that Peters will reprise her role as Broadway legend Leigh Conroy, the mother of Broadway starlet Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty), in the second season of "Smash," which will debut in early 2013. "I think she's a great character," Peters says of the spotlight-seeking actress. "The dynamic between the mother and the daughter is really, really interesting, where the mother is this big star on the way down, but yet everyone knows who she is — she draws all the attention. As the daughter describes, 'Sucks all the air out of the room,' so that there's nothing left for her. And, [the daughter is the one] starring in the show. The daughter is starting to have a career and find her own identity, and she's having a difficult time doing it. And, the mother loves her, yet the mother has her own ego and is a success and loves the attention."

"They are the most wonderful cast," Peters adds. "They are so nice and generous. They're just lovely people and very gracious: Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Megan, Katharine McPhee, Anjelica [Huston], all of them. And then the [chorus] kids are just adorable. It's a wonderful set and a wonderful cast."

Peters will also be seen in the Mary Sunshine Films/Bullet Pictures, Inc. film "Coming Up Roses," which features Rachel Brosnahan and Tony nominee Peter Friedman under the direction of Lisa Albright. It will make its premiere in New York City Nov. 9 at AMC Village 7 on Third Avenue. "It's a dramatic story because it's another mother and daughter relationship, and clearly the daughter and the mother love each other, but the daughter takes care of the mother. The mother probably is bipolar, but it was never identified in those days. It actually is more-than-loosely based on the [film's] director and her mother. The director was the daughter, who had a sister and a mother — who I play. She's also an ex-performer, not in anything big, and apparently, they didn't write this into the script, but Lisa told me that her mother got stage fright all of a sudden and had to stop performing. Her mother was big into musical comedy, and she did a lot of that, and her daughter adored her for it. If a moment was going bad, she'd say, 'Okay! Let's think of an up-tune! We need an up-tune here!'"

Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance.
photo by Kenn Duncan

As for her own return to the stage, Peters says, "You know, it's eight times a week, so I have to take a big breath before I do that again, before I jump in. So it has to be something irresistible. And even so," Peters laughs, "I still think I need more time.... But I love it, too! I love the consistency of it and the schedule. There's a part of me that loves it also."

When asked if she has a favorite of her numerous Broadway outings, Peters pauses and says, "I've really been so fortunate, actually, to play so many wonderful roles. I really have, and I feel so lucky. I usually say that my favorite one is the one I'm in at the moment, but I'm really lucky to have played Rose and originate Dot and originate the Witch. To originate Dot and to do Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun… And, I loved that I got to do Sally Durant Plummer because it's an interesting character. Mostly everything about those [Follies] characters [are] not really on the page. Everything they bring back with them after those 20 or 30 years that they've been gone. Everything they bring back — that's not really written. It's all underneath. It's very, very, very interesting.

"Even with Desiree, that's another wonderful role," Peters continues. "Who would have thought [I would play her]? I always enter shows through the music, and she just has the one song, but funnily enough, the person that kept telling me, 'That's your role' was my singing teacher because she knows these shows, and she was an actress, too."