Well, that's one way to kick off a show. Check out a clip of Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli performing “Liza With a Z” from the premiere episode of Halston, streaming on Netflix May 14, above. Below, cast members Rodriguez, Ewan McGregor, and David Pittu chat with Playbill about the performance, meeting with Liza herself, and the Ryan Murphy series’ other hidden theatre connections.
“It wasn't that difficult to perform,” says Rodriguez of the show’s many numbers. “For me, that was the easy part to sink into because I’m from the theatre world.” Setting the scene, the star also dished on what it was like filming pre-COVID, with “a jam-packed room full of people, cigarette smoke—it felt like a real nightclub.”
"We did [“Liza With a Z”] a few times," said Rodriguez, as she recalled the music supervisors giving some feedback. “They said, ‘It needs to be at least 3 times as fast!,’ so I sort of knew we were going there. At that point, I had immersed myself in the number so much that I could do it in my sleep, and I still could. It will stick with me forever.”
“We knew the stakes were high,” said McGregor, referring to Halston and Liza’s relationship. “I didn't want to let her down, [so] I went to see her before we started shooting. I was very lucky that she met me, and we had a very lovely conversation. More than anything, I wanted to reassure her that we were going to do them justice...that Halston was in safe hands with me and that I was aware of how important he was in her life.”
Rodriguez, however, didn’t meet with Minnelli. “I didn't want to force her to have to give a blessing of something, or put her in a position where she had to get involved in something that maybe she didn't want to be involved in,” said the Broadway alum. “So, I allowed Ewan to have that really personal moment with her and then just went from there.”
Once McGregor and Rodriguez met (“Liza With a Z” was the latter’s first day on set), the pair were able to quickly find a connection thanks to the intimate scenes they share.
“We see Halston in the fashion world and with his lovers, but this thread of their relationship... is in a way sort of the backbone of the piece,” says McGregor. “They're very special scenes, for me, when you come across them.”
“I think Ewan got a real sense of Liza and Halston's relationship when he met with her, so it was infectious,” adds Rodriguez.
As for other theatre connections within the show, Tony nominee David Pittu, who plays Joe Ulloa, said that while his character is more known for his association with Halston, he did artistic direct and costume design for the disco musical Got Tu Go Disco on Broadway. “It was a huge bomb,” he said of its eight previews and nine performances at the Minskoff Theatre. More successful, though, was Halston’s ability to tap into the spirit of theatre. “There was always an aspect to the whole thing... because of the fashion shows [there’s] a lot of choreography. It did feel a little like a production at certain times, in the best way.”