Christine Baranski has built up such a reputation for over-the-top characters that she considers her work on "The Good Wife" to be toning it down. Whether or not that's accurate, she gets to be plenty big again with "Into the Woods," playing a deliciously Wicked Stepmother to Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) exactly as the Brothers Grimm and Stephen Sondheim intended — daughter mutilations and all.
How much do you look forward to diving into these more over-the-top characters?
Honestly, this was particularly refreshing because I've been doing this television role for many years now. I feel like I hauled out my theater chops for this even though it was a film. It's refreshing to use those skills, particularly if you're working on the small screen. I find with my work on "The Good Wife," the simpler I am, the better and more effective I am. So flying off to London from the set of "The Good Wife" and being the evil stepmother was a lot of fun. It required a full-bodied characterization and unabashed theatricality. In this family, there was almost no such thing as being too big. The wig and the whole look of it, it's all just a bit much. They're over-the-top, they've got big personalities, they're kind of loud, they're kind of vulgar. They're kind of desperate. And it is larger than life, and therein lies the fun of it, curiously, because as big as it is, it somehow takes the onus off of the true horror of it, which is a woman chopping off her daughters' toes and heels so they will fit into a shoe.
What past roles do you find people approach you about the most?
You know, it's so interesting. "Birdcage" is one the most common. People just adore that movie — for good reason, it's a great movie. I didn't have a lot to do in "The Birdcage," but so many people, I think, have seen "The Birdcage" over and over. I'm getting a lot lately of "Bowfinger" because I guess it's been showing on HBO or something so people are rediscovering just how funny that movie is. Oh, and "Cybill." I mean, the guy who just did my hair said he was a little boy watching "Cybill," and it was so long ago, he said, and I'm like, wow, it was the mid-'90s, I guess. But it was such a vivid character, people still remember that. Of course, you know, there's "The Grinch." When you do a Christmas movie it gets shown every Christmas. I never know when people come up to me what they're going to say. A guy at the hotel said "Marci X" and I said, "'Marci X'?" It's terrible. You wouldn't expect that. But it turns out he had a small part in it, and it launched his acting career. (laughs)
Have you ever run into a drag performer dressed as one of your characters?
No, but I've heard that at the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, there were "Cybill" characters, Maryann and Cybill. Though I'm hoping for this one. God, I'd love to be on a float in a gay parade. I'd really like that a lot.
Anna Kendrick mentioned that if any other studio did this, it would almost seem like they're making fun of Disney.
That's such an interesting observation. I know what you mean. How brave of Disney to take it on. Because let's face it, Disney has the money and the power to promote this movie in a way so that it will really be out there in the world. I mean, my grandson will see it.
I should hope he would watch it.
Well, he's only 1 now. But I mean the great thing about doing a movie is it lives forever — for better or worse, it's out there. And for Steve's work to be out there like that, I just hope Rob can get his hands on a few more Sondheim musicals so that he can bring those into the world.
If you could do another Rob Marshall movie musical, what would you pick?
I think he's always wanted to do "Follies," and I think that would be a pretty amazing one. I think you could probably do a lot visually, cinematically with that. A lot of those songs are like interior monologues, characters just going into time. Rob does that so well. I mean, it's a tricky piece, but so was this. And that's a magnificent score. To hear that played by the London Philharmonic? Whoa, that would be special.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick