Today we continue our series of conversations with the stars of DROP DEAD DIVA with a special guest on all three seasons of the show, portraying the essential character of Jane's biological mother, Elaine Bingum, and a Tony-winning Broadway leading lady in her own right - the hilarious and accomplished stage and screen veteran, Faith Prince. In addition to filling us in all about Elaine's arc on the show over the last three seasons and recounting working with Sharon Lawrence and the rest of the cast and crew on her return visit last week - as well as how Ms. Prince herself feels about the show, its cast, creator and the message it proudly carries - we also talk about recording "Lean On Me" with Brooke Elliott and Sharon Lawrence for last week's show. Because no chat with a Broadway baby like Faith would be complete without a thorough rundown of her decades spent on the Great White Way, we also have a complete look back at her varied and impressive career onstage - working with top-tier directors like Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Joe Mantello, Rob Marshall, Jerry Zaks, Stephen Daldry and Tina Landau; many of the finest directors of our age. Plus, news on Ms. Prince's forthcoming inspirational book, TINKER BELL DVD release and, of course, starring in the current BILLY ELLIOT sit-down production in San Francisco all summer and much, much more!
Over the course of the next several weeks, we are going to be taking an extensive look at the sights and sounds both onscreen and onset of the hit TV dramedy series DROP DEAD DIVA - new episodes airing Sunday nights at 9 PM on Lifetime - featuring exclusive interviews with the leading lady divas and dashing supporting men on the LA-based supernatural legal series. Featuring a memorable collection of musical performances and Broadway guest stars over the years - Paula Abdul, Rosie O‘Donnell, Delta Burke and many more included - DROP DEAD DIVA is the quintessential TV series for Broadway babies looking for some laughs and levity - the latter available in many more ways than one, given the show's heavenly aspirations. DROP DEAD DIVA centers on a legal eagle named Jane whose body acts as the means for the indomitable spirit of a model, Deb, who loses her life, to make a second chance and how the girl inside must learn to adjust to looking like the woman on the outside that she is now. In other words, a model finds out what it means to look like everyone else, in a delightfully quirky twist of fate - and learns to be a lawyer, too. Season Three picks up with the cliffhanger car crash that closed last season in a dark and shocking way. What will Grayson remember of the conversation he had with Jane pre-crash? What will Jane do to save him? What about his engagement (to somebody else)? What will happen back at the office with Teri, Kim and Parker? What about Stacy and Fred? All these questions and many more will most assuredly be answered come Sunday night! Plus, there's always a musical number or two not too far off like we saw last week with Ms. Prince, Sharon Lawrence and Brooke Elliott taking on "Lean On Me" - a clip that had its world premiere in this very column! Who knows what new surprises are in store coming up!
Also, be sure to check back often because next up we will be featuring conversations with the leading men of DROP DEAD DIVA - Josh Henderson, Jackson Hurst and Ben Feldman!
Faith, By Leaps & Bounds
PC: Did you enjoy your time on the DROP DEAD DIVA set in Georgia earlier this year? It's such a wonderful place.
FP: Well, I was born in Augusta and my aunt is from Atlanta, so I feel really comfortable with the surroundings and everything to begin with down there.
PC: Oh, I didn't know you were from Georgia!
FP: I always thought it was so funny that that set is like an airplane hanger - you know, on set I joke about getting a really good take and right when it's almost done, oh no, there's an airplane to ruin the take! (Laughs.) Zoom!
PC: I saw Kate and Margaret have to do a scene over and over again for the same reason! Too close to the airport.
FP: Like the trains in Brooklyn! You know, people laugh, but it's not funny when it's happening to you.
PC: Had you seen Brooke onstage before you did DIVA with her?
FP: No. Never - I was actually doing a show myself at the same time as her, I think.
PC: TABOO was a fantastic show.
FP: Rosie produced it, right? She's really great.
PC: Another DIVA's diva of a recurring guest star! What was your first meeting with Brooke like?
FP: When I met Brooke, it was like we had that moment where we both acknowledged we had been through similar experiences and it bonded us for life in a way. It's like we know each other. I mean, when we sing together, even on camera - like we just did - it's like mother/daughter. It's really weird.
PC: What do you think of Brooke as a performer on the show?
FP: Oh, I think she's not only a terrific talent, but a terrific human being! It's just so, so great being her mom and being down there in Atlanta with her.
PC: Your affection for each other comes through onscreen.
FP: I just love her. I think [creator] Josh Berman, too, is just an incredible writer. When I first read the character I was just like, "Oh, my God!" This season I called him and said, "Am I Elaine or is Elaine now me?" (Laughs.)
PC: That's so funny. Elaine always ends up in precarious situations - to say the very, very least!
FP: Oh, my God! The things that happen to Elaine are the things that I think all of us in our minds would like to act out and something keeps us from going that one step beyond. And, she doesn't have a filter.
PC: She's filter-less.
PC: But definitely not decaf!
FP: Exactly! (Laughs.)
PC: You are so perfect in the role. It's like it was tailor-made.
FP: Oh, thank you! To be honest, it just enlightens me to play her. I just feel like, "Yeah! God, that felt good!"
PC: Did you get to share some war stories with Brooke about Broadway and what you have been through in your careers?
FP: Oh, yeah. Definitely. And, she also wanted to know about my TV experience - you know, I've done a couple of pilots in LA and done a lot of television. So, we'd sit around and pow-wow and share some trade stories and the "how you go abouts". It's not quite camp, but because it is so separate down there, you feel like you are on retreat somehow.
PC: What about Sharon Lawrence?
FP: Oh, Sharon is just great, too!
PC: What was it like recording "Lean On Me" with her and Brooke? Were you a Bill Withers fan?
FP: Oh, definitely! Actually, (Laughs.) the first time I ever did karaoke - when I lost my karaoke virginity - was I sang "Ain't No Sunshine"!
PC: No way! So, it's full-circle, then!
FP: I am a huge fan. You know, I usually sing on the show when I do it, but this time we actually recorded it. Usually it's acapella.
PC: It sounded great! Was it fun recording together?
FP: Yeah. Brooke laid down her track first, then Sharon and I went in and we discussed what we could do and then we did it. I think it turned out great.
PC: It's such a fantastic musical moment - and Josh wrote it so well in the first place with Jane having two mothers, you and Sharon.
FP: Exactly. Exactly. I'm telling you, Josh Berman is really bright! And, you know, he went to Princeton, too! (Laughs.)
PC: Speaking of the best, I'd love to ask you about some of the great directors that you've worked with over the years.
FP: Oh, absolutely! Shoot.
PC: Arthur Laurents, who recently passed away.
FP: Well, NICK & NORA was a very interesting experience because he was both the writer and director of that show.
PC: Of course. What was it like working with him on it?
FP: I remember doing the workshop with him and, boy, he really called me out on the table one time. I kept asking questions because I sort of thought we were there to work on the piece, you know?
PC: Of course.
FP: So, I sort of had a list of questions for him. He brought me right out on the table one day and said, (Loud Voice.) "Faith, quit asking all those questions! Do you see Deb Monk asking all those questions? Joanna Gleason? Huh?"
FP: I was thinking, "OK. OK." (Deep Breath.) It was a backer's audition and they were trying to raise money.
PC: So, you sort of did your own thing from them on?
FP: I thought, "I'm gonna really prepare myself for this man." And, I remember going back into therapy for three months before I worked with him - and I was the only one standing who had not been hit by the end. He had - and it is a work ethic - but, I think, he thought that art was about going to the mat with somebody. It was about, for him, seeing how far he could sort of pierce them and what they would do and what he would do to get what he needed in his work. I think that I just found a way to dodge that cage - once I had been hit like that in the workshop, I became really prepared.
PC: What a fascinating theory.
FP: I have what I call "my sliding glass doors" - where I can see out, but I can protect myself, you know?
PC: A great way to put it.
FP: I just took his direction, did the show and got out. But, you know, that role is what got me GUYS & DOLLS.
PC: How so?
FP: Well, I played Lorraine Bixby and she was the murder victim - it was like the old Nick & Nora series. I found a way through the maze, because Jerry Zaks came to see me in that.
PC: Oh, no way! What a fantastic good to come from that bad experience, then.
FP: I look back at NICK & NORA and working with Arthur was sort of like living with a very difficult father. You had to negotiate your way around. You couldn't read him sometimes. You couldn't tell what he was going to pounce on. (Pause.) But, it really was something working with him!
PC: For better and worse.
FP: Yet, I had such respect for him... you know, I was watching THE WAY WE WERE the other day and it dawned on me that, oh my God, the Barbra Streisand role is Arthur!
PC: It is. No question.
FP: He wrote radio plays. He probably fell in love with a non-Jewish man. And, I bet they had such chemistry - just like in THE WAY WE WERE - but they just couldn't make it. Then, he found his shiksa - his blonde boy.
FP: Yeah. Exactly. So, those are my thoughts on him.
PC: Did you see him again after the NICK & NORA affair?
FP: He came to see me when I was in A CATERED AFFAIR and sat with me for a very long time and I could tell he was really, really knocked out. Just like with KING & I, too - I remember he told Mary Rodgers, (Loud Voice.) "She's not right for this role! I don't know why you hired her! She‘s not Anna!" And, Mary said, "You should go see her because she's delicious."
PC: Did he?
FP: Yeah, he did! He came to see me after the second act of KING & I and said, (Quietly.) "Well, I'm wrong."
PC: Wow! What edification for you, then.
FP: Yeah, we had a very special relationship. I felt like I had really negotiated the waters with him, you know?
FP: It's the same with Jerome Robbins.
PC: To talk about another great director! You have worked with so many of the best.
FP: I'll tell you something: my dad was a nuclear engineer and he was really bright and I've always said that because of negotiating at such a young age with my dad, it was really such a gift because I could then negotiate with very difficult personalities - and not end up being the scapegoat. I learned to really pick and choose my battles.
Pat Cerasaro is a playwright and screenwriter currently in pre-production on his first feature film.|