It’s not easy to
win the lead role in a television series. This is particularly when
you have done very little television or film. Add to that not
fitting into the box of traditionally Hollywood beautiful and being
a little bit quirky.
This is one of
the reasons that we should cheer for surprise success of actress
Elliott was not
completely unknown – she had done a lot of musical theater,
appearing in such plays as Beauty and the Beast, Taboo and
Wicked. However, over a decade into her career, her only real
TV and film credits were playing “woman in park” in the popular 2000
romantic comedy What Women Want and a guest role on the short
lived Law & Order spin-off Trial by Jury.
landing the lead role on Lifetime Television’s hip and happening
series Drop Dead Diva even more impressive for Elliott. In a
variation of the old Here Comes Mr. Jordan/Heaven Can Wait
storyline, Elliott plays Jane Bingham, an aspiring model who is
thought to be dead by an over-eager angel and has to come back to
Earth in the body of a plus-sized lawyer – an emotional wreck who
also happens to be a very smart and talented litigator.
The series became
a surprise success for the cable outlet, making Elliott one of those
overnight successes who had been toiling for over a decade to get
is the perfect vessel to impart Drop Dead Diva’s message of
the shallowness of using beauty to judge a person. Elliott helps
prove that even if she doesn’t wear a size 2, a woman can still be
beautiful, meaningful and stunningly competent.
talented,” says Diva co-star April Bowlby. “She cares about
the quality of her work so much… and the quality of the shows.
She’ll fight for it. She’ll really get in there and figure out the
problems and work it out. [She is] beyond talented and a joy to
work with. She’s really funny. She can laugh at herself, which I
think is extremely important in this business. She’s awesome.”
About a week
before the second season debut of Drop Dead Diva and the
release of the first season on DVD, Elliott was nice enough to give
us a call to talk about her series, her career and her secret girly
did you first get into acting?
I started singing
when I was a kid. There were always little community productions
and stuff that I would do. Then I majored in Musical Theater
Performance in college and did the high school shows as well. It
just kind of went that way. I just began pursuing it
You have done a
lot of Broadway work – stuff like
Beauty & the
Beast, Taboo and Wicked. How is working on television
different than the stage? Do you prefer one over the other?
You know, they
are really different and it’s funny… I love them both and they are
so different that it’s hard to even compare. The best way
I’ve learned to define the difference between theater and film is
the use of your energy. In theater, you start the show and you end
the show three hours later, so it’s a big pop of your energy and
high adrenaline for three hours. On TV, (chuckles), you have
to spread out your focus and your energy for like fourteen hours a
day. (laughs) So, that was something that I noticed, you
have to really manage your energy and your focus differently. Not
having a live audience is also different. Last season, when I first
started, you’d go to do something funny and it’s dead silence on the
set, because it has to be because they will ruin the take if they
laugh. But, coming from the theater, you find yourself going,
“Anyone? Was that funny? Is anyone finding that funny?”
(laughs again) That took a little bit of getting used to.
best-known role on film or television was a small part in the movie
Women Want or a guest role on Law & Order: Trial By Jury.
How surprising was it for you that someone who didn’t have as much
experience in filming could land the lead on a major television
It’s amazing and
wonderful and you never know what the universe is going to bring
you. I certainly have been taking a lot of TV/Film classes. I’ve
been working with a coach, with the intent of pursuing TV and film
more than I had been pursuing Broadway. But, to have that happen
rather quickly and kind of out of the blue was shocking.
(laughs) An exciting shocking.
Dead Diva – while a very funny show – also has some very dramatic
moments. Do you enjoy that mix and do you find comedy or drama
easier or harder to do?
One of my
favorite things about the show is that we aren’t stuck in a box. We
really get to play from the very bottom to the very top and every
beat in between. It’s kind of an actor’s dream that I get to play
the deep, dramatic, emotional moments just as much as I get to play
the comedic moments. It’s really wonderful. It’s a really huge
blessing. And, you know, I like both. I’ve been a comedian, and
yet they say some of the best dramatic actors are comedians.
(laughs) So, I enjoy both.
The show is
obviously strongly about the shallowness of using attractiveness as
a human barometer and whether someone who is not a typical Hollywood
beauty can’t be just as or even more competent as someone who is
considered beautiful. Working in an image–obsessed business like
show business – I mean you are a very pretty woman, but you
obviously don’t have the typical model figure – did that affect you
as an actress? And how important is it for the show to help get rid
of some of these unattainable standards that are out there for
Yeah, that’s one
of the things I also like about the show. I think on some level it
is eradicating the myth that beauty only comes in one shape or one
size or one look. So many times we fail to notice the beauty that
is right in front of our face, because it’s not the beauty that we
were conditioned to believe is beautiful. I love that our show, on
some level, is saying it’s not true and here is perfect proof.
If you had the
opportunity come back as anyone, who would you like to come back as?
Oh, that’s so
funny. Someone else just asked me that question (laughs) and
I answered very poorly. Let’s see. I don’t know. Well, I would
like to go and be in a man’s body. Any man. Because, to me, I’m
always like, “What are you thinking? What are you feeling? You’re
such a mystery.” So I’d love to see what men go through every day
and the challenges that they have. Obviously I understand it quite
well on a female level, but I would love to know what men go
I am going to
interview April in a couple of days. What is she like to work with?
Aww, I love
April! She’s really great. She’s really funny and every
supportive. She’s always there for you 100% and I love that about
April. She’s a great person.
the second season premiere, you get to go back to your musical
theater roots and do a dance number with Paula Abdul. What was that
Oh, that was
really fun. We had such a good time that day in the mall.
(laughs) It was really fun. Every time Paula comes, she brings
something great with her. She’s such a great dancer, such a great
choreographer – although she didn’t choreograph that particular
scene – but I admire her talent in that. It was really fun.
I have heard that
Cybill Shepherd will also be on the show and Rosie O’Donnell is
returning. What are they like to work with and who are some of the
other guest stars on tap for the season?
They are great.
We have had so many amazing guest stars that have wanted to be on
our show, who have offered to be on our show. They are all so
wonderful. Rosie, of course, I’ve worked with Rosie before…
Yeah. She is a
tremendous actress. If you just watch her, she is so real. She is
so committed. She is in every moment. She is a great actor to act
with. I always love when she comes to the set. Cybill Shepherd,
we’re working with her right now and she is a hoot. She’s so funny
and she is so good at what she does. Also a brilliant actor. Both
women could not have been more supportive of me and this show. But,
every guest star that we have on, whether they are a celebrity name
or not, they are so talented and so supportive and so behind the
show that it’s been a real treat.
What kind of
interesting developments can we expect for your character – and the
series in general – in season two?
Jane, in the
second season, she kind of takes a step forward, two steps back.
She’s constantly feeling like she’s getting somewhere and then she’s
not getting anywhere. Each challenge along the way will give a
turn, but she gets to experience a relationship, she gets to
experience being single, there’s lots of stuff for her.
In the second
season premiere, your character is reunited with the lawyer’s
short-lived husband who ran out on her and used her. So what is the
biggest jerk move that a guy has ever done to you or someone you
Hmmm… Ooh, let me
think. Ooh, I don’t know. I mean, there’s just so many….
(laughs) Gosh, I think any of my friends whose stories I
know where they have been cheated on. I think those are the most
horrendous. As far as I know, I have not been cheated on by a guy
(laughs again), but who knows? Maybe I have been. But I
think that crosses a line that is incredibly difficult to get over.
Dead Diva is on the Lifetime cable
network. Why do you think that some of the most adventurous series
on TV are showing up on cable now?
I don’t know, but
I know what some of the bonuses of it are. Because we are on
Lifetime and they believe so much in our show – as does Sony
Pictures – we are given an opportunity to build an audience. I
don’t necessarily know if on the major network stations that you
really get that. If you are not making those particular rating hits
every single week, your show is in jeopardy. While we don’t know if
we will get a third season or not, we do feel supported enough that
we will be given a chance. So, a lot of shows are I think getting
that bonus by being on cable stations.
Beyond the new
Drop Dead Diva
starting, the first season is coming out on DVD. Did you do
anything special for DVD extras?
You know, I think
we have some behind-the-scenes stuff there. I think there are some
interviews and some stuff where we talk about behind the scenes.
Actually, I haven’t even seen the DVDs yet, so I am just as curious
and excited as everyone else.
What would people
be surprised to know about you?
see. They would be surprised to know just how girly I am. My
bathroom is pink and white. I like things very girly. I like
makeup. So they might be surprised that stuff of dead Jane is
actually true of me. (laughs)
CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT CO-STAR
APRIL BOWLBY HAD TO SAY TO US ABOUT DROP DEAD DIVA!
us Let us know what you