'Playboy Club' star: We Don't Want To Be 'Mad Men'


While there are countless Tony winners currently on TV -- Weeds' Mary Louise-Parker, The Good Wife's Alan Cumming, Mike & Molly's Swoosie Kurtz, Mad Men's Robert Morse, Damages' Glenn Close, The Big C's John Benjamin Hickey -- only one actually gets to belt out Broadway-worthy songs while also delivering the drama: Laura Benanti.

The 2008 Featured Actress in a Musical winner (for Gypsy), is currently lighting up the screen as The Playboy Club's sexy chanteuse Carol-Lynne, who recently added Mother Bunny to her lengthy resume. Tonight brings the second episode of NBC's 60s-set drama and Benanti chatted with ETonline about the developments fans can look forward to and exactly how her Tony-winning role informed this bustier-wearing one.

ETonline: What attracted you to The Playboy Club?

Laura Benanti: It's so rare that you read a script and you're not a lawyer or a nurse or a mom or a doctor. There's so many reality shows and so many procedural shows, so I jumped at the opportunity to play someone so deliciously multidimensional and interesting. She's good and bad, a hero and a bitch -- the chance to play all of that was so interesting to me. And I've been interested in doing a period piece for a long time.

ETonline: You won a Tony in 2008 for playing Gypsy Rose Lee -- I feel like there's a lot of her in Carol-Lynne, do you?

Benanti: I do see a lot of similarities: they're both show people, they both exist in the world of entertaining for a living, and I think that informs them as people. They both use their sexuality on stage, but there's also a little bit of anger behind it. So I find that really interesting.

ETonline: One of my favorite lines in the pilot is when Nick asks Carol-Lynne, "will you still perform" and she replies, "I'm performing right now." Do you see that as the moment when we really see who she is?

Benanti: Yeah, that was actually the line that made me want to do this pilot. I relate to that. I think there's something so interesting about seeing people hide something. I feel like we're a culture where we wear everything on our sleeves and it's so much more interesting to me to watch someone actively hide their emotions. It's a hard choice to make and a real challenge to play as an actor.

ETonline: That said, I feel like the pilot just gave us a taste of Carol-Lynne -- where does she go, as a character, in the coming weeks?

Benanti: We'll see more of her relationship with Nick, more of her dynamic with the girls and how they take to her becoming Mother Bunny. She gets involved in the murder aspect also, so we get to see more of her, but it's a constant battle. She lives in a time period that tells her, at 30, she's too old to be a Bunny, which is the person she's been her whole life. Now, she's having to pursue other avenues, so we'll get to see that journey as well as more of her love life.

ETonline: Sounds like her dismissing of Nick in the pilot doesn't stick?

Benanti: Absolutely. Yes, she was deeply hurt, and there was a lot of truth to what she said, but we will see more of their relationship.
There's also some fun tension with Billy and you'll see how that affects her dynamic with Nick -- and her dynamic with the girls. Ultimately there's a loneliness to Carol-Lynne's life and her situation. Hopefully we get to see a little bit more of those private moments where she is really a human being.

ETonline: What else can you tease about the upcoming episodes?

Benanti: You'll see the deepening of the women who do this for a living on their way to bigger and better lives. Because there's been so much talk about whether or not this show is feminist or empowering to women, the discussions about our show have become so serious -- I just want people to remember that this is a fun show. That's all it is. We're not the History Channel, we're not Mad Men, we're not changing the world. We're just a show that hopefully will be really entertaining.

ETonline: The pilot featured "Tina Turner," what other past versions of some famous faces can we expect to pop up?

Benanti: Colbie Cailat plays Lesley Gore, who sang It's My Party, Raphael Saadiq plays Sam Cooke. And Javier Colon (who won The Voice) is going to play Ray Charles!

ETonline: And what about you, can we hope for more musical moments from Carol-Lynne this season?

Benanti: Absolutely. I sing In the Mood, Fever, The Lady is a Tramp, Witchcraft and a few others. I sing a lot [laughs]. It's hard work, to act and sing, but it makes me miss doing theater a little bit less because I still get to perform. It's nerve-wracking though because these are songs that everybody knows so I just hope I'm not terrible at it.

The Playboy Club airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.