Why ‘Iceman Cometh’ Star Tammy Blanchard Doesn’t Shy Away From Playing Provocative Women (Exclusive)

Tammy Blanchard
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The actress, who won an Emmy for portraying Judy Garland, also offers up her advice to Renee Zellweger.

Tammy Blanchard’s work on Broadway boasts a number of sexually provocative characters. “Why they always happen to be hookers or sexually involved -- I have no idea,” she muses with ET, joking: “[Does] the industry thinks I’m sexy? Well, that could be it, too.”

Blanchard made her Broadway debut in 2003 as famed stripper Gypy Rose Lee in Gypsy opposite Bernadette Peters, and went on to portray bombshell mistress Hedy LaRue in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Daniel Radcliffe. Now, she is playing street-walking Cora in a new revival of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh.

“My mother was [one of] 13 children in her family and a lot of the women were broke, poor and struggling to make their way, and I know about this struggle in life,” Blanchard explains her perspective on these type of women. “I shame them not, so I have a lot of love and mercy for these characters.”

The revival, led by Denzel Washington as the legendary Hickey Hickman, opens April 26 at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre. The O’Neill classic set in three acts during the summer of 1912 tells the story of a Hickey, a boisterous salesman who compels raucous bar patrons to confront their pipedreams.

He brings his belief that this [show] is serving a purpose higher than just being an actor and doing it for the fun of it,” Blanchard says of working with the two-time Oscar winner and Tony winner. “He has great professional etiquette and also personally very kind and devoted.”

Their performance, Blanchard feels, still drives home a message that’s relevant a century after the play takes place. “Stop shaming every drunk, every addict and every hooker. Even they deserve someone to stand by their side or [they’ll] end up a murderer like Denzel’s character. Even they deserve hope in their heart.”

In 2001, Blanchard -- whose recent screen work includes roles in VH1’s Daytime Divas and films Into the Woods and The Invitation -- won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of teenage Judy Garland in the ABC primetime special Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. “She wasn’t a hooker but she was hooked on drugs,” she quips, before offering praise to Renee Zellweger, who is portraying the entertainer in the upcoming biopic Judy. “She is a very vulnerable, sweet, kind soul. As long as you’re that -- you are going to do justice to her.”

As for Blanchard’s advice for playing such an icon? “The characters [Renee] plays [are] from her heart, and that’s all you have to do to play Judy Garland.”

If offered the opportunity, Blanchard would love to play Garland again, and she’s hoping for a revival of the 2012 musical End of the Rainbow in five to 10 years. “Put it out there! I would definitely like to bring Judy Garland to the stage someday, some way.”