An Interview with local actress Tammy Blanchard
After the presents have been opened on Christmas Day, itâ€™s always fun to go out and catch a movie. Thatâ€™s what Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Stephen Sondheim fans will be doing when the movie musical INTO THE WOODS opens nationwide on Dec. 25th.
Meryl Streep stars as the Wicked Witch and a troupe of wickedly talented stars including Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Christine Baranski and Bayonneâ€™s Tammy Blanchard join her for a romp in the woods. â€œBe careful what you wish forâ€ is the filmâ€™s tagline because although itâ€™s about Grimm Fairy Tales, this is no kiddie movie. Sondheim and co-writer James Lapine have taken several fairy tale characters on loopy adventures where very adult things happen, and not every journey ends happily ever after.
Disneyâ€™s INTO THE WOODS is the filmed version of the Tony Award winning musical which debuted on Broadway in 1987 starring Bernadette Peters as the wicked witch, and directed by Hal Prince. It has been performed throughout the world, has had several revivals here and in London, and has taken almost 30 years to go from stage to screen.
During her career, Bayonneâ€™s Tammy Blanchard earned Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for her portrayal of Judy Garland in LIFE WITH JUDY GARLAND; ME AND MY SHADOWS; and two Tony Award nominations for supporting roles in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESSâ€¦(with â€œHarry Potterâ€ star Daniel Radcliffe) and GYPSY starring Bernadette Peters.
A single-mom, Blanchard keeps a busy schedule while balancing a full-time career. River View Observer caught up with her right after INTO THE WOODS premiered at the Ziegfeld on Dec. 8th to find out what it was like to work on a Disney film with superstar Meryl Streep and director Rob Marshall, (who directed the film version of the Broadway musical CHICAGO).
RVO: Tammy, can you talk a bit about your character in the film?
TB: I play one of the wicked step-sisters being pressured to marry a prince. We have a lot of money, but weâ€™re losing the money and desperate. Our wicked step-mother â€“ played by Christine Baranski â€“ will do anything to get us married. Â We had a lot of fun working together. Christine is amazing.
RVO: What was it like working with Christine Baranski?
TB: She was flying back and forth from filming THE GOOD WIFE (CBS-TV). She loves acting, and talking about it. Iâ€™m so laid back, but a lot of other actors are so into their roles and they talk a lot about it. Although I like preserving, I like seeing other actors be that way. Thatâ€™s why I love acting. Itâ€™s a bunch of geeks and dorks who get together and make something beautiful happen. And the set is like a church. I love it. Itâ€™s a saving grace for me.
RVO: What was it like at the Dec. 8th movie premiere at the Ziegfeld, seeing yourself on that huge screen?
TB: It was fun. It was cool seeing myself be so mean and rotten. I was impressed with my snottiness. (she laughs)
RVO: Can you share an anecdote about working with Meryl Streep?
TB: Before filming, the entire cast went out to dinner and Iâ€™m sitting at the table with all the leads including Meryl Streep. Iâ€™m pretty shy and donâ€™t say much. Then Meryl asks me where Iâ€™m from. When she talks, everyone stops. I tell her I was born and raised in Bayonne. She said her father was from Newark. I had no idea that sheâ€™s a Jersey girl, too. And to reach out to me in that moment, that was so generous. But thatâ€™s what Jersey girls do.
RVO:Â Did you have any scenes with Meryl Streep?
TB: We had a scene in the woods where Meryl as the Wicked Witch is about to throw the blind girl to the giant. When we started shooting it, she kept throwing me. Rob had to go over and tell her that it was the blind girl who was to be thrown. Thatâ€™s how it was rehearsed. But I loved getting thrown by Meryl Streep. She wanted to connect with me and she did. Â (Tammy laughs) It seems she still has that Jersey girl way about her. Sheâ€™s happy and free-spirited. And as an actress, sheâ€™s blessed with this gift for knowing humanity. Sheâ€™s beyond great. She has a sense of truth in her. Meryl does so many charitable things for so many people. I just love her so much.
RVO: Did you do any scenes with Johnny Depp?
TB: He came to the recording studio and we met. Rob Marshall, the director, walked him into each booth to say hello. He seemed shy, sweet and timid. He smiled at me at one point, but for the most part he was hidden away from everyone.
RVO:Â Youâ€™ve worked with Sondheim before when you did GYPSY on Broadway with Bernadette Peters. Whatâ€™s he like?
TB: Anna Kendrick and I were waiting in a rehearsal room when he came in to use the piano. He changed some notes on a piece of paper for a new song (that was eventually cut), thanked us and left. We witnessed Stephen Sondheim writing music. Afterwards, I cried. It felt like such a magical moment and then for him to thank us for allowing him to use the piano. On set and in rehearsals, heâ€™s a quiet man. Sort of like Santa Clause: he smiles and laughs; he seems sweet and cuddly; and youâ€™re terrified of him.
Â RVO Do you think the film is okay for kids to see?
TB: It demolishes your thoughts about fairy tales. Itâ€™s a dark take. Childrenâ€™s minds are very precious. I think in order to make that decision, you have to know your child. If your child doesnâ€™t believe in fairy tales and princesses then you can take them. If your child loves princesses and fairy tales, I wouldnâ€™t take them if theyâ€™re younger than 10.
RVO:Â What do you think of Rob Marshallâ€™s direction?
TB:Â Itâ€™s different from the Broadway show; Rob put a modern day twist on it. He cast all of these people from different parts of the world and he has us sing all types of music. Meryl Streep raps in it. Itâ€™s mind-blowing, dark, funny, sarcastic, and itâ€™s different from what we grew up knowing about fairy tales. Princes arenâ€™t always what you thought they were.
If you go:
Opens nationwide on Dec. 25th
Into the Woods, the movie
Check local movie listings