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InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks Back

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InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackToday we are talking to one of Broadway's brightest new marquee names all about her Tony Award-winning work in the recent revival of WEST SIDE STORY, as well as originating roles in Lin-Manuel Miranda's IN THE HEIGHTS and the original musical BROOKLYN before that, with a special emphasis on her work in the new Manhattan Theatre Club rock musical MURDER BALLAD - the engaging and emotive Karen Olivo. In this career-spanning chat, besides filling us in on the themes, style, story, music, character, casting and overall creation of the original musical she is currently co-starring in with Will Swenson Off Broadway, MURDER BALLAD, now in previews and running through December 16, Olivo also opens up about many of her other most memorable roles in past productions, ranging from her work in Broadway's original RENT all the way up to last season's straight comedy BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK to her current work on MURDER BALLAD and her plans for the future, near and far. Plus, Olivo shares details about her upcoming featured role in the Lifetime Christmas-themed movie HOLIDAY SPIN, choreographed by recent InDepth InterView participant Paul Becker, as well as her long-awaited return to the hit CBS legal drama THE GOOD WIFE this Sunday. All of that, memories of legendary collaborators such as Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Marvin Hamlisch and Kathy Bates, a preview of her upcoming robot-themed sci-fi indie RISE, details on her participation in the new FUGITIVE SONGS recording and much, much more awaits!

More information on the limited engagement of MURDER BALLAD at the Manhattan Theatre Club is available here.

Also, THE GOOD WIFE airs this Sunday on CBS at a special time, 9:30 PM.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackA Girl Like That

PC: Looking back, do you remember WEST SIDE STORY as being a particularly tough experience for you, Tony win notwithstanding?

KO: It was really hard. You know, the nature of that show and what the role was... it was always these amazing dancers in that role - I mean, Chita Rivera? That's a lot to try to step into!

PC: You can say that again.

KO: Not being a dancer, that part of it was always really difficult. But, initially, part of the reason that I ended up taking the role and doing it was because Arthur [Laurents] actually said to me at the audition, "If you actually decide to do this, we are going to have a lot of fun."

PC: "If" being the operative.

KO: He really believed in me - I mean, that was the first time I ever even met Arthur Laurents!

PC: What material did you audition with?

KO: Well, because I wasn't a dancer, they had me meet with the choreographic assistant first and she taught me "America" - I think she taught me the first two sections of it - and, so, I performed that for Arthur, the choreographers and the producers. Then, I did "A Boy Like That".

PC: Your "A Boy Like That" was so fiery and fierce. The cast recording is truly remarkable. Was it a one day thing?

KO: Yeah, yeah - that was a one day thing. That was actually scary to do, too!

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: I bet.

KO: I mean, c'mon - we had Sondheim in the booth! [Laughs.]

PC: The revival cast recording has so much life. Do you remember Sondheim giving you any particular insights?

KO: I do. When we were recording "America", Steve came into the booth and gave me a note about the way that I was phrasing something. He said to me, "Actually, it's supposed to be this way, but you're doing it this way in the show, so, look: do it this way for the recording. Trust me." And, I was like, "Whatever you say!" It was like, "You are Stephen Sondheim and we are in a recording booth together, I will do anything you say!" [Big Laugh.] "Anything!"

PC: That's hilarious.

KO: I was actually trying to, like, separate the fan from the performer, you know? I was thinking, "Karen, kick the note - don't kick out. Just do this right this time, please." But, yeah - it was really exhilarating.

PC: Sondheim seems pleased with the new recording, as well, so he must have been happy with the final result.

KO: Yeah, I think that part of the reason people like that recording is that everyone on it is so young! I mean, I was one of the veterans in that group. That was the first Broadway show for a lot of the cast - they were babies! A lot of them got their Equity cards on that show, and, then, to do something on that scale like the real heavy-hitters, it was kind of like a dream come true for everybody and that's probably why it comes across like that on the recording; we were all just so completely psyched to be a part of something like that.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: It was a tremendous cast. Arthur wrote in one of his more recent books that the major trick of casting WEST SIDE STORY is getting actors who look young enough for the roles - as Shakespeare intended with Romeo & Juliet, too.

KO: Right. Right. I think that's completely true.

PC: Is it true that Prince saw you performing on the Tony Awards and came to the after party just to meet you?

KO: Yeah, that's true.

PC: Wow! Tell me the story.

KO: Well, basically, he stalked me at the Tony party. [Laughs.] They told me twice - I guess that they were the people that were holding the party that told me - that Prince wanted to talk to me. It was such a crazy night for me because I had already won the Tony and everything, and, so, I was like, "Is this really happening?"

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: It seemed almost surreal in the moment.

KO: Yeah! At every turn, I was like, "This cannot be my life!" And, then, they tell me, you know, "You can't leave the party yet because Prince is on his way to come and see you." [Laughs.]

PC: That's pretty unbelievable.

KO: Uh, yeah! I remember looking at Lin-Manuel and just laughing - he was standing next to me the first time they wouldn't let me leave and I remember looking at him and just saying, "Dude, they wouldn't let me leave the party just now because Prince is coming to see me," and, then, he started to laugh hysterically, too, of course. He was like, "Oh, Karen, they're just talking about your dad," because my dad was there in a purple suit that night.

PC: What a great memory.

KO: Yeah, it was really funny. But, yeah, it was all so, so crazy. I remember just telling myself, you know, "Karen, get it together!" And, so, then, Prince showed up - with his bodyguard and his crystal cane and the whole thing - and held court, basically, at the Tony party. [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: Did he have something in mind for you - a song, perhaps?

KO: No, I don't think so. I'll say this: I didn't stay long enough to figure out what his designs were, but when I met him initially he looked at me like I was a pork chop.

PC: How depictive!

KO: I mean, I think he was trying to attain something, but I'm not exactly sure what - and, at the time, I was married, so I wasn't interested anyway. I felt like I had just won the Tony and that was more than enough for one night and I just wanted to go home and eat some soup. [Laughs.]

PC: Did you have a show the next day?

KO: I think I did - and, not to mention, I was really, really sick at the time; for that whole stretch of time before the Tonys it is just crazy and I was so worn down. So, I was sick and I had just won the Tony and so I just had to be like, "I'm sorry, Prince, but right now I am really tired and I have to go." But, I was very nice and let him hold my Tony and we talked a little bit - as I was leaving, I told the Shark girls that Prince was in the house and they were like "No way! Where?" and just went crazy and they mobbed him; that's when I made my getaway! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: Stealth! How did you get involved with WEST SIDE STORY? Was Lin-Manuel instrumental at all, given his creative involvement?

KO: It was actually the producers, I think - the same producers did both WEST SIDE STORY and IN THE HEIGHTS. I mean, they had seen everybody for it before they asked me to come in. We were all just living large in IN THE HEIGHTS at that time - we had just won the Tony for Best Musical and Lin-Manuel had won, too, so we were just having the time of our lives at the Richard Rodgers Theater. We were all like, "Yeah! We can't believe we actually won!" And, so, the producers kept calling me in for WEST SIDE over and over and I was like, "I don't want to go in for that, guys. I am really happy here doing this," and, to be honest, I really didn't think I could handle doing it anyway.

PC: It took some cajoling.

KO: Yeah. Finally, I got a call from the producers and they were like, "Look, we are only a few weeks from starting and you are the only girl who hasn't come in yet - can you just come in so that we can cross you off of the list?" And, so, I finally said, "OK. I'll do it for you guys." And I did.

PC: And the rest is history!

KO: Yeah. I guess it is.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: What was your very first meeting with Lin-Manuel like?

KO: [Big Laugh.]

PC: This is going to be good…

KO: Well, it's really bad, actually! The story is: I auditioned for the workshop of IN THE HEIGHTS and they had a bunch of actresses in a room in a dance studio and there were a bunch of guys who were also there and they paired us all up. Then, we did this little improv thing where they said, "Look, you are coming into the club and you are like the hottest thing and you are with this guy but you know everyone else wants to dance with you." [Pause.] "OK, go." And, they had paired me up with Lin, but I didn't know who he was at the time - I thought he was just any guy. So, I did what I thought that this girl that they described would do and I was sort of like, "So, you're not gonna dance with me? Because if you're not gonna dance with me, that's fine…" and I sort of left him in the dust. Then, immediately, they were like, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let's start this over again. Let's try again like this, Karen," with Lin left standing there in the middle of the room, like, completely dissed by me. I had no idea he was the writer!

PC: How mortifying.

KO: It was! It was. But, at the same time, I don't know if I would have changed it because it is such a funny story. After that, they said, "You know, you're supposed to like him," and I said, "Oh! So I'm supposed to like this guy - got it." [Laughs.] So, yeah, I will always remember our first meeting as him giving me this look as I leave him in the middle of the dance floor, like, "What do you think you are doing? Do you even want this job?" [Big Laugh.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: It's the perfect audition for Vanessa, the character, though.

KO: Oh, absolutely! Yeah.

PC: When Lin-Manuel did this column we talked a lot about the early versions of the show, like that first workshop. What are your memories of the earlier takes on Vanessa? Needless to say, whole characters were in that version that were ultimately cut from the show, such as Benny's brother.

KO: Right. Right. It was a lot different, but I want to say that when I got involved and it was the first workshop, I think Vanessa had a relationship somehow with Daniela, who owned the salon - I think that they might have been sisters, maybe - and that is the only big, big change really I think for her character. As for the music, the framework for a lot of it and a lot of the storyline stayed the same for the most part. You know, it's funny, because when I did the workshop, Vanessa was just this hot girl who he had a crush on - it wasn't as fleshed out as it became. After the workshop, when we first started working Off Broadway, that's when we really started changing stuff. That's when I finally got my own song, too.

PC: So Vanessa had no solo in the first workshop?

KO: No. There was no Vanessa song in that - I am almost positive that it was added later.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: Did transferring to Broadway signify a big move up to you and the rest of the cast or was it just another step in the process for the show, more or less?

KO: No - that was a big deal. We felt like it was such a labor of love for all of us - we were really under the radar; there were huge, huge other things happening at the time. SPRING AWAKENING was happening at the time and that was enormous and getting all the big buzz, so we were really nervous and just worried about whether or not we would move. We were all kind of like, "Is this really happening?" We were all pinching ourselves and wondering if it would happen. I don't know, I think that we all just held the same principles that we had when we worked Off Broadway when we moved - we just worked really, really hard and always tried to make it better and really stuck together like a family. [Pause.] And, so, that ended up helping win us all a Tony, I think. [Laughs.]

PC: Having done RENT as a replacement in the original production to IN THE HEIGHTS, the first rap musical on Broadway, you have straddled both contemporary musical eras, it seems. Was your first exposure to IN THE HEIGHTS explosive?

KO: Yeah, it was. I remember just hearing a demo and thinking, "I don't know who this guy is or where he came from, but I have got to be a part of this!" And, now that I am thinking about this and we are talking about it all, I think that's the way I have chosen all of these things; it's about this feeling in my gut.

PC: MURDER BALLAD continues the tradition, no doubt - a truly remarkable contemporary score with a very fresh, edgy sound.

KO: Oh, yeah - that same gut feeling definitely that led me to IN THE HEIGHTS led me to MURDER BALLAD. I mean, I was just out in LA, trying to get on TV - I had just shot a Lifetime movie and I was working on getting some other things lined up - and then I got the MURDER BALLAD demo.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: What was your immediate reaction to it?

KO: Oh, I listened to it and I was like, "This is crazy! I have never heard of any of these people before, but this is so daring!" I mean, of course I know Trip Cullman, but that was it. What they were trying to do was so different - it's this immersive kind of theatre piece; it's not really musical theatre, it's more like a rock piece. It's this all-encompassing experience where the audience is also part of the action. It all seemed so crazy!

PC: And now the vision has actually been realized onstage.

KO: I know - I guess I am drawn to things that are just crazy or something - things that don't have a place on the map yet; RENT was like that and IN THE HEIGHTS was like that. I remember hearing the demo for IN THE HEIGHTS and thinking the same exact thing, "These people are nuts! They're totally nuts!"

PC: You doubted it could work.

KO: Well, no - I didn't know if there was an audience out there to come and see it! I didn't know the audience that would come to see it myself, at least. So, I wanted to help flesh something out and see if we could find a way where there previously was no way; and I feel the same way now doing MURDER BALLAD - that we are doing that.

PC: It's so unique in that it is sung-through, without pauses. The lyrics are particularly gripping and the music matches them, especially as it all barrels towards the climax.

KO: Yeah, yeah, yeah - it's such an immersive experience for an audience, too.

PC: It's a limited run, yes?

KO: Yes. It's only four weeks and there are very few seats. I keep telling my friends, "Come now or else you're gonna miss it - and you'll regret it!" I know people say certain shows are interactive or whatever, but you can be sure that when you come see this show that you are seeing something that night that no one else is going to see except the other people in the theater with you. I mean, that's the truth! You're gonna leave with some scars! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: It's that intense.

KO: It's that intense. You walk away sort of rattled - I have not had a friend who has come to see it who doesn't sort of look at me strangely out of the corner of their eye afterwards, like, "I can't believe you just did that to us." [Laughs.] And I think that's really amazing.

PC: And rare.

KO: That, too. It's really amazing and rare to have that kind of experience in this day and age - even without a lot of spectacle and everything, we can still affect the audience in this manner and we go for it. [Pause.] It's fast. It's hard. Once it starts, it just doesn't let go of you.

PC: There was never an intermission considered, was there?

KO: Never. Trip was really committed to following through on this vision of it - as you said, there aren't even any applause breaks built in! We start the tape and it plays to the end and when it is all done you have to pick up the pieces and kind of just go on with the rest of your life. I love that - I love that we are pushing the envelope in a way like that, as far as what theatre can be and what musicals can be and what rock musicals can be. There is nothing conventional about it.

PC: Is there a plan for the show beyond the limited run?

KO: Well, I think that MTC always builds in weeks to extend, so I imagine that is something that we will probably end up doing.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: But get tickets before December, just in case!

KO: Exactly! Exactly. As far as a life outside of this year? I don't really know.

PC: Will there be a cast album?

KO: Yes. I mean, I know that right now we are still trying to schedule that, but I know that we are going to do it - Yellow Sound is going to be the label.

PC: It will make an unbelievable album experience.

KO: Yeah, it will.

PC: How has it been re-teaming with your one-time HAIR co-star Will Swenson on this? Was that also a fun experience for you?

KO: That's right - we did the very, very first run of that revival at the Public together; I think it was like four performances total, wasn't it?

PC: It was. You were a sensational Sheila, by the way.

KO: Oh, thanks! That was a lot of fun to do - fast, but fun.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: What is it like sharing the stage with him in MURDER BALLAD?

KO: You know, what's so funny about Will is that he transforms onstage into someone so larger-than-life and you can't take your eyes off of him, but, in the room, he is so quiet! Not to say that he doesn't have an opinion or is afraid to speak up, but he's like the good student - whereas I am like the one who is always interrupting and asking questions when I am not supposed to be and not paying attention all the time. [Laughs.]

PC: Opposites attract - and react!

KO: He is always focused on exactly what needs to happen in every moment of every scene and then when he gets out onstage he is an animal! He just tears things apart and sings so ridiculously - he's just wild! When we did the HAIR thing, like I said, it was fast - we only had like ten days of rehearsal - so I didn't get the full process with him. So, now, MURDER BALLAD is the first full, full process I've had doing a piece with him and it's just been so amazing - I mean, he and Audra [McDonald, his wife] are just Broadway royalty to me.

PC: And to us all.

KO: They are just such cool people and such wonderful performers. It's been such a joy working with him and getting to spend time with Audra.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: You three would make a super sexy - and spectacular - PASSION trio someday.

KO: Oh, my gosh! I can't believe you said that, Pat - that's like my favorite musical!

PC: No way!

KO: Yes! It is!

PC: So, Clara? You're still too young for Fosca, I think.

KO: Yes! Yes! Please! [Laughs.] I really would love to - with those two, especially!

PC: What were your favorite shows and scores growing up?

KO: Well, PASSION was one of my favorites. FLOYD COLLINS - ridiculous; something I will pull out and listen to over and over again. FUGITIVE SONGS, which I just finished doing, I really love, too. Those are all my favorites - I tend to like really avant garde stuff, I guess. MURDER BALLAD has a kind of folky vibe to it, I think, so I think that's cool, too. I'm not a huge fan of the traditional musicals, really.

PC: Do you regret turning down any roles in revivals you were offerred for that reason, maybe?

KO: [Pause.] I don't think so - no; because I am not the right girl for those roles. Unless you are going to re-imagine it and turn it on its ear, I am not the right person for the job usually.

PC: Original musicals are so important to the future of theatre, don't you agree?

KO: Oh, of course. I am so lucky to have been a part of the ones that I have - they're each amazing in their own way.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: What are your memories of working with Marvin Hamlisch on the White House Independence Day concert a few years back, shown on PBS? That concert was absolutely breathtaking - you, Idina Menzel and Brian D'Arcy James, especially.

KO: That was another one of those crazy nights - I never remember feeling so honored and so scared at the same time. The only other experience where I have ever been performing and felt like I was having a panic attack at the same time was when I did the Carnegie Hall Judy Garland concert with the NY Pops - that and the White House concert were the only two times I have ever been performing and felt, "OK. I think I might die." [Laughs.]

PC: Performing for the President himself must be a bit nerve-wracking.

KO: Oh, yeah - and President Obama is just so unbelievable. We are the luckiest country in the world right now. I had actually sang for the Obamas two other times before that White House concert.

PC: You were an old friend of the family by that point!

KO: Almost! I will tell you that it was really interesting going on the bus to the White House - everyone was there; all the cast. Idina and Brian and Audra and everyone was there and we were all just like little kids - we were all just like, "I can't believe he asked us!" Everyone, across the board, had butterflies - even Marvin! I mean, these are big stars and even they were nervous! We were all, you know, pacing around, looking at the floor and trying to get centered - it was just the most human moment for all of us backstage before that performance.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: What a vivid image! A bus of Broadway's best.

KO: It was totally unbelievable! Unbelievable. And, getting to sing there and getting to watch these people that I admire and love so much getting to see them sing two feet in front of the President and the First Lady - in this room of amazing people. So, yeah, it was really unbelievable to see them all overcome that nervous energy and perform like they did - everyone came off looking like a star, but I knew exactly how they all felt right before they went on because we were all talking about it in the green room, like, "Oh, gosh! Oh, gosh! This is really happening! We really have to do this!" And, then, everyone just pulled it together and did it. I remember feeling really proud to be there and perform for the Obamas.

PC: And it lives on on YouTube, as well.

KO: It does. I am so lucky - so lucky.

PC: Another momentous night you recently participated in that lives on on YouTube and PBS and Netflix is the SONDHEIM! Celebration. What are your memories of that night?

KO: Oh, that was pretty amazing, too. I think we were the only dance number - the only group who danced and sang, I think. So, I remember being there with all of the Shark girls and all of us feeling kind of like fish out of water. Of course, I had never sung with the NY Philharmonic before that night, so that was kind of scary - so, yeah, that and the NY Pops I've done now, so I guess I can die happy! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: The Judy Garland NY Pops came after that, yes?

KO: Yes, the NY Pops concert came after the Sondheim one. But, I remember that I didn't want to seem too nervous because I looked around at the girls and the other girls had had a lot less experience than I had had at these things, so I think they sort of looked to me to gauge what they should be feeling. And, since I was playing Anita, I think it was a natural kind of gauging to see, you know, "What are we doing here? How are we gonna get through this?" So, before we went on, someone gave us a direction, saying, "When you girls go out there, be really lively - be swishing your skirts and all that," and I remember looking at the other girls and we all just acknowledged that, being in that moment, we could never believably pull that off because we were just too nervous. [Big Laugh.]

PC: You just wanted to get through it.

KO: Yeah - I was literally shaking in my boots! We were so nervous! I mean, we were doing it for him - for Sondheim - and this was his birthday concert.

PC: And it was being filmed.

KO: And it was being filmed! I remember telling the girls, "When we get up, we are going to walk out there like we own that stage! We are going to be cool, calm, collected and stand in our spots like we are supposed to do and then we're gonna do what we need to do." I remember trying to help them feel grounded and centered even though I felt like I wanted to cry on the inside because I was so scared. [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: But your tactic worked! It's a phenomenal "America".

KO: Thank you. It's just so funny to see it whenever I watch it - it's like we are all walking out there pretending to be bigger people than we really are or something. In the moment you just never really know how nervous you are going to end up being - I was like, "Just be stoic, ladies! Be strong Shark women!" [Laughs.]

PC: Thank goodness PBS will still be around for Sondheim's 85th since Obama was re-elected.

KO: Oh, I know! Right?! Thank goodness for that.

PC: Paul Becker did this column a while back and spoke so favorably about working with you on HOLIDAY SPIN. What can you tell me about your experience shooting that?

KO: Well, HOLIDAY SPIN is my first Lifetime movie and it is my first dance movie, so there were a lot of challenges and Paul was just great every step of the way - literally. He is really low key and easy to work with - I had never done any ballroom dancing before and there was a little routine we had to work out between me and Ralph Macchio. And, you know, he has done DANCING WITH THE STARS, so he has all this ballroom technique and can literally dance rings around me - and he worked really hard on this to begin with - so, we practiced really hard and he looked so good doing it. I was like, "Really?! Ralph Macchio is leaving me in the dust?"

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: The Tony Award-winning triple-threat…

KO: Yeah, I know - right?! He made me really step up my game, man! He did! So, it was a really fast shoot and it was really fun to do. I love the people at Lifetime and I love that they wanted to do a movie that included dance in it in the way that this does - I think that it's really cool to see that in a holiday movie.

PC: And to appease your Broadway fans, as well.

KO: Yeah! I am hoping that all my Broadway colleagues will start to get more opportunities like this because they are the most talented performers in the world, I think, and they could really shine in this kind of format.

PC: You can say that again.

KO: It would be so great for everyone to branch out more - this was so much fun to do and these types of projects can showcase talent so well. So, it's a really sweet movie and the dancing is just spectacular - I mean, none of the dancing I do is spectacular, but the other people's dancing really is! [Laughs.]

PC: Do you sing at all in it?

KO: I don't sing in it - no. I actually do the grounded, serious acting role in this one. There are two younger actors who are the leads and the older people in it are Ralph and me who are more the supporting characters in it. I think it will be a really fun holiday movie for people to watch and I hope I can do more projects like this.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: Would you be open to doing GLEE or SMASH in the future?

KO: Well, I feel like if that happens it would be great, but right now I feel like there are so many things that I am trying to do in TV. I mean, when I did HARRY'S LAW, I cut my teeth on doing really good writing for TV and becoming a well-rounded character and really digging into scene work. I really like the format of TV - the episodic format of it. I feel like I want to do a lot more in TV in the future if I can.

PC: What was working with Kathy Bates like on HARRY'S LAW?

KO: Oh, she is literally the coolest person - the coolest!

PC: I have heard much the same.

KO: She is just so great - so grounded and graceful and kind and really, really good at what she does. She worked longer hours than any of the rest of us working and she was carrying the whole show on her shoulders, more or less. At the time, we had no idea what she was dealing with or that she was sick… [Pause. Sighs.] It's been a tough year for her, but she's the last person in the world who would ever want anyone to feel sorry for her, you know? She is just so giving with advice and with her time. I am really glad that I got to work with her. Looking back, I got to work with her at such an amazing point in her career where she had done so much and achieved so much - onstage; on film - and she is really just coming into a place now where she can just be off-the-cuff and say whatever she wants. So, it was really amazing for me, coming up and just cutting my teeth doing this stuff, to hear her talk about how it really is and the way things really work. I would ask her all kinds of questions and she'd be like, "Don't listen to them - do it this way," or, "No. Do this," or, "Listen to your instincts about this," or "Follow your heart; follow your gut." To hear those things from someone like that is just money in the bank, you know?

PC: Did she share any particular stories you treasure?

KO: Well, she did - a lot of personal stories - but the overall thing she tried to impress on me was basically, "It's not easy being a woman in this business, so always try to stay true to yourself and remain dignified in everything you do." And, so, I would watch how she would conduct herself every day - always with a smile and knowing everyone's name; she always knew exactly what to do in every situation, even on the hard days. She never complained - ever. So, yeah, those were the big lessons - to watch how she walks through life and to try to emulate that in my life as much as I can.

PC: You have a feature film coming out soon, as well: RISE?

KO: Yeah. That's this little indie thing that we did. We did it pretty quick. I am not sure what that is going to end up being or when that will be released, but I am a big sci-fi fan so when they asked me to play a robot in it I was just like, "Robot? Where do I sign up?" [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks BackPC: Will you be returning to THE GOOD WIFE sometime soon?

KO: Yes. I will be back on THE GOOD WIFE this Sunday, I believe - I just shot the episode a little while ago. They brought my character back - I was on a few episodes in the first season and they brought my character back for this episode.

PC: Can you give us a preview? Who are your scenes with?

KO: Well, my throughline was with Josh Charles, so I have a couple of scenes with him. Judd Hirsch is the other sort of guest star in the episode, so that was an amazing experience for me to work with him - so, yeah; they are the two that I worked with.

PC: Hirsch being another great stage actor.

KO: Absolutely. Absolutely. I was so lucky to get to work with him. I hope I get to come back.

PC: You have an incandescent appearance onscreen, so let's hope we will be seeing more and more of you on TV in the future.

KO: Aww, that's really nice of you to say! I hope so, too.

PC: This was amazing - thank you so much for this today, Karen.

KO: Thank you so much, Pat. This was great. Take care. Bye.

InDepth InterView: Karen Olivo Talks MURDER BALLAD, THE GOOD WIFE, Upcoming Projects & Looks Back

Photo Credit: Walter McBride.

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Pat Cerasaro Pat Cerasaro is BroadwayWorld's Chief Interviewer and Senior Editor, contributing exclusive columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Flash Fridays as well as additional special features and extensive news coverage. His work for the site has appeared in The New York Times, US Weekly, The Biography Channel, NBC and more.


 
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