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BWW Interview: Krysta Rodriguez Talks Starring as Liza Minnelli in HALSTON, Working With Ewan McGregor & More!


See what the Broadway star has to say about her co-star, her favorite costumes from the show, singing the iconic 'Liza With a Z' and much more.

BWW Interview: Krysta Rodriguez Talks Starring as Liza Minnelli in HALSTON, Working With Ewan McGregor & More!

Playing an icon is no easy feat, but Krysta Rodriguez takes it on as if she were born to step into the role of one of show business's greatest legends. The legend in question is none other than EGOT-winner Liza Minnelli, who is at the heart of the new Netflix series 'Halston'. 'Halston', created and Executive Produced by Ryan Murphy, centers on the famed designer as he defines the 1970's and '80's fashion scene, battling personal struggles as he builds his empire.

Starring Ewan McGregor as designer Roy Halston Frowick, the cast also features Rory Culkin as Joel Schumacher, Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti, Bill Pullman as David Mahoney, Vera Farmiga, Gian Franco Rodriguez, David Pittu, Sullivan Jones, and Kelly Bishop.

Krysta Rodriguez has brought her incredible talent to Broadway shows such as Spring Awakening, In the Heights, The Addams Family, and First Date, television shows including Smash, Chasing Life, Quantico, and Daybreak, and is now lighting up the screen as 'Liza with a Z'.

We spoke with Krysta Rodriguez about how she prepared to play Liza Minnelli, what her favorite costumes were, what it was like starring opposite Ewan McGregor, and much more!

What were your first thoughts when you learned that you were going to be playing Liza Minnelli?

'Oh crap,' [laughs]. No, my first thoughts were, I couldn't believe it, I was unbelievably excited. Sometimes when you take a job there are things you have to give up, or it ruins your schedule, there's a lot of thought behind it. And every once in a while, you get that job where you're just thrilled. And that was this job. Then, 24 hours after celebrating it was like, 'How am I going to do this?' And it was basically that for the rest of the time until we finished!

How much did you know about Halston and Liza's relationship before you began working on this show?

I knew a little bit about it. I knew about him, and I knew about her, and I knew that they crossed paths, but I had no idea the depth of their friendship, and their connection, and their bond. So, that was a really exciting thing to get to dig into and get to play with Ewan.

What did you watch to learn how to do the Liza mannerisms? What was your research process like in trying to become her?

It really was everything I could get my hands on - books, watching the movies, listening to all the recordings, watching interviews, looking at pictures. YouTube is... thank god, how did we ever do anything before the internet? But, with YouTube, I was able to go in and watch every interview from the time she was a child to now. I could watch all kinds of backstage stuff that she was doing, there was even a video that had a photo from every year she'd been alive, so that was a huge resource. One of the first things I did was write out a timeline of her life because the show takes place over a few decades, and I knew we'd be shooting out of order. So all of a sudden one day I'm going to be dropped into '70s Liza, and the next I'd be '90s Liza, so I had to really have a sense of her life timeline and where she was every year. So, the pictures were really helpful to me to know what she looked like, what she was wearing, who she was married to, where she was in her journey of sobriety... really an important aspect of her research was her timeline.

How did it feel for you not only getting to act as her, but having the chance to sing and perform as Liza?

I actually didn't know how much I would get to do, not everything was told when I got the job, so every time they would say something I would get to do it was just a total pleasant surprise. And a lot of people have said when they watch the show, 'They let you do the whole number!' At least with 'Liza with a Z', the rest are a little more chopped up. It was also really great because I come from the theater, and performing in front of groups of people is in some ways where I'm most comfortable. So, it was great to be able to start with that. 'Liza with a Z' was my first day on set, which to a non-musical performer might be really daunting, but for me it was like, 'Okay, this is something I know how to do.' And it's a number that's well-enough documented that I could research it enough, I wasn't having to draw from too much imagination.

Do you have a favorite costume that you wore throughout the filming, and/or a favorite scene?

Yeah! I mean, all of my costumes were so exceptional, and I'm a total nerd, if you give me a Halloween costume assignment, I'm getting it down to the button. I want to know every little thing, I love to recreate looks. My family and I have been doing really impeccable Halloween costumes every year since I was a kid. So, this was kind of that nerdy thing, and I was surrounded by people who were also as passionate about getting it right, so between hair and makeup and wardrobe, we were pouring over images and just making sure we had everything as perfect as we possibly could. So, that was really fun to do. That made every costume feel really special to me, it wasn't just something I threw on, every outfit was built from scratch. I never put on something that had been already made, everything was developed from the ground up.

It's like picking a favorite child, but I loved the 'I Gotcha' dress, the red, short, sparkly dress that she wears in the 'Liza with a Z' special. And I loved the scene that we did with Ewan and I, one of our first scenes together, where he's draping the dress on me, it's sort of the prelude to that dress. So, I loved the raw version that he was able to wrap around me, because I think it's a really beautiful dress, and it's literally just held together with one pin, and it looks really elegant. And then to have that transform into what would eventually be that 'I Gotcha' dress was really fun for me.

What was it like working with Ewan McGregor and the rest of the amazing cast?

BWW Interview: Krysta Rodriguez Talks Starring as Liza Minnelli in HALSTON, Working With Ewan McGregor & More! The cast was a total dream, and Ewan was everything I could have asked for in somebody who I had to create a best friend relationship with. He's so generous and kind and caring, and he and I really wanted to honor that relationship between the two of them, and we really fell into it very easily and wholeheartedly. There's a real tenderness in our interactions on screen and off. So, I was really lucky to have that. And the rest of the cast were so fun, and so different in our background, and in our ages, and where we come from, and we all just meshed together so well. A lot of that is thanks to Dan Minahan, our director, who was really instrumental in doing group outings with us, and having dinners with us, and in fact, we all just got back from a vacation together a couple weeks ago at Dan's house. We feel attached, we do everything together, we're a posse still, which is really exciting.

Has anyone heard from Liza about the show? Do we know what she thinks? Because you did the most incredible job, you completely nailed it. What do you hope that she feels about the performance?

I don't think we've heard from her, but I'm completely fine with that because I know that it must be difficult to have so many people copy you, and try to be you, and imitate you, and spoof you for your entire life, so I can imagine not wanting to be confronted with another version of yourself! So, I would hope that if she did watch it, she would see how much we tried to take care of her and her best friend. And that there was a lot of love put into it, and [we were] not trying to be salacious, and not trying to be defamatory, that we are here to tell a story of, at least from my perspective, a great love. They were each other's soulmates, and we really tried to convey that. So, I hope she sees that and sees how much we tried to honor it.

Do you have any final thoughts that you'd love to share, or say to people watching?

I hope everybody enjoys it, it's been really fun to watch the reactions, I'm a Broadway gal through and through, that's been my dream my whole life. So, to be able to portray such a famous person in this industry, regardless of her movie fame and television fame and international superstardom, she's a Broadway girl at heart, you know? And I hope that I was able to do that proud as a representative from our community.

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