In the Apple TV+ comedy Schmigadoon!, a couple out for a hike in the woods stumble upon a magical town where everyone acts like they’re part of a classic Broadway musical. In Season 2 of the show, veteran stage and screen actress Jane Krakowski, 54, plays Bobbie Flanagan, a take on the character Billy Flynn she played in the musical Chicago.
1. Growing up in New Jersey, did you often go to Broadway plays?
I did, absolutely. My parents were involved in community theater as their hobby when I was growing up. I went to the theater with them instead of them getting a babysitter. I’d sit backstage and watch them create shows and have fun, which I know was an absolute direct influence to me wanting to do this — seeing my parents have fun and being creative that way. We went to see every Broadway show if we wanted to skip rush-hour traffic. My mom or my dad would let us just walk up to the window and get standing-room tickets to any Broadway show to kill the time, and we would watch the show and leave when there was no more traffic.
2. Which Broadway shows made an impact on you as a child?
I remember being 8 years old and seeing Chicago with Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach, and being in the third row sitting next to my mom with my eyes ablaze with excitement, and being blown away by them all. At the end of the show, they throw roses, and I remember Chita Rivera looking me in the eye as a wide-eyed youngster and throwing me a rose. That moment meant a lot to me. I know it had a great influence on me and the roles I wanted to play moving forward in musical theater. I saw A Chorus Line nine times; that was my Star Wars. Everybody was saying how many times they saw Star Wars; I saw A Chorus Line nine times. They are pretty ingrained in me. This time period we are covering in musical theater in Schmigadoon! heavily influenced me. I’m thrilled to get to live some of these fantasies out even in this comedic, loving parody way.
3. Does Schmigadoon! bring back memories of your time working on Ally McBeal?
When I got on Ally McBeal, I was on a law dramedy, and then music became such a large part of that show. It really became a character in that show. I never expected to be singing in that show. It was never part of that original concept. I was told by [writer] David [E.] Kelley and some of the producers that they were driving in L.A. traffic and the Broadway station was on the radio, and one of my songs from a Broadway show I was on came on. And they were like, “Oh, Jane sings. Maybe we can add her singing into the show.” It’s been a little bit of a journey like that where [singing] got added in. … In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it’s really the only [show that] they didn’t write [singing parts] for me, because they wanted to … make her a different character that she couldn’t sing. I think in Season 4, Tina [show creator-writer Tina Fey] let me sing a theme song of a show within the show, and I was like, “Oh, I can’t believe you’re finally letting me sing,” and she’s like, “We wanted to get our money’s worth.”
4. How do you handle the physical demands of your roles?
I love that when I was 47 doing She Loves Me, I was jumping into the splits eight times a week. My body is still paying for that. … I love to be physically challenged in the roles that I get to play [and] certainly [Schmigadoon! character] Bobbie Flanagan is no exception. I’ve never done anything on trapeze before. [Show creator Cinco Paul] wrote it in and I asked, if I could learn a few extra tricks — if I had the time before filming the number — could they put them in, if I filmed them? They made it in. I love that I’m now in my 50s and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be flying in on a trapeze still in a musical number and ending in the splits still. It’s a great joy to me and I’m thankful that my vessel is still allowing me.
5. What changes have you made in your 50s to keep up your physical intensity?
It’s entirely different. I used to burn calories [and be] focus-minded, highly aerobic. Now everything is about stretching and strengthening. It’s completely shifted, but I’m happy that my body is still playing along with my fantasy of what I like to still do, though. I have an 11-year-old son, so I like to go ice skating and roller skating and do lots of activities with him. So I need my body to keep up with the joy I get from doing all that with him.
6. Would you encourage or discourage your son if he wanted to pursue a career in entertainment? Does he show any interest?
He’s definitely a very creative child. He hasn’t shown any interest in being a performer yet, but he is very into music. He plays a few instruments. He’s continually entertaining and singing and dancing around the house. At this point, I just hope he finds something that he loves to do — like I have been fortunate enough to not only find, but make a living at it, and loved every minute of it.
7. You’re also the host of the rebooted Name That Tune on Fox. Is that a fun experience to share with your musical son?
We do watch Name That Tune together, and we film that show in Ireland, so he’s coming with me to Ireland all those times because we’ve done it coincidentally when school is out. He’s a big part of that. He’s actually learning the electric bass right now. I cannot wait for another season of Name That Tune because Randy Jackson [the former American Idol judge and musician who is the game show’s bandleader] is one of the great bass players of all time. We’re going to bring his bass and hopefully Randy will give him some tips.
8. Did you watch game shows growing up?
All of them: Match Game; Match Game PM, definitely. But I also love having game nights with friends. When I first moved to L.A., I really felt like a New Yorker who didn’t know how to live in L.A. Some other New Yorkers and friends would put on these game nights, and that became a great joy to me and a center of my social world. I still love them today. I have a great group of friends who play game night. Running charades is my favorite.
9. What’s on your show-biz wish list?
I like to joke that I’d like to be in an action film. I don’t know if I could keep up with it … “New from Marvel; sponsored by Advil.”
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