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The Best Man - Broadway

James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury star in Gore Vidal's political drama.

The Best Man’s Kristin Davis on the Naked Cowboy, a Sex and the City Musical & Tweeting With John Stamos

The Best Man’s Kristin Davis on the Naked Cowboy, a Sex and the City Musical & Tweeting With John Stamos
Kristin Davis in 'The Best Man'
I do a lot of shimmying backstage—James Earl Jones laughs at me!

Kristin Davis got her start as conniving villain Brooke Armstrong on Melrose Place, but she’s better known for showing her sweet side as Charlotte York Goldenblatt on Sex and the City. After playing Charlotte in both the TV and film incarnations of the influential comedy, Davis adopted a baby (Gemma), as well as an elephant orphan (Chaimu) whom she personally rescued from the Kenyan jungle in 2009. Now, the actress is taking on a brand new challenge—making her Broadway debut as bubbly and outspoken senatorial wife Mabel Cantwell in Gore Vidal's The Best Man, opposite John Stamos and James Earl Jones. Broadway.com recently chatted with Davis about her Times Square celebrity sightings, doing embarrassing warm-ups in front of Jones and how she balances raising a baby and starring on Broadway.

Congratulations on your Broadway debut! How is it going so far?
It’s been great. I was super nervous in the beginning. To be with this particular cast and this show, I didn’t want to be the weak link. That was my biggest fear in the beginning, and I didn’t sleep much during rehearsal.

When you first saw the play, what were your impressions?
I saw the 2000 production with Chris Noth—he really wanted [his Sex and the City co-stars] to come, and I loved it. The writing is so good and even though it was written 50 years ago, there’s so many things that apply to our current political situation.

Did you have any stage fright getting up there for the first time?
Not stage fright, exactly, but when you’re acting onstage, there’s a lot of physical changes from film. The vocalization has to be louder, the blocking is more complicated and there are longer scenes, so I was concerned about that. Kerry Butler had done my part already and the blocking was set, so I had to make sense of it for myself, and try not to fall down and stuff like that [laughs]. Mabel is an energetic character, and I get dressed on stage at one point. It’s kind of a lot, and I was worried about that part.

What is it like to take on the larger-than-life Mabel?
It’s great, because I grew up doing theater and playing big characters. For a long time, I’ve been playing more quiet, controlled characters, so in a lot of ways, it’s very freeing. I do an extensive vocal and physical warm-up, I do a lot of shimmying backstage—James Earl Jones laughs at me! But she’s loose and big and I love her, so I wanna have fun.

Have you gotten any pointers from your Broadway friends about your debut?
I called Cynthia [Nixon] to ask her what she thought. I always run everything by her, and she was like, “Absolutely, you absolutely have to do this. Don’t pause for a second. Run, run, run back to New York.” You just don’t get this opportunity with this cast and such beautiful writing. Plus, everybody in our cast is so supportive. Angela Lansbury was like, the biggest supporter ever.

She was?
Oh god, yeah. She knew Cybill and I were nervous, and she’d say in her very sweet way, like [exaggerated Angela Lansbury voice]: “You’ll be wonderful! Now don’t you worry for a second.” She’s so maternal, like you would think, and very sweet. I did totally forget my lines one night and she was right there to jump in and save me. Later, offstage, I told her, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” And she said, “I saw the look of fear in your eyes!”

I love your Angela Lansbury impression!
Thank you [laughs]. But really, this is a wonderful situation because you have these veterans who are there to catch you, and that really helps a lot.

You and John Stamos are giving the audience a great behind-the-scenes look at The Best Man via Twitter.
I’m not as good with social media as he is, but I’m trying, and people really respond! John’s very easygoing, and he’s been a lot of my support. For instance, the way you continue to get notes after the show is open, I’m not used to that. I was like… [Gasps.] “This is stressing me out! I feel like I’m messing up.” And John says, “You know what? That’s just the process. They give James Earl Jones his; John Larroquette; they get their notes too. Don’t take it personally. Nobody is criticizing you, just roll with it and use it to your advantage.”

Have you guys gotten to go out and do anything fun as a cast?
It’s a mature group, and I have a baby at home, so I’m not going out every night, but do we have lovely dinners and a brunch that Angela started every Sunday. We bring in baked goods and things—it’s family oriented, which is so nice.

What are your memories of doing theater growing up?
The first play I did was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when I was 10. I was a lady in waiting and I had one line: “I’ll go, I’ll go.” I would jump up and down and the director said, “Do not jump up and down.” But I was so excited, when I finally got to my line, I would jump up and down anyway. When I was 18, the same director cast me as Snow White in the same theater before I went to college [at Rutgers University]. It was very sweet. Community theater can be the best thing ever.

You’re the fourth and final Sex and the City girl to be on Broadway. Did you see your co-stars’ shows?
I saw all of them! And Cynthia has already been to The Best Man. Sarah’s dealing with the kids, but I’m across the street from Matthew [Broderick, Parker’s husband, currently in Nice Work if You Can Get It], so she’ll be here at some point. Kim is working in Romania and she’ll miss it, but I’ve been getting super sweet, supportive e-mails. Also, her dresser from Private Lives is on our show. It’s a small world.

Are you a Broadway fan? Would you ever like to be in a musical?
Musicals? No, no, I can’t sing at all [laughs]. I saw Rent right when it opened, and I was like, that’s good, maybe I could be in that. As long as I don’t have to break into a soft shoe routine. I’m always in awe that people can sing and dance and act all at the same time.

But you sang in Sex and the City 2!
I did, and Sarah Jessica had to stand in the booth with me and hold my hand while I did my part. She had to mouth along like she was singing, 'cause I was too scared to sing by myself!

If a Sex and the City musical ever came to Broadway, would you get onboard?
I think it would be amazing. I don’t know how we would make that happen…I had to tap dance in a show one time, and that was so hard. Charlotte’s not that boisterous, so maybe if she just did a little dancing. But of course I would be onboard. I’d just have to rehearse really hard or something!

What is your daughter Gemma up to these days? How do you balance raising a baby and being on Broadway?
She’s walking a little bit and hanging out at the park, having a great New York time. I get to spend the day with her and then do the show—it’s a great schedule when you have a little kid. Gemma’s asleep most of the time I’m at the theater, so it works out.

Do you ever get updates about the orphaned Kenyan elephant you rescued in 2009?
I do! You get a monthly update on each elephant you adopt from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. They’ve had a lot of rescues lately—a lot of poaching is going on, unfortunately. But Chaimu, our elephant, is doing great, she’s a super pretty elephant girl. I haven’t been to Kenya in a while. I usually go every year, but because of Gemma I didn’t go this year. I’m missing the elephant experience, but when Gemma’s a little older, we’ll go together.

In the meantime, if your Facebook feed is any indication, you’re having a lot of fun taking pictures of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square!
My Facebook friends don’t understand the Naked Cowboy and the Naked Indian, and I have to explain it all to them. They think I’m crazy. I’ve now seen both of them, as well as the older cowboy girl…lady? What do you call her? It’s amazing what you see on a daily basis in Times Square. There’s a lot of entertainment. Oh, and I saw SpongeBob SquarePants the other day! I was so excited.

See Kristin Davis in The Best Man at the Al Schoenfeld Theatre.

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