If there’s one leading lady who knows how to play the ultimate diva, it’s Bullets Over Broadway star Marin Mazzie. The three-time Tony nominee is back on the boards as Helen Sinclair, a glamorous Broadway star who practically invented the word. But according to Mazzie, divas have gotten a bad rap in recent years. “I think divas can be a lot of things,” she told Broadway.com. “It gets the bad connotation of someone with a big ego who is mean to people and bosses people around and demands a lot of things. I think of a diva as a very strong woman who knows what she wants and goes for it.” Mazzie is turning Broadway.com into Diva University—read below for a lesson in all things diva!
What are the five qualities every diva must possess?
Strength, confidence, a sense of humor about yourself and respect and kindness for everyone you meet and work with. Oh, and you must have a flask (if you’re me, it’s full of good tequila).
What is the ultimate diva meal to order in a restaurant?
An expensive bottle of champagne and some really expensive caviar. I love those two things—as long as I’m not footing the bill! [Laughs.]
What is your signature diva drink?
I like a silver tequila like Patron or Milagro or Herradura, shaken in a martini shaker with a really healthy squeeze of lime, poured in a martini glass.
How late should a diva sleep every day?
I think Helen Sinclair gets out of bed in time for cocktails, whether that’s three, four or five in the afternoon. Marin doesn't do that, though!
What’s your favorite diva costume piece in Bullets Over Broadway?
During my first scene, I enter in what I call my temple—[set designer] Santo Loquasto designed it for me, and I consider it a part of my costume. I open those red doors, and there I am in this gorgeous, jeweled silver dressing gown. In my head, I imagine that Julian Marx [played by Lenny Wolpe] has come to try and convince me to do this play, it’s sometime in the afternoon and of course I’m still in bed, probably with someone. In my mind, I make him wait a good 45 minutes before I throw a robe on and decide to come down and scream at him.
What diva trait does your husband [actor Jason Danieley] let you get away with?
I’m sure he has a whole list of things I don’t even know I do! He gets up at the crack of dawn and walks Oscar, our beloved Miniature Schnauzer [photo below, from Danieley's Instagram page]. He lets me get away with staying in bed.
Who is your favorite stage diva of all time?
The one person that fits the definition of the diva that I want to be is Angela Lansbury. Her career has spanned decades, she has been a success in every medium. She continues to give of herself to the theater and to her work and she is the classiest, nicest, most generous woman. She’s an extraordinary person that I look at and say, "That’s a diva who really has it all." The beauty outside and inside.
Who is your favorite screen diva?
Joan Crawford in The Women is hilarious. She’s a low-class girl who’s working her way up, or at least thinks she is. I love her in that, and in Mildred Pierce and Grand Hotel and Posessed—she’s done a variety of wonderful things. I’ll mix her with Carole Lombard, who was so beautiful and funny in To Be or Not to Be, Twentieth Century and My Man Godfrey; I love her. The combination of those two!
Which divas do you draw inspiration from while playing Helen Sinclair?
Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Jean Harlow and Barbara Stanwyck. They were all strong, sexy women that became even stronger as the years went on.
What item in your closet makes you feel like a diva when you put it on?
Because I do a lot of concerts, I have a lot of gowns. I have this great beaded gown that I love to wear and that’s great fun. And I wore this beautiful red dress [see below] that Theia designed on opening night of Bullets Over Broadway. It’s gorgeous.
What is your favorite diva song to sing?
Really and truly, it’s “Back to Before” from Ragtime. The character of Mother in Ragtime is a woman I admire so deeply because she truly was a force for change at the turn of the century. That song, through my career, has meant so much. It’s a song that I’ve sung at so many events for different things, because “we can never go back to before” continues to be something we need to be saying to people. We have so many of the same problems that we’ve had over the years and not been able to get past as humans. That’s my ultimate song.
Which diva would you like to sing a duet with?
I already got to sing a duet with Chita Rivera! The other diva I would love to sing with is Barbara Cook.
What items should every diva have in her dressing room?
From a vocal diva standpoint, you must have throat tea, Mucinex, Braggs apple cider vinegar (because it has “the mother” in it, whatever that means), and Alkalol to gargle with. Also, a couch to sleep on—for this show, my husband sent me a leopard onesie. I have to say, it’s the most comfortable thing, I put it on between shows and I sleep in it! But of course, I remove the tail.
See Marin Mazzie in Bullets Over Broadway, now playing at the St. James Theatre.