Sitting Down (But Not Shutting Up) With Kristin Chenoweth of “Sit Down, Shut Up”

Beginning April 19 and airing Sundays on FOX, the new sitcom Sit Down, Shut Up features much of the creative team behind the unfortunately short-lived Arrested Development, including executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz and stars Jason Bateman and Will Arnett. Based on a live-action Australian series, SDSU is a unique animated program set against a live backdrop, and focuses on the lives of some not-particularly dedicated schoolteachers, each with their individual quirks.

Among the vocal cast, which also includes Henry Winkler and Cheri Oteri, is Emmy nominee and singer Kristin Chenoweth, who was most recently seen on television in another show that was almost destined to be too good to last, Pushing Daisies. Chenoweth voices science teacher Miracle Grohe, whose superficial grasp of her subject is balanced by her superficial grasp of spirituality. Chenoweth sat down with us to talk about the show and more.

Does playing a quirky teacher bring back any memories of odd teachers from your school days?

Kristin Chenoweth: I had a really mean music teacher, and that was my favorite subject. So in high school to have a music teacher that really didn’t like it kind of sucked. And I’m not really sure what that was about. … I also had a teacher that, looking back, I’m sure was high all the time on pot. There may be some by my character a little bit!

What are major differences between acting in animation versus live action?

The hours. On Pushing Daisies I had 18-hour days. The hours here are like 2 hours, 3 hours, whenever they need you. I like to do all my lines for the whole episodes, because I don’t like to break up the story arc. Plus, you get tired. After one episode, I’m like done. Even if it means coming in again later in the week to do the new episode. I’m behind — there was a cast change, I’m the most recent person. I’m trying to catch up!

Have you worked in animation before?

It’s my first animates series. I did an animated movie for Disney recently called Tinkerbell, and we’ve got three more movies to do of that. Movies are different; you work on them and work on them, and they change it. I worked on that for almost three years, thought it would never get done. But this is different. You walk in, do your part and you’re done.

I was on Broadway in a show called You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, so I’ve played a cartoon on stage. To play one in this kind of thing is really interesting because you do it alone, you’re working in a vacuum. It’s a challenging thing in and of itself. I like the energy of other actors [normally]. I’m still enjoying it.

Any similarities between you and Miracle Grohe?

I like to dress up … that’s kind of where it ends!

Any chance you’ll sing on the show?

I think what would be great to see for Miracle is for her to not be a very good singer, but not know that. Maybe she’s more of a hippie guitar player. I’d like to see it go in that direction.

Had you been a fan of “Arrested Development?”

That’s why I wanted to do this. I knew that show was so good it probably wouldn’t last, just like Pushing Daisies. These shows are different, they do push the envelope. They have their audience, for sure.

Have you seen the Australian version of this series?

No, I can’t believe it’s live action! What did my character do, kick butt? They didn’t cast me for that, trust me!

What else are you working on?

I wrote a book coming out in April, kind of like my life so far, things I’ve learned. Hopefully it will be inspirational to a lot of my fans. It’s called A Little Bit Wicked. I’m also going to be going to Rome in April to sing a new opera for the Pope. And I’m doing a new pilot that David E. Kelley wrote called Legally Mad, for NBC.