Everything's bigger in Texas.
"Except me," cracks Kristin Chenoweth, the pint-sized actress with the award-winning Broadway voice who stars in new American comedy drama series GCB (Good Christian Belles).
The show is based on Kim Gatlin's novel Good Christian Bitches and follows the return of former high school bully, Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), to her home town of Dallas after she loses her cheating husband and his fortune.
While Amanda, now a mother of two, insists she's changed her ways, her former victims - led by Chenoweth's manipulative, Botox-loving Carlene Cockburn - are determined to get payback.
"I'm related to an amalgam of these women," says the Oklahoma-born Chenoweth.
"And I grew up in church, so it's what makes her fun because I know these people. They exist.
"I can just hear my aunt right now going, 'That was me. I know you stole that'."
While the show pokes fun at the hypocrisy of people's behaviour inside church versus outside it, Chenoweth, an outspoken Christian, says it's not meant to be offensive.
"If we can't laugh at ourselves, then we have a bigger problem," she says.
"I'm liberal in a lot of ways and conservative in a lot of ways, but just because you are a Christian doesn't mean you don't like sex. It doesn't mean you don't have a drink. It doesn't mean you don't say something catty. I think the main thing is showing the humanity of Christianity and having fun with that instead of making fun of it."
Show writer Robert "Bobby" Harling, who also penned classic films Steel Magnolias and First Wives Club, says you don't need to be from Texas to appreciate the cultural references either.
"I think the legend of Dallas looms large everywhere," he says. "Texas is the only state in America that was its own country - and they've never forgotten that. I think that lends itself to [an attitude of], 'We can do it all, we can do bigger and we can do it best.' "
"I love Australia and New Zealand because they've got this great ... it's a lot like Texas, the attitude is very, you know, 'Bring it on!' Very salt of the earth and a lot of great spirit."
When it comes to portraying Dallas' famous excesses on screen, however, Chenoweth says less can be more.
"All of this [the hair, make-up and costumes] is important as a part of our world, but every time I have a feeling to go big, I go the other way. I know exactly how people would say things, and it's a lot of times under the breath.
"You can say the meanest thing, but if you whisper 'Bless your heart' at the end of it, it makes it null and void."
Ghostbusters actress Annie Potts, who plays Amanda's mother, Gigi, and is herself a Southerner, demonstrates: "Honey, if you touch my husband one more time, I'm going to have to cut your throat. Bless your heart.
"That's the fun of these women," Potts says.
- GCB, Tuesday, 8.30pm, TV2.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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