Christine Ebersole has conquered it all-the small screen, the silver screen, and the Great White Way! From New York to L.A. and back again, Ebersole has upheld a successful decades-spanning career that would make anyone in the biz proud. She is now living out her dream role as a real-life wife and mother of three, possibly her most challenging to date.

Her other dream role began two and a half years ago when she decided to venture into Grey Gardens. Ebersole earned herself her second Tony award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical by channeling the free spirits of Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, the eccentric aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. But this win wasn't a fluke; her performance is captivating and her portrayal is uncanny. Even as we sat down backstage with Ms. Ebersole for this interview, moments before showtime, we swore that it was Edie doing the talking.

Hampton Sheet: We heard that you would like to own a house in the Hamptons. What kind of house would you like to have?
Christine Ebersole: I like those sort of little cottages.

HS: What about a house like Grey Gardens in East Hampton [which is stage setting in the show]?
CE: I would take that house. It's already fixed up. I just talked to Sally Quinn today. I've got to go out there. I adore her, and I just feel like Sally Quinn is going straight to heaven because of what she did [with the house]! It's a living, breathing space. She really honored the Beales, who inhabited that place for so many years. It's just gorgeous.

HS: How often do you get out to the Hamptons?
CE: Not often enough! I'm working all the time.

HS: How have the pressures of the role impacted your personal life?
CE: I'm just very grateful to the Edies because it's kind of a win-win situation. They always wanted to sing and dance; then to be able to do that eight times a week, I feel their spirit is a part of the show.

HS: How do you turn it off-or does Edie live with you?
CE: That's what acting is. I hope I can turn it off. I'll put my little cat food cans out for recycling [laughs], not on the bed.

HS: You studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts here in New York. What were your initial aspirations?
CE: Stage. I also did nightclub work. I sang as a jazz singer; that was the first job I ever had-and working at Gypsy's on 50th Street as a waitress.

HS: What do you think makes a marriage work? [Ebersole is divorced from soap opera actor Peter Bergman and is now married to real estate agent Bill Moloney.]
CE: Peter and I were both students at the American Academy. I've now been married for 19 years [to Bill]. We got married when we were both 35 years old, so we knew what we wanted, and we married six months after our first date.

HS: You adopted three kids, one African American and two Asian [ages 10, 11, and 14]. When did you make your deci- sion to adopt?
CE: The day I turned 40. Actually one of my children is all races; his birth father is African American and Caucasian, and his birth mother is Asian, Hispanic, and Native American.

HS: How do you work around your schedule for them?
CE: You just do what you can. My husband is the stay-at-home dad; I couldn't do it without him.

HS: You were on Saturday Night Live in the '80s. How do you think that shaped your career?
CE: It was a very interesting choice that they made, using me. I had just gotten off the road with Richard Burton in Camelot playing Gweneviere. Dick Ebersol, who's a friend [no relation], hired me because he wanted a singer, and I think what he saw in me was also my honesty as an actor. He had seen a screen test that I was in with a show called Love, Sydney that Tony Randall starred in. So he hired me from seeing that, because he thought that I was truthful in my acting and wanted to branch out from that. Everybody else came from the world of standup. You're thrown in the deep water. You have six days to produce a 90-minute live show.

HS: Your first Tony win was for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, for your portrayal of Dorothy Brock in the 2001 revival of 42nd Street. You just won the same award again for Grey Gardens. Were you surprised?
CE: No. It was nerve-wracking because it was so fraught with expectation. It was like, "Oh, she's a shoo-in, she's gonna win." You never know. It was a relief and exhilarating at the same time. And it was a triumph because I was in this from the beginning. I was there when they said this wasn't going to go to Broadway.

HS: How close do you feel to these characters that you play?
CE: I feel very close to them.

HS: When you were 45 [now 56], your agent told you that you were over the hill. How do you view age?
CE: It's really how you feel on the inside. We are eternally youthful in spirit. We just have to deal with the body's finite nature. It's a matter of just moving along with what nature's doing- the sags and the wrinkles-and just accept that.

HS: Have you accepted it?
CE: I have good skin. I had Botox for the Tonys. I always give myself facelifts in the mirror. I just sort of pull my face up [she looks in the mirror and pulls up her face] and see what I look like as Catwoman. There are things they can do now without cutting you up.

HS: You lived in L.A. for 14 years, and moved to New Jersey eight years ago. Why did you leave L.A.?
CE: I believed I was useful. And I went to where I could be useful. I wasn't getting work, and it was based on things I couldn't control, like my age and my looks. You don't have control over these things, but that's how they measure success.

HS: To what do you owe your success?
CE: Good work ethic. Perseverance.

HS: Your career has spanned movies, television, and the stage. Is there anything left that you'd love to try?
CE: Spelunking. [Laughs]

HS: What is most important to you in your life right now?
CE: My family.

HS: Any thoughts on Paris Hilton being thrown in jail?
CE: It's fascinating that everybody asks me that. Paris Hilton is an iconic distraction; a way of distracting us from the terrible things that are going on in the world at the taxpayers' expense. Her going to jail is important to the corporations and the evil- doers; that way we're not putting our attention on what they're doing-the war in Iraq and things like that.

HS: What have you learned about life from playing Edie?
CE: To be childlike and open and truthful.

HS: Do you have any funny stories about the show?
CE: My costume came apart the fi rst preview. The zipper broke. That was quite something. All the photographers were there. I had to stop the show as little Edie.

HS: Who are some of the famous people who have come to see you backstage?
CE: Who hasn't come? Diane Keaton, Dustin Hoffman, Brooke Shields, Laura Bush, Dixie Chicks, Kylie Minogue, Liza Minnelli, Elaine Stritch, Diane Sawyer...

HS: Would you consider yourself a tidy person?
CE: Sometimes I am and sometimes I'm not.

HS: Do you have any animals?
CE: Two kittens that we found underneath the deck of our neighbor's house, three dogs, and a guinea pig.

HS: Do you think you could survive a reversal of fortune like your character Edie had to?
CE: I've already done it. When I lived in L.A. we had the double oven and the Cadillac and all of that. But it doesn't mean any- thing. It doesn't equate personal happiness or success. They're just things.

HS: Do you believe in saving for a rainy day?
CE: Now I do, because I have children.

HS: Can you eat tuna fi sh sandwiches now, or does it just remind you of cat food [referring to the dozens of cats that lived with the Beales in Grey Gardens]?
CE: I do like tuna.

HS: What part of you most identifies with little Edie and big Edie?
CE: They were free spirits.

HS: Do you think money affected people's perception of the Beales as either eccentric when they had it and then crazy when they were poor?
CE: When you're with money, you're considered eccentric, and when you're without money, you're seen as crazy. It's true.

HS: Do you consider yourself eccentric?
CE: What makes somebody eccentric? I try to be a nonconformist.

Editor's Note: As The Sheet was about to go to press, it was announced that Grey Gardens would be closing on July 29th. We contacted Ms. Ebersole for a comment.

HS: So it looks like a touch of the Hamptons will be moving on to London. When will Grey Gardens open there?
CE: I'm not sure. We're still solidifying it.

HS: Were you suprised when you heard the show was closing so fast?
CE: I was very surprised and very sad, but all good things must come to an end.

HS: Are you looking forward to playing Edie on the London stage? And will you take your family?
CE: I'm looking forward to it, and as for the family, it all depends. It depends on what the run is and what time of the year it is and all that. It's all open right now. But I do think it would be a great adventure for the kids.

HS: What are your professional and personal plans for life after Grey Gardens?
CE: I don't really have any plans. I think the way my life has always gone is that opportunities present themselves and I either take them or I don't. It's kind of organic. I do have an album in the works; I'm finishing that up right now, and we're releasing it in August. It's a show that I do with Billy Stritch called Live at the Metropolitan Room.

HS: Well, we at Hampton Sheet wish you much luck and success in all your future endeavors.
CE: Thank you.

Christine Ebersole in front of The Maidstone Club in 1981.

As "Little" Edie Beale in a scene from the Broadway production of Grey Gardens.

Miss Ebersole plays Edith Bouvier Beale in 1941 in Act One.

As "Little" Edie Beale



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