Baranski's Play of 'Sunshine'

Shira Lazar blog image
CBS
Actress Christine Baranski, an Emmy and two-time Tony winner, has built a lengthy and versatile career in both stage and screen. She currently costars as newspaper reporter Mary Sunshine in this year's leading Oscar contender "Chicago."

In the theatrical versions of "Chicago," a man in drag plays reporter Sunshine, Baranski says, adding, ""I thought, am I supposed to be a woman playing a man playing a woman? I've been character acting, but oh, no."

But director Rob Marshall had other ideas; he wanted the character to be a woman.

"He wanted her to be rather like a Roz Russell, you know, in the press room," Baranski says. "And I thought,'Well, what a great opportunity.' We have so many famous female journalists like a Mary Sunshine that people can relate to, namely Liz Smith comes to mind, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, those women who give those sympathetic interviews, and draw the person out."

Baranski says her character needed to have a strong presence because she is the only person of the press who speaks in the movie.

"So she's dressed rather glamorously, and she's a star in her own right," she says noting her character knows lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) is using her, but she is using him too, "and I think that is the relationship."

The film has done well, over $100 million in ticket sales and though Baranski says she didn't think it would do as well at the box office, she says she knew it was quite special.

"The first time I saw the whole product, I was just sitting all by myself in this (screening) room, and I left just shaken, because I thought, it's so much better than I even dreamed it would be."

About Christine Baranski:

  • Born in Buffalo, N.Y., May 2, 1952
  • Attended The Juilliard School in New York, New York. Majored in drama (BA 1974).
  • In 1980, made Broadway debut in "Hide and Seek"; had supporting role in the landmark CBS TV drama "Playing for Time"
  • In 1982, did her feature film debut in "Soup for One"
  • In 1984, appeared in workshop version of "Sunday in the Park with George" alongside Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters and Kelsey Grammer. And she first garnered attention as a meter maid in Louis Malle's comedy "Crackers"
  • From 1984 to 1985, she co-starred with Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close on Broadway in Tom Stoppard's comedy "The Real Thing," directed by Mike Nichols; received first Tony Award
  • In 1985, replaced Judith Ivey on the Broadway stage in the acclaimed production of David Rabe's play, "Hurlyburly"
  • From 1986 to 1987, she played Bunny Flingus (replacing Stockard Channing) in the acclaimed Broadway revival of John Guare's comedy-drama, "The House of Blue Leaves;" repeated role in TV version
  • From 1988 to 1989, she co-starred on Broadway in the Neil Simon comedy "Rumors;" picked up second Tony Award
  • In 1990, portrayed Andrea Reynolds opposite Irons' Claus von Bulow and Close's Sunny von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune"
  • In 1993, offered a strong comic turn as a camp counselor in "Addams Family Values." The following year she delivered another gemlike comic performance as Kevin Spacey's hoity-toity sister-in-law in "The Ref"
  • In 1995-1998, had her TV debut in regular role on a series, "Cybill" (CBS); played the acerbic Maryann Thorpe; won an Emmy Award
  • In 1996, appeared as Robin Williams' ex-wife in "The Birdcage," the Mike Nichols-directed, Elaine May-scripted Americanized version of the French farce "La cage aux folles"
  • In 1997, starred in the Encores presentation of "Promises, Promises" opposite Martin Short at Manhattan's City Center
  • In 1998, played the wife of Warren Beatty's suicidal US Senator in the political comedy "Bulworth;" she had a featured role as a biker chick in "The Odd Couple II"
  • In 1999, made a memorable guest appearance on Grammer's hit NBC sitcom "Frasier"; garnered an Emmy nomination for playing radio host Dr. Nora whose straight-shooting advice is at odds with her off-air personality, a la Dr. Laura Sleschinger. She also played fading diva opposite Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in the comedy "Bowfinger."
  • From 2000 to 2001, she was executive producer and star of "Welcome to New York," a CBS fall sitcom. The show lasted one season. Had featured role as the title character's childhood sweetheart in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
  • In 2002, she played Mrs. Lovett in the Kennedy Center production of "Sweeney Todd"
  • In 2003: Appeared in the Hollywood/Bollywood satire "The Guru"

Awards:
Received OBIE Award for Performance for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1982/83).
Received Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for "The Real Thing" (1984).
Received Tony for Featured Actress in a Play for "The Real Thing" (1984).
Received Tony for Featured Actress in a Play for "Rumors" (1989).
Received Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play for "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" (1992).
Received Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for "Cybill" (1994/95).
Received American Comedy Award for Funniest Female Performer in a Supporting Role for "Cybill" (1995).
Received The Actor (Screen Actors Guild Award) for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for "Cybill" (1995).
Received The Actor for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture for "The Birdcage" (1996).

Nominated this year for the Actor for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture for "Chicago:" Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Richard Gere, Mya Harrison, Lucy Liu, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Dominic West, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones