Emmy Award winning actress Kim Zimmer is back for her second run as headmistress Madame Morrible in the touring production of Wicked and she says that she’s having a great time. The crowds and hardcore fans are huge reason too, she told me.
Nearly unrecognizable as the character, she wasn’t initially looking to go on tour but after her agent called and pitched her the audition and role, she was sold. She went in for the audition and by the time she got home, she was told she had the part.
I talked to Kim recently about her audition for the show, playing Madame Morrible, if she still gets nervous before the show and her time acting on daytime TV.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes.
Wicked is currently playing at the San Diego Civic Center. For tickets and more, click here. For more tour dates, click here.
This is your second tour with Wicked, right?
Kim Zimmer: Right. Yeah, I did 15 months before.
You must’ve completely loved it to come back again.
Kim Zimmer: I did. Well, the other appealing thing about this is that it’s 6 months.
You look completely unrecognizable when you’re on stage.
Kim Zimmer: I know. People don’t recognize me when I go out the stage door either, which if I don’t want… if I have laryngitis and don’t want to talk to people, it’s great. But other times it’s like, “Do you have any idea who just passed you?” They don’t know who I am.
How long does it take you to get in your hair and makeup?
Kim Zimmer: I’ve got it down pretty well now. It takes me about 10 minutes. 10 to 15 minutes to do my makeup and then I have someone that does my hair. I mean, I have to pin curl my hair, that’s the longest process. My hair is about shoulder length and I have to put about, oh, 20 pin curls in it. So that’s annoying. But that’s the most difficult. The rest of it is fun. I love doing the makeup.
When you originally got the show, were you looking to go on tour or looking for something like this to do?
Kim Zimmer: No. I wasn’t at all. In fact, when my agent called and said, “They’d like to see you for Wicked,” I was like, “Well, I’m too old to play one of the witches,” and he was like, “No, no, it’s for Madame Morrible.” I’d seen it back in 2003 or whenever it opened and I couldn’t even remember Madame Morrible. I was like, “I don’t even know who that is.” And he said, “Well, it’s a cheeky little role that would be fun and easy for you to do.” And I was like, “Ok, well, I’ll go in.”
And I went in and I did a little bit of the dialogue, I did a little bit of the song, and then Lisa LeGuillou, who is the associate director who was in the audition, said, “That’s fine. You know this character,” and I was like, “Oh, ok.” And she said, “That’s fine, you don’t need to do anything else.” Yeah, and I was like, “Oh, ok.” I walked out and I went, “Oh my God, I guess I blew that.” By the time I got home they’d called my agent and offered me the job, so…
Kim Zimmer: Yeah, it was great. Yeah, I think they were kind of looking maybe for the touring companies, they like to get… they like to get a name, somewhat of a name to pull people out of their cozy armchairs across the Midwest and everything. If they’ve got a soap opera star playing a role in the show, it’s a bit of a draw. But this show sells itself. You really don’t need any names.
How long did you prepare for the audition?
Kim Zimmer: Oh, I actually… I had a friend of mine, Richard Rockage, who’s a wonderful accompanist. And I prepared quite… I made sure I knew those little bits of the songs that I do, and worked very hard on character choices. And then didn’t do any of it. I mean, I did a little bit of it, I gave them a taste of how I play the character, and I guess it was ok. Because, by the time I finish this tour it’ll be 21 months on the road with Wicked, almost 2 years.
Do you like touring?
Kim Zimmer: I actually do like it a lot. By the time I finished my first rotation, 15 months in Chicago, I was ready to go. I missed my house, I missed my dogs, I missed my husband. Not in that order. And I needed to be home again.
So you went from a show that obviously had a huge fan base on daytime TV, and now you’re doing this that has a huge fan base also.
Kim Zimmer: Yeah. I’m a lucky girl.
Wicked fans, they are hardcore.
Kim Zimmer: Oh, definitely. They come and see every Glinda that they put in the show, they come in and see every Elphaba. They’re very dedicated. And they’re the best critics in the world. If somebody does recognize me it’s nice to hear them say, “Oh, I’ve seen the show 15 times, you’re my favorite, favorite Madame Morrible.” That’s kind of nice.
Do you still get nervous right before you walk out on stage for the first time?
Kim Zimmer: There are certain parts of the show that I get nervous for, and I’ve always said that the minute I stop getting nervous was when it was time to get out of the business. Because that’s your energy. That nervous energy is what propels you through the show. So, yes, I do still get those little butterflies, which is great. I love that.
I think actors who work on soaps are the hardest working actors in the business.
Kim Zimmer: Thank you.
You guys have long hours, tons and tons of dialogue to memorize. Do you train your memory to be some sort of photographic memory so you can just pick up the dialogue so quickly?
Kim Zimmer: It must be. I don’t really know but I do believe that it is a muscle that gets worked out.
And the longer you play the character, the more you know what your character, you know their psyche. You know? You can pretty much second guess what they’re gonna say in a given situation, so that helps.
I would basically take my script for the next day, I would take a bath every night and get in the bathtub with my script, and just read through it. And not even try to memorize it until I ran the lines with whoever I had scenes with the next day. And it’s a repetitive thing too.
And I used to like to really, really be solid on my lines before we went in front of the camera so that you can kind of play with it then.
Because the directors don’t really direct anymore. There’s a couple of them that still direct actors, but it’s more about getting it in the can because there’s so much to do. 90, 100 pages of dialogue in a script a day that you’re trying to get on film, an hour show in one day. Night time shows take 8 days to do an hour. We did it in a day.
What is your down time like? Because you were working so much. A nighttime soap or like a sitcom, they get months off throughout the year. What was your vacation schedule?
Kim Zimmer: You negotiated your vacation. You had to put in for it. You had to request them. And they had the right to say “yes” or “no”. So if your kids were out of school and you wanted to take them on a vacation and they said “no”, then your family went on vacation without you. So it was… that was tough.
But, again, the longer I was on that show the more perks I got, I just put it in my contract that these are the weeks I have off and they’re non-negotiable. So that’s really what you have to do. I mean, I know Anthony Geary on General Hospital gets 3 months off a year consecutively that he just leaves the show. Yeah, so they write him out. They have to write him out for 3 months every year.
Yeah, but also there are days when you go into work at 7:00 in the morning and you’re done by 9:30, 10:00.And you have the rest of your day.
And it’s also a great gig because, like my kids were all athletes and they had games at, you know, after school, like 4:00. I’d say, “I need to be out of the studio by 3. Can you put me up first next Monday because my kid has a championship game?” and they’d try to get that done. They’d work around that. They were very accommodating.
What’s the worst audition you’ve ever been on?
Kim Zimmer: Oh, God. And I’ve since seen it in casting directors things of what not to do.
I had an audition for they were doing Gypsy, this was recently, they were doing Gypsy at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in Chicago and I went in and the song there was an option for 3 different songs from the show. And I was so prepared for the other two and they chose Everything’s Coming Up Roses. And that song just goes from the moment you start it just goes and goes and goes. And by the time I got done with it I was exhausted. And they kept me waiting 2 and half hours for the audition. I was going to leave. I was all warmed up when I got there and I waited 2 and a half hours and why I stayed, I will never do that again, I’ll tell you that much. But I really wanted to do this. I’d done it before and I really wanted to do this part and I thought I had a good grip on it. And I went in, I finished that song, and I literally went, “Woah, that’s hard work!” And I just shot myself in the foot right there. Because I’m a little overweight right now and I think they just looked at me and said, “If she can’t do that song 8 performances a week, how’s she gonna do the other 15 she has to sing?” I think that was probably the one I remember at this point.
Because most of them you do and you forget. Because especially in television, it comes down to the fact that your eyes are blue and they want someone with brown eyes. You just can’t take anything seriously or personally.
It’s just if you do your homework and you go in prepared and you don’t get the job, it… I’m starting to believe that it has nothing to do with me. It’s their mistake.
Exactly, yes. Yes. That’s what I always think.
Kim Zimmer: Yeah, they don’t know what they’re missing, right?