Over a cup of tea in her chic Manhattan home, Laura Benanti of “Go On” chats about TV; her best friend and husband, Steven Pasquale; her considerable Broadway experience; and how ticked off she remains over the reaction to last year’s doomed “The Playboy Club.”
A few feet from the building, in the shadow of One World Trade Center, a phone booth — yes, some still exist in Manhattan — is blanketed in an ad for “Go On.” The NBC Tuesday comedy, starring Matthew Perry, has Benanti as Lauren, leading group therapy sessions.
That print campaign seems to be everywhere in Manhattan, and the actors’ photos have been retouched almost beyond recognition. Incidentally, Benanti does not need refinishing.
Wearing jeans and a T-shirt, the green-eyed brunette is stunning, even without makeup and in the natural light of a bright morning. Despite two network shows and 10 Broadway plays to her credit, Benanti is rarely recognized.
“I don’t know how Matthew Perry manages to be a human being in a world where everyone recognizes him,” she tells Zap2it. “It is a rare breed of fan that recognizes me. They will say, ‘Did we go to high school together? Maybe.’ And I keep walking. It makes me feel exposed and weird.”
In New York, where real estate counts as small talk, Benanti acknowledges they were “really lucky” getting this apartment with an exposed brick wall in an elegant building. They’re quite close to the rising WTC tower. “People are still scared to live by the World Trade Center,” she says.
Three weeks a month, she’s working in Los Angeles, away from the constant construction. Like other New Yorkers in exile, she pines for her city.
“This is my home,” she says. “I pulled my MetroCard out and started crying.”
A New Jersey native, Benanti was trained at Millburn’s Paper Mill Playhouse, where she was the theater’s first Rising Star.
“They are the reason I got on Broadway,” she says.
Benanti launched her career as an understudy and has gone on to stealing shows. In 2008, she tore up the stage as Louise in “Gypsy,” and considering she had to hold her own against the formidable Patti LuPone, it’s even more amazing. It was a production that had theatergoers screaming “Brava!” and Benanti taking home a Tony.
She is truly talented, an incredible singer and dancer who is equally at ease in comedy and drama. Yet Benanti is very quick to say, “A lot of people are talented. So much of why I have had any success is great fortune and people looking out for me.”
She had a rough time with last year’s short-lived “The Playboy Club.”
“I just feel like there are times people will want to jump on a show and kill it,” she says.
In addition to the comedy, Benanti also has a recurring role as Maria, Detective Amaro’s wife, on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
“I like going between drama and comedy,” she says.
Lauren is becoming smarter with each episode of “Go On,” Benanti says.
“It’s important that I be good at my job, even if I am not qualified.”
Lauren’s expertise is limited to running Weight Watchers classes, but she’s enrolled in school to become a therapist. “What this show wants to accomplish is that everybody goes on and heals, and how would I heal a bunch of wackos if I am a wacko?”
Ideally, Benanti would love to work with her husband of five years. “He is my best friend,” she says. “There is no one else I would rather be around than him.”