Pasadena, Calif. • Growing up a good church girl in Oklahoma, actress Kristin Chenoweth asked God to give her a role on the new series “GCB.”
“I prayed. I asked for this job,” the acclaimed Broadway star, 43, said recently of her new series (debuting 10 p.m. EST Sunday, ABC). “But I wanted (God) to do what he wanted me to do. I asked him if he’d give me this role, and he did.”
In the show, originally titled “Good Christian (rhymes with ‘witches’)” and then changed to “Good Christian Belles” before being whittled to “GCB,” Chenoweth plays Carlene Cockburn, a Dallas mean girl who rules the social class of her church. She aims her sneer at recently returned onetime high-school rival Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb).
Now Carlene has the upper hand and wants to make Amanda’s life miserable — especially at church.
Chenoweth relishes the part. “This series is exactly what I believe,” she said.
“I play a Christian on the show, and I am one in real life ... I do believe in Jesus, coming down here and dying on the cross for us. He was the most perfect man ever created ... I believe in the basic doctrine of Christianity (but) not every single thing.
“People say (the character) is a villain, but that makes her fun to play. That’s the challenge in playing her.
“Over the 10 episodes (in the first season), if I do my job correctly, you’ll start to feel for her. She says some pretty out-there stuff, but, hopefully, as I play her, you (understand) why she says what she does.”
The comedy-drama, which ABC is hoping will capture the audience hooked on the soon-to-be departed “Desperate Housewives,” also stars Annie Potts as another outrageous churchgoer who uses her social status to knock down anyone in her way, and David James Elliott (“JAG”) as the resident hunk. Darren Starr, who produced “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Sex and the City,” is behind this series.
Writer Robert Harling doesn’t see “GCB” as a spoof or a way to demean Christians. “I don’t think it’s a send-up at all, no,” he said. “... I would like to sort of consider it a love letter. ...
“These are my people. I love these people. And the great thing about, and I think you would probably agree, the great thing about Texas people and Dallas, especially, because I have lots of family there, is they get the joke. They understand that they are larger than life, and they love that.”
Chenoweth has been singing in churches since childhood, and her voice has taken her from Oklahoma churches to the Broadway stage (“Wicked”) to television (“Pushing Daisies,” “Glee”). “GCB” isn’t a musical, but Chenoweth says it can speak volumes about faith.
“I pray every day. I read the Bible. I take the meat from it daily,” Chenoweth said with a slight laugh. “It feeds me. I throw away the bones of it. I don’t choke on the bones.”
Other highlights for the week of March 4-10 (check local listings):
“Army Wives” (9 p.m., Lifetime). A sixth season begins with the “wives” going their separate ways and having a hard time adjusting.
“Ralphie May: Too Big To Ignore” (10 p.m., Comedy Central). The plus-size comic takes on Chaz Bono, smoking and children in his latest standup act.
“Breakout Kings” (10 p.m., A&E). When the second season opens, a serial killer has a score to settle with one of the so-called “breakout kings.”
“Love Broker” (10 p.m., Bravo). A matchmaker who specializes in upscale and educated singles stars in this new reality series about her work in New York City.
“Breaking In” (9:30 p.m., Fox). Megan Mullally comes on board this sitcom’s second season as the new boss of the security firm.
“Justified” (10 p.m., FX). A murder brings back a past mistake for Raylan (Timothy Olyphant), creating a turning point for the lawman.
“My Crazy Obsession” (10 p.m., TLC). This reality series looks at fans obsessed with various objects, people or lifestyles.
“Saving Face” (8:30 p.m., HBO). The 2012 Oscar-winning documentary looks at Palestinians, mainly women, scarred after being attacked and having acid thrown in their faces, and attempts to help them.
“Fashion Police” (10 p.m., E!). Joan Rivers and her friends comment on Hollywood fashion as episodes expand to a full hour.
“Of Two Minds” (8 p.m., Lifetime). “Sex and the City” star Kristin Davis stars in — and executive-produces — this dramatic movie about a family dealing with schizophrenia.
“Must Love Cats” (8 p.m., Animal Planet). The series follows host John Fulton as he travels the globe to meet unusual felines and their colorful owners.
“Game Change” (9 p.m., HBO). Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris deliver winning performances in this story of John McCain’s troubled presidential campaign — and the emergence of Sarah Palin as its unexpected star.