'GCB' Star Jennifer Aspen on Show's Portrayal of Christians, Sharon's Beef With Amanda
The new ABC series' actress weighs in on the religious controversy and tells THR what to expect from her character.
No matter how ABC’s new series GCB portrays Christian women in Dallas, it seems its detractors will never really be able to get over its original working title taken from Kim Gatlin’s novel, Good Christian Bitches.
Since its premiere, New York City councilman Peter Vallone has called for a boycott. And recently, even Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has joined in condemning the series for mostly its already abandoned title.
“There is nothing mean spirited in what we have done here,” Jennifer Aspen, who plays Sharon, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And there is not a single woman and not a writer on this show that doesn’t love this world, understand it and has been a part of it in one way or another. I know the difference between mean spirited comedy and just character driven comedy. That’s what this is.”
“This isn’t in any way a skewering of Christianity,” she continues. “None of us would be interested in doing that. I can tell you for sure. It’s just not the group that we are.”
In addition to the show’s portrayal of Christians, THR spoke to Aspen about her character’s beef with Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), and what we can look forward to this season.
What do you make of the controversy over the show’s original title?
Jennifer Aspen:The point of the book Good Christian Bitches and I spoke with the author of this very topic. She is a Christian woman, and she felt that there were people in her church that were giving God a bad name by not walking the walk. That’s what that title is about and that’s where it came from. And I think that no matter what your faith, you have to question that in yourself. Am I walking the walk? Or am I just talking the talk? So, her point was to say, ‘If you’re just talking the talk and you’re not walking the walk, you’re giving God a bad name. And there’s going to be a name for you and it’s going to be this.’ That was the point of the book. So, there are characters within this show that are so clearly talking the talk and not walking the walk. And we’re definitely having fun with that idea. But there are characters that are not like that, as well. But those people will be found anywhere, in any space. So, it’s definitely not what the show is about.
You’re character seems like one of Carlene’s (Kristin Chenoweth) minion. But, was Sharon a mean girl in high school too?
Aspen: Here’s the thing about Sharon. I think she’s very comfortable being a follower. And we’ll see through the season she gets her independence. But in high school, I don’t think she was that concerned with being the leader, though it was a natural thing that occurred. You know, she was a cheerleader. She was all of those things, dating the star football player. But her heart is not one of domination. Yeah, so though that was true that she was one of those girls, she didn’t live to dominate or make people her minions. She was just happily there.
Sharon currently has beef with Amanda after hearing that she kissed her husband. What will we learn about her beef with Amanda from high school?
Aspen: She was after Zack [Brad Beyer], my character’s husband, even in high school. And I had to kind of pry that away. So, she did try to steal Zack from me then. And Zack did have a pining for her then. So now that she’s come back and Zack is a little sparkly about her, which I mean alone would drive you crazy as a woman. On top of the fact that I’ve let myself go a bit as a woman. And on top of that, they kiss. So, oh no, I’m driven mad by this woman that’s come back into town. And also the way she has treated my friends. These are my good friends and she’s done all of us wrong in the past. So, the idea that she could come back and be like, ‘Well, I’m a changed person.’ No, that’s not going to work.
What did you do to prepare to play this character?
Aspen: I just kind of go into it and I delve into it and it comes. Since we were in Dallas -- which was so lucky when we did the pilot -- I went to the church where the book was based. And, I went to the Neiman Marcus. And, I just went for it. And then, this character comes out. So, my process is much more about immersion. And that’s where Sharon came from.
Can you explain what you took away from immersing yourself in Dallas society?
Aspen: I have to say that I was so in love with that world. And what I took away from it and what I put into Sharon was this love of pageantry and beauty. Making the world a prettier place. That’s really what I got from it. There’s just this pride in being just beautiful. And your hair and the color of your hair and my lashes and my clothing. The way you talk to others. There’s a certain beauty and pageantry about it. And I definitely put that into my character.
Kristin Chenoweth says that the other cast members get to sing, too. Do you?
Aspen: No, I decided that since we have Kristin who you can’t even call her a singer. She’s so beyond a singer. I don’t even understand where that voice comes from. So, we have her and then Miriam Shor, by the way is an extraordinary vocalist as well. She originated that role in Hedwig. I actually saw her in New York and LA do that role and she did the movie. So she’s an extraordinary singer. And Mark Deklin also sings in the show. I can sing in lower case letters, not underlined. My first thing I ever did was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. That was my first acting thing. I sang in that. I played Hedy LaRue. So, I can carry a tune and sing really in the smallest lower case letters. I thought it would be better to not even try to sing on this show well. So what I said is ‘When Sharon does sing, I want her to be really bad because I’m a really good bad singer.’ So if we see Sharon sing, that is what will occur.
What’s your favorite upcoming episode for your character?
Aspen: I’ve made probably my favorite episode of television I’ve ever done on this show. And I don’t know the episode number, but it’s towards the middle. And it’s so incredibly done that I read the script at 10 o’clock at night, and I could not fall asleep until six in the morning, because I was so excited to do it. Carlene, every year she does her vow renewal ceremony with a theme. But each year, it’s like a full wedding. They spend millions of dollars on it. There’s a bridesmaids shower and all of the things that you would do in a normal wedding and a huge church wedding. And this year’s theme is Gone With the Wind. And she asks me finally for the first time to be her maid of honor. And Amanda takes it away from me. And it’s full hoop skirts, knife twirling, camouflage, deer hunting, private jet flying. There’s a whole lot that goes down in that episode.
GCB airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC. For more info, visit the show's site.
Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro