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Interview: Annaleigh Ashford of ‘Welcome to Chippendales’ on Bringing Irene Banerjee to Life

Annaleigh Ashford is an extraordinary talent who spends a good deal of her time on Broadway (she recently received her third Tony Award nomination for playing Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). But she’s also made a mark with her television roles, starring in the CBS comedy B Positive, the Showtime drama Masters of Sex, and as Paula Jones in Impeachment: American Crime Story. Most recently, she portrayed Irene, the wife of Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani), in Hulu’s Welcome to Chippendales.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Ashford, who addressed whether there was a burden to playing a real person about whom there’s very little information:

“I feel a lot of responsibility as a woman to make sure every character I play is fleshed out, strong, finding her way in the world, and represents the era that she’s living in. This woman that I was playing was living in the late seventies, early eighties, in a business world in which she had no power, and the only way she could find power was through a man who happened to be her husband. So it was important for me to flesh out a woman who was navigating the patriarchy, even though the man in power was her husband. I think that made it even more complicated and more problematic, and more interesting to play.”

She also shared the most surprising reactions to the series:

“A lot of people didn’t know there was murder involved! That to me was amazing and shocking. I think people were surprised at how groundbreaking men taking their clothes off for women was. Since the dawn of time, women have been taking their clothes off for men, but it took until 1978, that’s how long it took for some men to take off their pants for ladies? Come on. I think that is always shocking to people.”

Watch the full conversation below.

Welcome to Chippendales is streaming on Hulu.


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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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