Podtalk: Icon Bernadette Peters Takes Refuge in ‘HIgh Desert’

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CHICAGO – How has actor/singer/Broadway icon Bernadette Peters ended up in the arid lands of California? She is featured in the new Apple TV+ series “High Desert.” It has an ensemble cast led by Patricia Arquette as Peggy Newman, a recovering human being in an odd and spiritual place. The series begins streaming on May 17th.

Newman is an ex-heroin addict who realizes her life needs to begin again. That is difficult, for besides her visits to a local methadone clinic, she is just barely holding on as a performer in Pioneertown, a rundown tourist attraction. The only thing she desperately wants to cling to is the house of her deceased mother (Bernadette Peters), but her sister Dianne (Christine Taylor) is intent on selling it. Peggy needs to raise some extra cash, so she comes up with a plan to become a private investigator, in the office of Bruce (Brad Garrett). The scheme takes hold, but is also complicated by the re-emergence of her ex-con husband Denny (Matt Dillon), and the machinations of the high holy Guru Bob (Rupert Friend).

Bernadette Peters in ‘High Desert’
Photo credit: Apple TV+

The ageless Bernadette Peters takes on the role in her seventh decade as a performer. She was born in New York City as Bernadette Lazzara, and took her father’s first name when she did her first work as a child actor on stage and television in the late 1950s. She expanded her stage work in the next decade, touring in the road company of “Gypsy” (as Baby June) and doing summer stock theater. After high school, she graduated to a role opposite Joel Grey in “George M!,” among other New York stage appearances.

In the 1970s she began her film career in a memorable role in “The Longest Yard” (1974) and did episodic television throughout the decade, including “McCloud,” “Maude” and “All in the Family.” Mel Brooks cast her in “Silent Movie” (1976) and she appeared opposite Steve Martin in his debut film “The Jerk” (1979). Other notable film roles include “Pennies From Heaven” (1981), “Annie” (1982), “Pink Cadillac” (1989), Anastasia (1997), “It Runs in the Family” (2003) and the recent “tick tick … Boom” (2021).

But the Broadway stage continued to beckon, and she made a triumphant return in the original casts of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” in 1984 and “Into the Woods” in 1987 … she is known as a premier interpreter of Sondheim’s songbook, often tributing him in her cabaret act. In 1999, she starred in the revival of “Annie Get Your Gun” and again was in “Gypsy” as Mama Rose in 2003. She continued her association with Sondheim in “A Little Night Music” (2010) and “Follies” the next year. At the same time she continued her appearances on TV and the silver screen, as well as producing a number of notable albums, and even authoring children’s books.

In a Podtalk with Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com, Bernadette Peters talks about her work in “High Desert” and other incredible career touch points …

Bernadette Peters, Premier Interpreter of the Stephen Sondheim Songbook …

Trailer for “High Desert” …

Next Week: Secrets are revealed for the Bernadette Peters role in “High Desert.”

The first three episodes of ”High Desert” will stream on Apple TV+ beginning on May 17th. Featuring Bernadette Peters, Patricia Arquette, Matt Dillon, Rupert Friend and Brad Garrett. Created by Nancy Fichman, Katie Ford and Jennifer Hoppe-House. Directed by Jay Roach.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Critic/Writer

© 2023 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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