TV's Top 10: New Faces for Fall - Laura Benanti

How badly did Laura Benanti want admission into NBC’s “The Playboy Club”?

“I really went after it, to the fear of my agents and managers,” she admits with a laugh. “I was putting other projects off trying to get this job, and they were like, ‘Maybe you should be open to other things.’?But the New York City native — a Broadway luminary who won a 2008 Tony for “Gypsy” — saw rich potential in the character of Carol Lynne, the provocative period drama’s glamorous lead bunny.

World-weary and dryly funny, Carol Lynne earns the admiration of the club’s patrons with her prodigious pipes, lands (then dumps) its most eligible bachelor and, rather than accept forced retirement at the ripe old age of 30, savvily brokers a promotion from Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

“I like that she’s an unknowing feminist in that moment,” says Benanti, who, in preparation for the role, talked to 20 former bunnies about their experiences. “She doesn’t just do what the man tells her. She doesn’t go home and cry into her ice cream. She makes her own way.”

Which is why the actress readily admits that the pre-premiere controversy surrounding the show, which Gloria Steinem has encouraged viewers to boycott, really bends her bunny ears out of shape.

“The real misogyny is that we actresses are being treated like little girls who have no idea what we’ve gotten ourselves into,” Benanti says, “and, alternately, that we’re bringing down our gender.

“I think once people actually see it,” she continues, “a lot of (them) are gonna be like, ‘What’s the fuss about?’ It’s just a fun soap.”

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