Chloe Baldwin struts out in POTUS wearing red boots
Wed. November 22, 2023 by Jerry Nunn
By the end, another cast member and I have to wash off all of the blood and the sparkles!
Chloe Baldwin talks about her kinky red boots
The talented artist Chloe Baldwin has infectious energy both on and off the stage. This fact makes her character Dusty a joy to watch in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s production of POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive.
The story follows seven women and their world in the White House while dealing with the commander-in-chief.
Baldwin brings a rich background of Shakespeare productions and fight choreography to the table. While this is her first Steppenwolf show, at the Goodman Theatre she was seen in The Winter’s Tale and The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. She performed Notebooks at The Old Globe in San Diego and went on a national tour of The Woman In Black.
Television projects have been Chicago Fire, Shining Girls, Utopia and Brujos among other shows.
Her educational background has included a bachelor of fine arts at The Theatre School of DePaul and earning a Sarah Siddons Society Scholarship.
The out-and-proud performer talked about her life after a matinee performance of POTUS.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) How do you identify?
CB: (Chloe Baldwin) I am bi, queer and a drag king!
JN: With this show POTUS there is so much queerness that people don’t know about, so we have to mention it.
CB: Yes and I am so happy about it.
JN: How did you hear about POTUS in the first place?
CB: My agent told me about it and I did a self-tape because I was out of town. I am sometimes here and sometimes in LA.
I loved the character description because it said “uses a lot of exclamation points” and I thought that sounded like me. I sent in the tape and got a call back to read for artistic director Audrey Francis. She is so present and in the moment, so I really wanted to work with this person.
I had fun at the callback and received a call a couple of hours later, which usually happens with an offer.
JN: Where did you grow up?
CB: I grew up in Western Springs, which is a southwest suburb from here. I am staying with my parents right now while I am doing this show. My brother is there too, which is fun!
JN: Did you study theater?
CB: Yes, I went to Interlochen in high school, which is a summer camp. I went to The Theatre School at DePaul for acting. I did some storefront theater in the city such as Babes With Blades. I did many fight scenes and Shakespeare as well.
JN: I read you choreograph fights on your own with these scenes sometimes.
CB: Yes. I was a physical person as a kid and played soccer. I was a goalkeeper so I fell to the ground a lot! That transitioned well into fight choreography.
JN: Is your character straight in POTUS?
CB: She is not to me. From the beginning, I see Bernadette and Jean have an interactive relationship. I think Dusty knows she’s queer because she is so open and all of that.
She is open to many things and gives an equal opportunity to everyone.
JN: So maybe she is pansexual?
CB: Right, that is the correct title. She is from Iowa so she gets to see a relationship between these two women and it is awesome for her. She has the Internet and access to everything, but to see these two people in love, even though it is messed up, is fun for her.
JN: There is a generational situation throughout POTUS where a fresh young person like your character busts everything up.
CB: Totally. It is a huge joy that Meighan Gerachis, who plays Bernadette, and I get to be the disruptors.
JN: I thought POTUS was going to be a political play, but it is a zany comedy instead.
CB: It is wild and a farce. It is funny and off the wall too. Everything that happens just gets crazier and crazier.
JN: I am a huge fan of Sandra Marquez, who plays Harriet in POTUS.
CB: Me, too!
JN: I have seen her in several shows and consider her a legend.
CB: She is and she is also the kindest person in the world. I pinch myself because the entire company is wonderful. I wish I had tea for you, but everyone is kind, nice and talented.
For the first week of rehearsals, I hid it well inside how overstimulated I was from everyone being so cool.
JN: So there are no Mean Girls?
CB: Only onstage! [laughs]
JN: There is female-identifying people across the board for POTUS including the director and writer. Is it supportive in that way behind the scenes also?
CB: It is. Laura Glenn who is our production stage manager and has been doing this forever told me this was the first time she had been in a room with all femmes in her entire career.
I do a lot of Shakespeare so there is usually a lot of masculine-heavy rooms that I am in. I don’t want to make a generalization about femme-heavy rooms, but this one is very collaborative. Everyone is open to all kinds of ideas. It is really beautiful and makes me happy. It’s very inspiring.
JN: How is it working in those red boots?
CB: They asked me if it would be okay for them to be that high and I told them, “Yes, please!”
They offer physical therapy with the show and I always tell them to focus on my calves and ankles.
I always joke that I am going to DM the cast of Kinky Boots to find out what stretches they do. Every time I am offstage I slip into slippers. It is where I spend most of my mental energy in terms of physicality.
JN: I interviewed Billy Porter for Kinky Boots, so know those red boots well.
CB: That is awesome!
JN: How do you describe POTUS to people?
CB: I don’t want to give anything away but my character has a lot of reveals because of what is going on with her. It is all of the women surrounding the president as his staff and I am the wild card that shows up to shake everything up.
JN: There are so many unexpected things that happen.
CB: Inner tubes and Crocs, things I didn’t expect to be in the show are there!
JN: Toward the end the plot takes an unexpected turn to make it unpredictable. Writers usually love that because it is what they work against.
CB: When I read the script there were three plot twists at the end that I didn’t see coming.
JN: I thought Harriet would end with a female empowering speech, but that didn’t happen. Maybe that will happen in the sequel!
CB: God, I hope the sequel will turn into a real thing one day…
JN: Today is Veteran’s Day, which is funny because there is a whole veteran part of the story with your character.
CB: Yes, there is and a whole arc in there about it. It makes me so happy. Shout out to our vets! I appreciate their service in the best way that I can.
JN: The crowd around me were reacting out loud during POTUS.
CB: That makes me so happy. There is one moment where Chris’ speech toward the end of Act Two had people in the back of the room yelling out, “Tell them!” That was great.
JN: Tell me about your drag king persona.
CB: Christian Rock was born in college when I was at DePaul. The seniors were raising money for the showcase and I went to their show. There were drag kings in the show and I had only seen drag queens before that. It was the moment I was waiting for.
I joined them to help out the next show and came up with the name. I have been doing it ever since whenever I can. I perform in Los Angeles too.
JN: Do you work with Tenderoni here in Chicago?
CB: I haven’t, but I know who Tenderoni is of course. Christian Rock is my little emo boy who wears leather jackets and performs Panic! At the Disco.
JN: So this is an opportunity to highlight a different side to you?
CB: Exactly. It is a very good outlet. You are meeting me to see how positive and bright I am. You see how much hair I have. It is fun to be dark and reserved. I can embrace the dark side of things and lean into my masculine energy because that is there too.
Since I have started doing it my masc energy has dissipated into the rest of my personality. It is like playing different characters that open up all the different parts of yourself. it makes it allowed, if that makes sense.
JN: Yes, it does. You should perform songs from Christian metal bands like Stryper.
CB: I have thought about that but some of the music is really bad from the bands I have researched.
JN: Maybe just a loud guitar when you walk out. Talk about the independent film Dollhouse.
CB: It’s a short film and I was just in a feature film last year that will be released soon. Dollhouse was super cool and a thesis project for a University of Southern California student. It is similar to the movie Blade Runner and very fun. It was one of the most beautiful cinematic films that I have been a part of so far and well designed.
JN: Now that the strike is over you can do more film and television work after this show closes.
CB: Yes, my manager texted me the moment it was over. Being on set and in rehearsals is my favorite thing to do in the world.
JN: What is the main thing you want to tell people about POTUS?
CB: It is weird, it’s queer and strange. By the end, another cast member and I have to wash off all of the blood and the sparkles!
POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive has extended through December 17, 2023. Visit steppenwolf.org or call 312-335-1650 for tickets before Dusty struts out of the building in red boots for the last time!