Return to Transcripts main page

Piers Morgan Live

Interview With Sir Richard Branson; Interview with Kristin Chenoweth

Aired September 14, 2011 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight the inferno destroyed his home. A daring middle-of-the-night rescue. A Hollywood star who was moments from death. Sir Richard Branson on the fire, how he's rebuilding his family's life, how a self-made billionaire will rebuild the economy.

Plus, petite scene stealer Kristin Chenoweth.

KRISTIN CHENOWETH, SINGER/BROADWAY STAR: I wanted to hear you say petite scene stealer.

MORGAN: From Broadway to Hollywood, she makes waves everywhere she goes.

You little Hollywood scam. You can't do that.

CHENOWETH: I did, and then I said, I'm so sorry.

MORGAN: Kristin Chenoweth, her life, her loves and that fabulous voice.


Sir Richard Branson is one of the world's top businessmen with a life so glamorous he even owns a private island, but that home went up in smoke quite literally a few weeks ago and Richard Branson is here now to tell the extraordinary story.

Sir Richard, thanks so much for coming on. I just want to start by saying how sorry I am about what happened to you. I know -- I know what the house meant to you. I know that you built it from nothing and that it must have been so full of memories and souvenirs and everything of your extraordinary life.

How are you coming to terms with what happened?

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP: Well, the first half an hour was obviously horrendous because I woke up and -- you know was woken up by my son, looked up at the big house, saw 200-foot flames coming out of it, and knew my daughter, nephews, nieces, my mother, and friends were in the house.

And that was -- you know that was truly horrifying. And then -- you know once we managed to rescue everybody and everybody was safe, and it was but a house. I mean, you know it did had tons of memories which it will continue to have. And you know I did lose a lot of mementos and things, but you soon realized just how important -- how unimportant these things are, you know, obviously compared to nobody being hurt.

And so, you know, we've regrouped. We will be rebuilding and we'll have an, you know, even more beautiful house with lots of memories for the future.

MORGAN: No, I'm sure you will. I mean, what was extraordinary when we read the detail was just how fast this fire took a grip of the great house. I mean it was just a matter of a few minutes and, boom, the whole thing seemed to be going up. And yet, there was a huge storm with massive rainfall going on.

Were you surprised how fast this happened?

BRANSON: Yes. It was like something out of "Weathering Heights." You know, I mean it's just -- you know looking up at the house and seeing these enormous flames, it's -- you know 19 mile-an- hour winds, rain like you've never seen it. And it -- you know, just proved the power of fire and wind together.

And you know the rain was just not going to -- not going to have even a little dent in it. And from one end of the house to the other end of the house, you know, it was about sort of seven minutes. So -- you know so the importance of moving quickly when there's a fire, you know, was obvious and I was fortunate that I had -- you know my son, my nephew, moved very quickly and, you know, as was reported, you know, Kate Winslet was good enough to sweep my mother up in her arms and her children, and help get over out really quickly so all is well.

MORGAN: You know, I mean, that was an extraordinary thing. Kate Winslet gave an interview I think yesterday saying that she believes, looking back on it, they were four or five minutes away. If they hadn't been so quick in the house itself, potentially all dying, such was the ferocity of what happened.

She scooped up your mother I think and actually helped carry her out of the house, is that right?

BRANSON: She did. And you know, she had two young children to get out as well. They were quite steep, dark steps that they had to go down. And you know she was magnificent. And yes, if she wants an upgrade, I'm sure we can sort something out.


MORGAN: And I hear at one stage, Richard, you ran to the rescue but you were stark naked, not an image that we want to dwell on for too long but is that right? The knight in naked shining armor?

BRANSON: Not a pretty sight. But it's the sort of thing you certainly don't think about at the time. You know the -- you know my son was banging on the glass of our window just screaming, you know, that the house was on fire, the house was on fire. And you know I leapt out of bed, looked up at the house, saw what was happening, and then just started running, yes, stark naked towards the house in the pouring rain.

And I happen to run straight into a cacti on the way, which was -- could have been very painful. I think not quite as bad as it sounds. But -- anyway, my son got there, you know, slightly quicker than I did and fortunately, by then, Kate and others had managed to get everybody out of the house and you know, we soon realized that -- you know we managed to make sure that everybody was there and, you know, then stood with Kate's kids and put something around me by then.

And you know, just -- you know just -- you know we just talked about life and you know the fact that stuff really is not that important, and you know -- although there were a lot of, you know, precious things going up in the fire, the fact that everybody was well was obviously all that mattered.

MORGAN: What did you lose, Richard, which was literally irreplaceable? I heard that you have kept a journal for years and that the only copy of that went up in the fire. There was no backup. Is that right?

BRANSON: Yes, I'm not very technical, sadly, and I finished writing "Losing My Virginity," the sort of second edition of it, and it was, you know, close to going to press. And sadly, that went. But -- and, obviously, years and years and years of notebooks which I keep.

But, again, you know, I mean I just have to -- you know have to ask a few friends to remind -- you know jog my memory and you know I'll be able to get the book written and, you know, a lot of the other mementos, you know they felt important at the time when I had them. They obviously don't feel that important now that I've lost them.

So, you know -- so you know when I was young I had a houseboat that I lived on sink. And, again, lost everything, including, you know, photo albums. But once again, it taught me that -- you know that, you know, these things are not -- things are not that important, even photo albums are not that important. It's the present. And your loved ones and friends that matter. So one of those things.

MORGAN: I mean lots of dramatic things happened to you over the years, Richard. I can never work out if you're one of the world's unluckiest people or luckiest because you always manage to survive and yet you do get bedeviled by all these crisis.

Which camp do you think you're in?

BRANSON: It's a good question. I mean I was arguing with a friend about the existence of god or not over dinner in the great house just before this fire took place. And the next morning I was thinking, now, is god -- was god really nice to us by allowing us all to survive? Or was he punishing me for questioning his existence?

And -- but anyway, I have been very fortunate and you know in an extraordinary amount of times and somebody is very kind up there, anyway, in getting us, you know, back from balloon trips or boating trips or, you know, whatever, safely. And so I am grateful. And now I'm spending most of my life trying to say thank you by working quite hard on important causes to try to -- you know try to make a difference. So we'll see how it goes.

MORGAN: Do you believe more or less in god since the day after your conversation over dinner?

BRANSON: Well, look, I believe in evolution. And I think evolution is magnificent, I mean, absolutely wonderful. And I think this world that we live on is magnificent and you know the creatures on it are magnificent. And we've got to fight to save the tigers and save the limas and save the imperiled species and look after the people that are on this earth.

You know I don't -- I do think that religion has done a lot of harm over the years and just because one's born in one country and not another country and you know shouldn't necessarily think that, you know, our god is -- you know our god is the right god and somebody else's god is the wrong god.

So you know -- so, you know, I see myself as a humanitarian, you know, who loves people. You know maybe one day somebody will be able to convince me that, you know, there is a god and there is a particular god. But to me, you know, I just love people and that's -- you know that's to me, the most important thing.

MORGAN: Do you ever -- do you ever pray?

BRANSON: I found myself on one of my balloon trips, where, you know, I was 99 percent definitely going to die crossing the Pacific. Everything had gone wrong that could go wrong. It seemed to be no way out of it. And I think there was a little bit of sort of, saying -- you know if you exist, you know I'll be really grateful if you can get me to the other side of the Pacific. And --

MORGAN: And despite the fact that you survived that, Richard, with your .1 percent, you still don't believe?

BRANSON: Well, look --


BRANSON: I would love to believe. And you know I think it very comforting to believe. You know my father died recently and you know he was -- he didn't believe and -- but you know he was a wonderful man and, you know, wonderful family man, wonderful with people. Great sense of humor.

You know but obviously, it would be very comforting to feel that you know he's still somewhere. But he's definitely you know here in spirit with all of the family. Ad you know, if somebody can convince me that there is a god, it would be obviously -- it'd be wonderful.

But you know I do believe that evolution is much -- is likely to be -- you know likely to be the truth. And you know anybody who questions the evolution, I find it completely utterly bizarre because -- and evolution is magnificent. That's all I can say. MORGAN: We're going to take a short break, Richard. We'll come back and talk to you about the economy, the global economy. And in particular, the American economy. And the impact that's now having on what your thoughts are on how we get out of this hole.


MORGAN: Back now to my special guest, Richard Branson.

Richard, the global economy is firmly in the tank at the moment. And why do you think that is? And what is the best, simplest way to get out of this tank?

BRANSON: Well, I think why it is has been well reported. You know it was basically, greed. And you know a vast amount of overspending, both in the public sector and in the private sector.

How to get out of it? I think that you know there are various different ways and I think the companies like Virgin and other successful companies around the world must expand. They must be taking on new people. And if they've got -- they've got spare resources, they've got to be putting it to good use. They can't sit back and wait for the recovery because if they sit back and wait for the recovery the recovery will never take place.

You know if you talk to an average workforce, you'll find that there are at least 10 or 20 percent of people who resent only getting two weeks holidays. You know, would be quite happy to work, you know, say, to job share with somebody else to work maybe six months on or six months off, or job share on a week on-week off basis.

Because they might have -- you know they may have children at home or they may have a partner at home who's also working and therefore they can afford to do so. But they're frightened of actually, you know, telling the company that that's what they'd like to do.

And so I think, you know, companies need to be braver in talking to their workforce, by, you know, being more flexible in the hours that people work. Giving people a chance to go to job share. Giving the people a chance to go part-time. And that in itself, I think, would get, you know, 5 or 6 percent of those people who are out of work, you know, back into the workforce because, you know, by these people job sharing, that would create jobs for people who have got no jobs at all. And I think would make a -- would make a very, very big difference.

MORGAN: And what would you think of President Obama, the way he's tackling this? Because it seemed when he came into office that his primary concern was to bring in his health plan which he did. It got very negative response from many Americans and many feel that rather than focusing on that what he should have done was really tackle unemployment.

And as a result, unemployment still nestles just under 10 percent. He's brought in this big new jobs' plan last week. Are you impressed by the way he's handled this or disappointed?

BRANSON: Look, he -- I think he would have done quite well not to have been elected when he was elected and waited four years because you know he was -- you know he had the worst stack of cards of any president for a long time. I mean he was handed a bankrupt company, you know, by the Republicans.

And he's had to, you know, do everything he can to avoid a 1929 crash which -- you know which I think we only just avoided by the first stimulus package. I think if there hadn't been that stimulus package I think we would have had a 1929 crash. If more banks have been allowed to go bankrupt we definitely would have had a 1929 crash.

So I think he put out some pretty big fires that were raging, you know, when he came into power. And his health care plan -- I mean, I'm British. You know there's a lot of talk in America about how bad the health system is in Britain. You know I think that's exaggerated. I mean if I fall ill in Britain and I want a major cancer operation for free on the national health, I can get it.

I know that the quality will be good. And that applies to anybody in the UK. And so I think striving for a fair health care system in America was right. Health care in America for the poor has been dreadful in the past. So I think he's right in trying to shake that up.

MORGAN: You developed these two entrepreneurial centers in South Africa and Jamaica. Do you think that we need more centers like this set up by businessmen like you, encouraging that kind of entrepreneurial zeal, which many think is gone from places like America now?

BRANSON: I think that business leaders need to play a much bigger part in tackling a whole range of issues than business leaders have done in the past. I mean a lot of issues business leaders have felt, you know, that's the (INAUDIBLE) of government.

Our job is simply creating jobs and building companies for -- you know for the benefit of the shareholders. I think the new -- the business leaders of the future should really try to play a role in helping society tackle problems. I mean, business leaders are, you know, more entrepreneurial. You know they survive longer in their jobs than politicians do.

They've got wealth to play with. And therefore, you know, getting out there and, you know, helping the next generation, you know, maybe by setting up things like entrepreneurial colleges where -- you know, where young entrepreneurs can, you know, be given a leg- up is the kind of thing that I think business leaders should be doing.

MORGAN: What about Warren Buffett's idea that all very rich people like he and yourself should pay whacking more tax?

BRANSON: There is -- I think the number one priority is for, you know, government to get rid of waste of spending. But having said that, I think there's something in what Warren Buffett says and that is, you know, there are some anomalies in America where -- you know, where Warren Buffett, in particular, is paying, you know, a lot less tax than, you know, maybe than a switchboard operator is paying and that's obviously wrong. And those anomalies should be sorted out.

And I think that, you know, President Obama is right in trying to get those anomalies sorted out. The idea must be that we get the economy back in booming again. That we invest -- you know that businesses invest, that we create jobs that we can create wealth and that hopefully we can keep tax down right across the board because, you know, that's obviously positive in the long run.

MORGAN: Let's take another short break, Richard, and come back and talk to you about the Republican nomination race. The next election race here in America. And also about your plan to take people into space. And whether I can be one of them.


MORGAN: Back with my guest Sir Richard Branson.

Richard, of all the runners and writers for the Republican race right now, who do you think may end up being the nomination to take on President Obama?

BRANSON: Well, obviously, look, Rick Perry seems to be in the forefront at the moment. And -- I mean I think what's sad is that we're already now talking about the next election.

I mean, and I think one of the problems in America is the fact that you only have four-year terms. I mean in Britain we have five- year terms. So at least for the first 3 and 1/2 years, 3 1/2, four years, whoever gets elected can think about running the country and concentrating on running the country rather than dealing with the next election. It's just --

MORGAN: Are you a fan of the -- are you a fan of the Tea Party? Because I guess in their essence, they are very Bransonesque. You know they are a popular uprising of people who just had enough of the establishment and wanted to, you know, get action done through the power of people on the streets. They've become now a more formidable political party as an offshoot to the GOP.

But what do you think of them? I mean, obviously, many British people would find some of their views pretty extreme but that doesn't necessarily play out in America.

BRANSON: Well, I think the thing that worries me about the Tea Party is, you know, whether they care about people less fortunate than ourselves. And I think, you know, there has to be a balance. And I'm just not quite sure from listening to them talk that they've got that balance.

You know a lot of them are religious but, you know, in hearing them speak you wonder, you know, they really do care about, you know, people that -- in desperate need of help. And so if they could get that caring side, you know then I think I would feel more sympathetic than -- you know than I superficially do from hearing them speak to date.

MORGAN: Let's turn to one of your great passions at the moment. Space travel. Virgin Galactic is well under way now to getting the first of its vessels into the ether.

Bring me up to date with where you are, Richard. When do you expect to take your first spaceflight?

BRANSON: Well, it's very exciting at the moment and exactly a month today we unveiled the space port in New Mexico which is stunningly beautiful and right out in the middle of the desert. And the space ship has finished. The mother ship is finished. And that will be going down to New Mexico for the unveiling.

The rocket tests are going extremely well. And so I think that we're now on track for, you know, a launch within 12 months of today. And you know I think that -- you know, this could be the beginning of a whole new era of space travel which will be commercial space travel.

Virgin Galactic not only hopes to put people up in space but to be able to put satellites up into space at a fraction of the cost that they've gone up in the past. And then you know one day we hope to be able to do intercontinental travel using similar technology to that that we've developed to put people into space. So an exciting few years ahead.

MORGAN: Well, now we're talking. Because I have a bit of a vested interest in this. Because like you, I share the demise of the Concord with a very heavy heart and you tried to rescue it but were not allowed to.

I need to get back from L.A. or New York to London in about an hour, Richard. Are you going to be the guy that makes me come closer to my children?

BRANSON: I hope so. And I mean I don't know how old you and I will be by the time we take this particular box. But I mean it might take an hour at the airport but actually in the air I hope, you know, a roundabout now between Los Angeles and London is not -- not completely out of the question. But -- so once we've actually got the first stage safely ticked off and got you're safely into space, Piers, I hope you can go for that.

MORGAN: You'd been selling tickets to these space flights for 200,000 dollars a pop. How many have you actually sold?

BRANSON: We've nearly reached 500. It's those 500 pioneers that have literally helped us pioneer this space ship company. It's not a cheap thing to build a space ship company. And it's been fantastic to have people from all over the world sign up.

And actually, you've got a penny or two. We might be able to get a couple hundred thousand out of you as well.

MORGAN: I was rather thinking that we could maybe broadcast live from your space vessel as your make your own version of whatever -- one small step for man, one giant leach for Richard Branson.

BRANSON: One giant leap for Piers Morgan.

MORGAN: I like the way you're thinking.

BRANSON: Well, I'm sure that we can start negotiating now. And we'd love to have you up there. And I'm sure that some of your rival TV stations would like me to organize a one-way ticket.

MORGAN: I'm sure that's true.

BRANSON: Rubbing -- since I'm massaging your ego, I spent the weekend at Ted Turner's ranch in Montana.

MORGAN: Did you?

BRANSON: And I asked him what he thought about your program. And I just thought --

MORGAN: Oh, no.

BRANSON: -- you'd be pleased to hear he absolutely loves it.

MORGAN: Well, that's great.

BRANSON: So you have a blessing from the man who set up CNN in the first place. And he said to say hello.

MORGAN: That's very, very nice to hear. He's one of my heroes, as indeed you are, Richard. I think we need more entrepreneurs like you. Actually, we were talking the other day, actually, on the show about the fact that there's no space travel program. There's nothing to get excited about.

In tough times, it's great to have something to look -- the kids to watch on TV and go, wow, look at that, like I did in the late '60s and '70s with space travel. And I think it's such a shame that there's none of that kind of thing going on.

So I wish you all the very best with that. I really do. I think it's an incredibly exciting thing to be doing.

BRANSON: Thank you. See you up there, as they say.

MORGAN: Not for 200,000 dollars you won't. But we'll negotiate. Richard Branson, thank you very much.

BRANSON: Thanks very much, Piers. Nice to talk to you, Piers.

MORGAN: As always. Richard Branson, thank you very much.

Coming up, from "Wicked" to "The West Wing" to "Glee," Broadway and Hollywood start Kristin Chenoweth.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: Kristin Chenoweth has a Tony and an Emmy. At just four foot, 11, she's a powerhouse in Hollywood and petite scene stealer, whether she's on the big screen on TV or on Broadway. She joins me now.

Did you write that?


MORGAN: A petite scene stealer?

CHENOWETH: I wanted to hear you say "petite scene stealer."

MORGAN: And a powerhouse. Are you really 4 foot, 11?

CHENOWETH: Yeah, 90 pounds.

MORGAN: Nine pounds. What I like about you, amongst many things, is your quote recently, where you said, if I just open my mouth, usually I can insert my foot really easily, but I have a good time when I do it. It's obviously not very far to travel.

CHENOWETH: I am quite limber, Piers.

MORGAN: Clearly, clearly. What do you mean? Do you just have a tendency to spew something out you instantly regret?

CHENOWETH: Actually, no one knows this story, but this kind of sums it up. And you'll appreciate it because of your background. I was singing for the queen, the queen of England.

MORGAN: My queen?

CHENOWETH: Your queen.

MORGAN: Really?

CHENOWETH: Yes. I was there maybe two months ago when Obama was there. And I did a 20-minute concert for her. At the palace, as you know, the waiters all have red jackets.

MORGAN: Of course.

CHENOWETH: Well, the man came up to me. And I thought he said something about getting something to drink. And I said, yes, a glass of champagne would be amazing. And he said, I'm admiral so and so. So I think that kind of puts into perspective for you --

MORGAN: You went up to a British admiral and asked him to get you a drink?

CHENOWETH: Not just a admiral, he was the head of the entire military.

MORGAN: The chief of our armed forces?


MORGAN: I think I know who you mean. You asked him to get you a drink?

CHENOWETH: That is right.

MORGAN: You little Hollywood scam. You can't do that.

CHENOWETH: I did and then I said, I'm so sorry. He goes, yes, see these medals? He was so wonderful about it. And then he said --

MORGAN: What else did you do marauding around our palace? Ask the queen to get you some caviar? Where did this farce end? Did you meet the queen?

CHENOWETH: Of course, twice.

MORGAN: What happened?

CHENOWETH: Well, the first night was wonderful because you address her and you only touch her if she touches you. The second night, his royal highness, after I sang, they stood. And he brought her over to me. She was so gracious. I had sung I guess a song that meant something to them.

MORGAN: What was it?

CHENOWETH: "People Will Say We're in Love" from "Oklahoma," oddly know, which is where I'm from. She bowed -- exactly. And she said, thank you so much. And from what I hear, that was a big deal.

I was like, you're welcome and I just love your dress. I'm just going to shut up.

MORGAN: You said to the queen, I love you dress. Really? You need to have some lessons.


MORGAN: So you think you stumbled on a secret love song story?

CHENOWETH: "People Will Say We're in Love."

MORGAN: Isn't that sweet?

CHENOWETH: And there was a little glimmer in her eye. A, it brought me hope that Prince Charming is out there. But B, that they were still so close. And you could see that that song meant something to them. And I had been given a little hint that they did like that song. So when I sang it, she reacted.

MORGAN: That's so sweet.

CHENOWETH: And he did, too. He's magnificent.

MORGAN: In what way? CHENOWETH: He's light. He lights up a room. And you can tell he's so very proud of her. I don't know it's --

MORGAN: He gets a lot of flack, Prince Phillip. But actually he's a good man. He's stood by her through thick and thin. And she's never put a foot wrong. He puts a lot of feet -- he is like you.

CHENOWETH: He's a knucklehead.

MORGAN: He's a knucklehead. I can't call him a knucklehead. He's married to my queen. But you can.

CHENOWETH: But you know what? He impressed me the most.

MORGAN: You're not quite as bad as Kathy Griffin. She actually straddled my desk and attacked me.

CHENOWETH: No, she did not.

MORGAN: Yes, she did.

CHENOWETH: I bet the counter on Kathy Griffin. I mean, not Kathy -- Kathy Ireland.

MORGAN: No, it wasn't Kathy Ireland. That would be been funny.

CHENOWETH: Now Griffin, of course, she straddled it. She's one of my best friends.

MORGAN: She is crazy. Like a mad, young, female gorilla charging at me.

CHENOWETH: Kray, Kray -- two words, Kray Kray -- Kathy Griffin.


CHENOWETH: I will not be doing that.

MORGAN: Mad as a box of frogs.

CHENOWETH: Yes, but the best. Isn't she the best?

MORGAN: You go out with her, do you?

CHENOWETH: Yes. We went to see the Sheryl Crowe/Kid Rock concert not long ago. So fun.

MORGAN: I can't even imagine what you're like at one of those.

CHENOWETH: We're so different. We're good friends. It's weird.

MORGAN: Really?


MORGAN: We're going to take a little break. And then I want to turn to politics.

CHENOWETH: Oh, my -- I feel like a --

MORGAN: Year an aggressive little tinker. I want to talk to you about Christine O'Donnell. I want to talk to you about homophobia and the Christian faith. So get a load of that.

CHENOWETH: Oh, my gosh. I'm nervous.





CHENOWETH: Oprah, we've been changed --



MORGAN: That was quite a moment. You sang on Oprah's final show.

CHENOWETH: I'm still -- I watched the video. I'm like yes, I did do that.'.

MORGAN: She was crying. You were crying. We were all crying. I'm crying. When do I get one of those shows.

CHENOWETH: You don't want that.

MORGAN: No, I don't want it yet, obviously., But the planning can start early.

CHENOWETH: When you're fully gray and an old, old man, I'll come back and sing.

MORGAN: What was it like, Oprah's last show? Because she's am amazing woman. I love her because she helped launch my show for me. She's been so kind. What does she mean to you?

CHENOWETH: I think for me, what -- they always talk about the "ah ha" moments" with Oprah. I think What she's taught me and everybody has their story, is to live in each moment. And it sounds very Pollyanna and very kind of easy. But she really does live in each moment.

MORGAN: Do you do that?

CHENOWETH: I certainly try.

MORGAN: What I find extraordinary is you are single.

CHENOWETH: I'm single, yeah.

MORGAN: How can this happen?

CHENOWETH: Piers, help. Anyone?

MORGAN: Trust me, there will be a big cue in here. look, five hands have gone up immediately. You'd have no problem in here. They don't get out. They don't even see daylight.

CHENOWETH: I don't get out either. I have been engaged twice. I was the run away bride twice. But I've worked through my commitment issues.

MORGAN: What were your commitment issues?

CHENOWETH: Scared to be married?

MORGAN: Really? Why?

CHENOWETH: I think the whole idea of having to be with someone all the time scared me, and like what would I do if I needed to be alone, go to the bathroom -- I don't know, just life. But now I'm over it.

MORGAN: Do you regret either of them? Do you wish you'd married either one of those men?

CHENOWETH: I think they were fabulous guys. One was a professional baseball player. And one is an incredible actor. I think it was the wrong time. But I don't regret either because I loved them. My fiance' Mark Kudish, a great actor in New York, is now engaged to someone who is a lovely woman. I just loved -- I loved him, but it just was the wrong time.

MORGAN: Didn't you have a little fling with George Clooney?

CHENOWETH: In my mind.

MORGAN: Not in reality.

CHENOWETH: When I was by myself.

MORGAN: Not physically.

CHENOWETH: No, we haven't met yet. I'm sure that when he meets me, that will all change.

MORGAN: Is it you that's been linking yourself to him? That's pretty crafty.

CHENOWETH: I just love -- I love his style.

MORGAN: He is stylish.

CHENOWETH: He's like Carry Grant.

MORGAN: He's the modern day Carry Grant. You did go out with Aaron Sorkin?


MORGAN: Who I met for the first time recently. What a smart, funny guy. And he wrote my greatest-ever TV show, "West Wing."

CHENOWETH: You know, when you write "The West Wing," it's like what do you do after that? Well, then you go on and you get an Academy Award for "The Social Network."

What I love about Aaron is he continues to challenge himself. Just if you can imagine growing up a musical theater guy is what he was. He was a musical theater major at Syracuse.

MORGAN: Amazing.

CHENOWETH: And now look what he's given the world.

MORGAN: You were great in "West Wing." you were like a little breath of fresh air. You were like Lucy on "Dallas." You know, the poison dwarf? When she suddenly arrived, every time she came in, everything just went fire crackers.

CHENOWETH: Thank you. That's a compliment.

MORGAN: Like this little semblance of normality in a mad, crazy place.

CHENOWETH: It's so true. And half the time, I was like now, Uzbekistan is a country. I was learning so much, Piers, on the show.

Of course, I kid, but growing up in Oklahoma, which is very much a Republican area, I had the best of both. I had --

MORGAN: Normally people come on my show and say, I love your accent. But I love your accent.

CHENOWETH: Thank you.

MORGAN: That Oklahoma thing --

CHENOWETH: Yeah, it's there. Isn't it?

MORGAN: It is.

CHENOWETH: It's there.

MORGAN: It's there all right.

CHENOWETH: But you didn't know that I was from there in "West Wing," did you? I sounded kind of smart, right?

MORGAN: You put on your intelligent voice. I wasn't expecting this at all.

CHENOWETH: My intelligent voice. I'm so stealing that from you. I'm stealing that from you.

MORGAN: Let's talk politics because you've had a few views about what's going on with the Tea Party, Michele Bachmann and others. What do you make of it? Obviously, they're very -- she's very Christian --


MORGAN: But she's -- you know, many say bordering on homophobic. She makes her views about gay marriage and gays in the Army and so on pretty well known. What do you make of that?

CHENOWETH: Piers, you know, I'm a Christian, too. Unfortunately, nowadays to say that word, it's almost like, oh, really? Are you crazy? So a goal of mine and purpose of mine in this life is to make people realize that we are not -- we are not all -- it is just like if you're a Muslim. There are many kinds of Muslims.

I am a Christian and I would call myself conservative in some ways and not so conservative in some ways. And I don't think that the gay issue is a political one. But I do think it is a civil rights issue.

And I believe, as a woman, as a Christian, as an actor, as an artist, that people who love each other should be allowed to be married. And I know that doesn't go along with what Mrs. Bachmann says and everybody -- everybody that claims -- proclaims that. But it is what I believe.

I don't want to be judged for what I believe, but it is what I believe. If it was a sin to be short, what I would do? Well, I would be right on the hell bus, right? Well, I don't -- I believe that's the way God made me and I don't believe God makes mistakes. And that includes a person's sexuality.

MORGAN: So, obviously, as former "West Wing" cast member, I have got to ask you your own political view. I mean, are you an Obama fan? Would you vote again for him? Do you feel disillusioned by him?

CHENOWETH: Well, you know, first of all, I won't say whether I vote -- who I voted for and who I will vote for because I don't think -- I'm not -- I wouldn't want to talk about that publicly. I think it's a private issue. However, what I will say is I would not want to be president of the United States. Can you imagine that job?

MORGAN: I can't think of a worse job.

CHENOWETH: I think time's going to tell a lot with even President Bush. And I know there's going to be people out there like, how could she say that? I think he's good man. I think he made some tough decisions. I think Obama is having to make some tough decisions.

MORGAN: Funny enough --

CHENOWETH: I support him. MORGAN: It's a good point. I recently finished President Bush's book, "Decision Points," which is an unusual book, because not a traditional biography. It's about decisions he took mainly as president. And you do have a better understanding, even if you didn't like his presidency or him personally. You have a better understanding of why he made those decisions.

CHENOWETH: That's right.

MORGAN: It is an interesting book.

CHENOWETH: I actually want to read that, because I think that, you know, don't -- don't judge anybody unless you can stand in their shoes. That's the way I feel. And this is the leader of our free world. But I stand behind our president. I stand behind him.

MORGAN: I think that is a nice American trait that. Most Americans, whichever side of the fence they are on, push comes to shove, they do stand behind.

CHENOWETH: It's easy to jump ship sometimes, right? But it's not what we should do as an American.

MORGAN: What do you think of modern America, the problems that America faces today?

CHENOWETH: You know what scares me the most? Sometimes our youth -- I don't know if it's the computer age, Internet age. I don't know what it is. But I grew up in a household where my father said work hard, play hard. You get what you put out -- you're going to get in return. I feel that there is a growing sense of entitlement.

MORGAN: Totally agree.

CHENOWETH: It's a problem. And I think people look at me, even younger kids, and say I just want to do what you do. You know how I got here? I worked my butt off. I studied. I got a master's degree. I went to every podunk place there was to sing and was proud to do so.

So to put in -- to get what you want and to have it last, you got to put in the work.

MORGAN: I totally agree. Well, luckily for me, you have put in the work to become a great little singer.

CHENOWETH: Thank you.

MORGAN: a great singer -- forget the little. I don't think you are a better singer because you are little, right? Makes no difference.

CHENOWETH: Thank you.

MORGAN: But after this little break, you are going to fulfill a lifetime ambition. You are going to look at me in the eyes and sing for me. CHENOWETH: Done and done.



MORGAN: For the queen and then me.


MORGAN: And I'm back with my special guest, Kristen Chenoweth, who has won Tonys and Emmys. But frankly, as she just told me, this is going to be the highlight of her entire career, if not her life. She is going to sing for me personally.

The song "Father and Daughters" from her latest CD "Some Lessons Learned," accompanied by Brent Woods and Jude Gold. Anderson Cooper will be on after this. But for now, the great Kristen Chenoweth. Take it away.

CHENOWETH: This is for you, handsome. Actually, this is a song for my dad.


MORGAN: Tomorrow, my prime time exclusive with Michael Jackson's brother, Jermaine. What he thinks really happened to Michael and what he says about his brother's doctor, Conrad Murray.


JERMAINE JACKSON, BROTHER OF MICHAEL JACKSON: The first time I saw Conrad Murray was in the hospital. I understand that he was -- there was something with Paris that he came into their lives before. But the first time I saw him was in the hospital. And I just didn't have a good feeling.


MORGAN: An extraordinary interview with Jermaine Jackson, a prime time exclusive. That's tomorrow night. That's it for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.