Laura Benanti Says She's 'Terrified' at Thought of Daughter Going into Show Business: 'Please, No' (Exclusive)

"I am not at all ready for that," the actress tells PEOPLE while promoting her new solo show, 'Laura Benanti: Nobody Cares'

ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Laura Benanti
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti isn't looking to be a stage mom anytime soon.

The Tony-winning actress shares two daughters with husband Patrick Brown: Louisa Georgia, 18 months, and Ella Rose, who turns 7 on Valentine's Day. And while it's too soon to see with her youngest, Ella appears to have already gotten the performance bug, even dancing as her mom sang during a Christmas concert this past December.

It was a sweet, full-circle moment for Benanti, whose own mother — Linda Wonneberger— is an actress and singer herself, with credits on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional productions. But while talent clearly runs in the family, Benanti has reservations about Ella following in her footsteps.

"Are you kidding me? I'm terrified!" Benanti, 44, tells PEOPLE about the idea, during a conversation about her new solo show Laura Benanti: Nobody Cares, which plays at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theater in New York City from Feb. 2-4. "I am not at all ready for that. Please, no!"

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Ella, on the other hand, is. "We did some promotional videos together for the show because she was like, 'Mommy, please, I really want to do this.' And she was absolutely hilarious," Benanti says. "She has the comedic timing, she's so good at dancing, she loves it so much, she keep being like, 'Please, please, please let me do it' — and I'm over here like, 'Oh no, this is terrible.'"

"I want her to follow her own bliss and her journey, of course. And frankly, had I had more of a creative outlet as a child, I actually think I would've been much happier and perhaps wouldn't have made some of the mistakes that I made. But I don't want her to do it too soon because it can be really damaging," Benanti explains. "So I'm in a space where I just feel so torn."

If Benanti sounds protective it's only because she knows first-hand the impact finding success at a young age can have on someone.

Related: Tony Winner Laura Benanti Combats 'Mom Judgment' in a Hilarious New Board Book for Mothers

She was bit by the musical theater bug as a kid, performing in community and high school productions and even winning the Paper Mill Playhouse's prestigious "Rising Star Award" when she was just 16. Two years later, when Benanti was 18, she made her Broadway debut in the revival of The Sound of Music (first as one of the nuns and understudy to the late Rebecca Luker as Maria, and eventually as a permanent successor for Luker).

Many Broadway roles would continue from there, including among others parts in Wonderful Town, Into the Woods, Nine, She Loves Me, My Fair Lady and Gypsy, which earned her a 2008 Tony Award (she been nominated four additional times). Benanti crossed over to TV and film too, with credits like No Hard Feelings, The Gilded Age, Younger, Nashville, Supergirl, The Detour, Gossip Girl, Life & Beth, and Go On, opposite the late Matthew Perry.

She even made headlines for her hilarious impersonation of then-first lady Melania Trump, over the course of multiple appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

<p>Getty</p> Laura Benanti


Laura Benanti

But getting into the business so early affected Benanti, something she explores in Laura Benanti: Nobody Cares, a night of self-deprecating comedic storytelling she crafted herself. Directed by Annie Tippe and featuring original music co-written by Benanti and Todd Almond, the show will stream on Audible too on a later date.

"One of the main themes I explore in the show is people pleasing, which I think in some ways was centered in me playing ingénues for so long," Benanti says. "I was 18 when I started acting professional and really sort of, internalized these characters and decided the most important thing I could be was likable and not intimidating in any way, especially as it pertained to men. Which, as you can imagine, led to some things that's taken me years to work out. So I talk about some of the trouble that got me into."

The experience also left Benanti feeling very isolated.

"I talk about searching for female friendship and the loneliness I sort of felt as a young person, especially as a child. I was always so weird and different and nerdy," she recalls. "And then when I got to the city at 18, all of the girls my own age were in college and I was on Broadway. So by the time they graduated, I had been in three Broadway shows and had grown so accustomed to filling the friendship gap with men because I was so lonely, that I got married at 24 years old — which, my brain wasn't even fully formed, what was I thinking?"

It wasn't until Benanti was in her 30s that she met her core group of friends. I call them 'Ingénues Anonymous,' because they were really my first step in my people-pleasing recovery," she jokes to PEOPLE. "They're all still in my life today. And their unconditional love — the unconditional love I had been relentlessly searching for in romantic relationships — that enabled me then to meet more and more women and create more and more of a community of women."

All of that informs Benanti about her worries over Ella's desires to go into show business.

"It's just so hard," she says. "My mom would not allow me to be a professional actor until I turned 18, and I'm at least not going to let Ella be a professional performer until she is of sound mind either. Which, I've decided will not be until she's 27."

And while she may be teasing about making Ella wait that long, Benanti says she's going to allow her self the space to figure it out.

"Being a parent is so bonkers," she says. "It is the hardest, scariest thing I will ever do. It's fully relentless. There are zero breaks. You're just in it, it's nuts. And you're bound to make mistakes. The only thing you can hope for is that you can look back one day and feel like it all worked out in the end."

Tickets for Laura Benanti: Nobody Cares are on sale now.

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