A three-time Tony Award-winning actress and singer, Bernadette Peters has been entertaining audiences since age 5. A veteran of stage and screen, she is instantly recognizable by her curly mane and unique voice. Among her Broadway triumphs have been "Sunday in the Park With George," "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Gypsy." At 65, she continues to tour the world, performing concerts. Here are excerpts from a recent interview:

Q Have you ever performed a song that completely related to something going on in your life at that moment?

A Very often, actually. I try to make the songs as personal as possible, and I relate them to things that I am familiar with.

Q Have you ever been discouraged about how your career was going?

A Oh, sure. You know, we all have our highs and our lows and our ups and downs. After I had made a big splash off Broadway in a show called "Dames at Sea" and then I did my Broadway lead debut, the show lasted one night. (She laughs.) So after that, I really wasn't the go-to girl, and I wasn't getting a lot of work. My dear friend Carol Burnett was a great supporter, and she just hired me and kept hiring me to be on her show many times for the next couple of years. So that was wonderful of her.

Q At what point does a character come into full bloom for you when doing a long-running show?


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A When I was in "Gypsy," and the cast was so great we did it for over a year on Broadway. I explored a lot of emotions in that role. One day, I just said to myself: "I just stopped acting." You know? The strangest thing happened the next night. There was a scene with Tammy Blanchard (who played the young Judy Garland on a television bio-pic). I said, "Gee, that scene went really well, and she said, "I just stopped acting." It's a weird thing that happens between people onstage when you are connected. Without me saying anything to her, she just like got it: I don't have to act anymore.

Q Have any of the characters you've played stayed with you long afterward?

A Not after the show closes, but during it they are just with me all the time. Sometimes I can't even read anything because it would take me out of the character. I'm just thinking about the character and different things that I could bring into the show that night.

Q You have been doing this since age 5 and have been through transitions from child to teen to young adult and to mother characters. What's that like?

A I just go with what I understand. If I don't understand anything about this character, then I am not going to do it. You know, I'm not a mother, but I understand the love you have for your mother and the mother/daughter relationship. I can understand that and explore it.

Q What's it like to belt out a great Broadway song and have the audience just go crazy?

A They go crazy because you hit something, some kind of nerve within yourself. So you are like flying. That is thrilling. They are feeling it and flying with you.

Q Have you ever had to sacrifice anything for this great career?

A Not really. I really, really appreciate it. I never became a mother, but I never really planned on being a mother. I don't think I sacrificed anything.