Betsy Brandt on Trading Meth For Mirth
By JARETT WIESELMAN
September 26, 2013
I feel so lucky right now.
Some variation on that sentiment was repeatedly uttered by the divine Betsy Brandt both times I sat down with her -- first, this past July after The Michael J. Fox Show presented at The Television Critics Summer Press Tour, and then following Breaking Bad's Emmy win for Best Drama and Best Supporting Actress.
But as every single person associated with AMC's series has proven, luck has nothing to do with it. One can not luck into the kind of success they've all experienced. The accolades and industry demand for each of the actors, writers and directors who've spent five years making Breaking Bad the most celebrated show currently on television must be declared to be the result of hard work, careful planning and a fastidious focus.
All of that comes to an end this Sunday, however, and to say Breaking Bad is going out on a high note will forever alter the expectations of opera singers. So finding follow-up gigs presented unique problems for the actors, but it looks as if Betsy Brandt has found the perfect next act in NBC's new dramedy, The Michael J. Fox Show.
Annie Henry, wife of Fox's character Mike, is worlds away from Marie Scharder, the purple-loving lady she has brought to life since 2008, and gives Betsy a chance to flex her funnybone. In addition to recently talking about Bad's great Emmy win and Sunday's series finale, Brandt opens up about the struggles in finding a new role and what made this the perfect fit.
ETonline: First things first, congratulations on Breaking Bad's Emmy wins!
Betsy Brandt: Thank you! When Anna [Gunn] won, I just started screaming. I don't even think the news of her win had reached her brain yet when I started screaming.
ETonline: Were you as surprised as the fans that neither Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks nor Bryan Cranston won their categories?
Brandt: I thought for sure, for sure, we had Best Supporting Actor locked up between Aaron and Jonathan. I was giddy about Jonathan being nominated this year; I can't say enough good things about him. So I was stunned we didn't get that. And then when Bryan didn't win, I turned to Bob Odenkirk and said, "I'm dead inside." I felt nothing. I just felt like it wasn't going to go our way again, and every year I want to see Vince Gilligan make that speech. So when they said Breaking Bad, I was so surprised [starts to cry]. I was just so happy for my TV family, and I'm emotional about it because I know the show is airing for the last time on Sunday. I felt like this was our year to win and if we didn't this year, we probably wouldn't. I just so wanted that for Breaking Bad because I'm so proud of this show and Vince is one of the kindest people in the world so I really wanted that moment for him.
ETonline: I'd like to go back to the moment Marie forced Skylar to tell Walt Jr. about his father's arrest. Would you describe her attitude in that moment as smug?
Brandt: It wasn't that there wasn't an aspect of that there. Marie can be petty. It's not like, "Winning!" But there was a sense of, This was our team against your team and my team won. Or she thought sh*t had hit the fan and things were so crazy so she was going to get their ducks in a row and put life back on track. Enough was enough. Marie thinks about the kids and their family -- even though I don't think she can forgive Skylar. But throughout the last few seasons, Skylar has been in the eye of the storm and making decisions and not thinking clearly, which never made sense to Marie. Like the affair with Ted.
ETonline: And then Marie learned Hank had been killed. What do you remember about filming the scene where Skylar gets the phone call?
Brandt: When Hank goes to work, she thinks he's coming home. Not only is he her Rock of Gibraltar, but he's Superman. She thinks he's always going to come out on top. Rian Johnson directed that episode and said that when the phone rings none of us are paying attention. But I didn't see it that way, so I asked to run something by him. In my mind, Marie is waiting for news and when that phone rings she knows. And he agreed. So when the phone rings, Marie is waiting for news about Hank and she knows it's not good. I still think there's a lot of denial there.
ETonline: Looking at the finale, what are you excited for fans to see?
Brandt: After reading the finale episode, I told Vince Gilligan it was the perfect ending for the show. As sad as I am to have the experience come to an end, I'm so glad it's going out the way it is. Vince does not follow social media. He says it's because he's insecure, I think it's because he's got big balls. It takes a lot of strength to stay away from that. Especially when you're the executive producer of a show, and what fans think matters. He stays true to the story and the character and the world we've all created. He's honest and true right up through the end. To me, there's no better way to honor a show. He doesn't do crazy things just because people won’t see it coming. I truly feel this is the perfect ending to our wonderful show.
ETonline: I'm so excited to see the finale, but I also don't want the show to end.
Brandt: The only thing that makes me happy about Breaking Bad ending is that it's going out on top. I would have done this show forever. Long after they stopped paying me [laughs]. This is normally the point when a network feels like they can get a few more years out of a show.
ETonline: Do you miss Marie?
Brandt: I miss her, I miss her horribly -- and all her purple. She thinks purple is the best. She's just obsessed with it [laughs]. In the beginning, there wasn't a lot of material for me, and we all were given colors, so that's what I had to go on. I always saw Marie as a person who does not do things half-assed, so I figured if my color was purple, then she's 200 percent about purple.
ETonline: What would Marie think of Annie's life?
Brandt: She would envy Annie's life. Although I don't think Marie is a jealous person, but it's a pretty good life Annie's got there.
ETonline: Were you actively looking to do a comedy as your next project?
Brandt: I wanted: A) a job B) a good job and C) I was hoping for a comedy. But I really believe you get what you're supposed to get. It's like kids. I know you can do something where they put sperm in a centrifuge to definitely get a girl or a boy, but I think you should just sit back and get what is meant for you to get.
ETonline: When did the realization hit you that you'd be playing Michael J. Fox's wife?
Brandt: I'm not done freaking out about it. But I will say this, and I think this is part of our chemistry, he felt like family to me from the instant we met. I feel like I've known him forever. It's really comfortable, and I trust him like there's no tomorrow. And not just in a "You can babysit my kids" way; I trust him to be funny and out there and try things with me. But I still can't believe it because I have been such a fan of his. He is one of the finest actors, ever -- but he's also a comedic genius. Yet he doesn't walk around like an ego-y genius guy.
ETonline: What is it about Annie that you like?
Brandt: I love that she's a passionate wife and mother and teacher. She's a good wing woman also. I love the relationship she has with Mike's sister. It's funny, when I read the pilot, I told my husband that these lines were things I'd said in real life. It's so real. We've all had moments where we've said, "My life should be a sitcom." But with this show, I oddly feel like it is. And that makes me so happy with the show.
ETonline: You said on-stage at TCA that it was good to be Betsy Brandt...
Brandt: Oh God ... did that make me look like an asshole? [laughs]
ETonline: Not at all.
Brandt: I just mean that I cannot believe what's happening right now. I would describe myself as a glass half full person to begin with, but when you do a show like Breaking Bad, how do you follow that? Which is why I was trying to get a comedy because I can't chase that show. Look, I love doing drama, but I really wanted to do something wildly different because I didn't want anybody to compare them. Also, the drama takes a toll on you. I know people say dying is easy and comedy is hard, but there were days of shooting Breaking Bad that I would be in physical pain. I still haven't seen one minute of the scene where Hank gets shot. I know he's OK. I know it's not real, but I just can’t do it.
ETonline: What are you excited for viewers to see with The Michael J. Fox Show tonight?
Brandt: The material is phenomenal. A lot of comedies aren't so funny, which is another conversation entirely, so I feel incredibly lucky to do this job because I get to laugh a lot -- on camera, off camera, all the time. And I hope that's how the audience feels. It reminds me of The Cosby Show and Family Ties; those relatable family comedies that were hilarious and are still funny even though they're dozens of years old. I hope people walk away with the feeling that I have.
The Michael J. Fox Show premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC and Breaking Bad wraps up its run Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC.
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