HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

WHY BETSY BRANDT IS LOV­ING HER NEW ROLE

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - DANIELLE MCGRANE

Betsy Brandt doesn’t ask for much as an ac­tor. At the mo­ment, in her role on new US com­edy Life in Pieces, she’s just glad her char­ac­ter Heather is happy.

To put this in con­text, Brandt spent six years play­ing Marie – a klep­to­ma­niac, whose brother-in-law was moon­light­ing as a no­to­ri­ous crys­tal meth man­u­fac­turer, in the award-win­ning se­ries Break­ing Bad. It was a strange role for the ac­tor who, up un­til then, had been spe­cial­is­ing in the­atre roles in Seat­tle.

“I was a late bloomer. I moved out to LA in my late 20s and I hadn’t been here that long when I got Break­ing Bad,” she says. Brandt was blown away by the show from the getgo. For one thing, it was the best script for a pi­lot she had ever read and, af­ter shoot­ing one episode, she knew the show’s cre­ator, Vince Gil­li­gan, was a ge­nius.

“Vince and I have al­ways talked about do­ing other projects to­gether and I would hon­estly do any­thing that he asked me to,” she says.

But the show’s dark tone and sub­ject mat­ter def­i­nitely took its toll on her.

“There were days when in an episode Anna (Gunn, who played Skyler) and I would be fight­ing over her baby and I had mul­ti­ple days like this where I had been cry­ing all day and yelling at Anna and slap­ping her,” she says.

“I remember the day we shot an awk­ward gua­camole scene when Marie tells Walt (Brian Cranston) he should just kill him­self. I felt like such a baby, I had chest pains af­ter that.

“To look Brian in the eye and say that and mean it again and again, that’s a long day.”

With Life in Pieces, Brandt gets to do some­thing she didn’t re­ally get to do in Break­ing Bad – be happy.

“I thought Break­ing Bad was a com­edy at first, a dark com­edy. To­wards the end we would joke around on set and say: ‘It’s a very, very, dark, dark, dark com­edy.’ But Life in Pieces is just pure fun,” she says.

The show cen­tres on one fam­ily, with each episode bro­ken down into pieces as four short sto­ries are told from the per­spec­tive of dif­fer­ent fam­ily mem­bers.

The show is prov­ing to be a wel­come change of pace for Brandt.

“I al­ways said af­ter Break­ing Bad I didn’t want to try and chase the next Break­ing Bad be­cause there may not be one in TV, and there may not be one for me, but I also just like to mix it up as an ac­tor.

“You have these mus­cles and I feel like if you don’t use them they’re not as ready to work, and I re­ally like to laugh. As much as I loved play­ing Marie and I miss her and all the char­ac­ters, I re­ally love play­ing a char­ac­ter who is happy.

“Heather’s happy. She loves her hus­band, she loves her kids, she likes to have a good time, she’s happy.”

The show is a huge suc­cess in the US, with a weekly aver­age of 10.5 mil­lion view­ers.

Its premise is based on its cre­ator Justin Adler’s own fam­ily, and Brandt has found some par­al­lels be­tween it and her life, too.

“I read the script and fell in love with it. Mostly I said to my hus­band: ‘Honey, oh my God, we are liv­ing this right now.”

On screen Brandt is a soonto-be empty-nester and while her own chil­dren are not quite at col­lege-go­ing age yet, they’re grow­ing up faster than she’d like them to.

“My 11-year-old daugh­ter in real life has just found out that Santa is not real and the whole wall of be­lief came crash­ing down, ev­ery­thing.

“I watched her piece ev­ery­thing to­gether and it broke my heart, it broke my hus­band’s heart,” she says.

While her Santa cover might be blown, one thing Brandt just can’t let go of is her lucky streak. She has al­ready started talk­ing to the show’s writ­ers about sea­son two af­ter its phe­nom­e­nal first sea­son.

It seems some­one has fi­nally found her happy place. Life in Pieces, Net­work Ten, Tues­day at 8pm

Betsy Brandt (sixth from left) with the rest of the Life in Pieces cast.

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