My first introduction to Beth Grant was when I saw her in Del Shores' "Sordid Lives" as "Sissy" and immediately, I was hooked! I was thrilled when "Sordid Lives" was made into a TV Series in 2008 and Beth reprised her role as "Sissy." Anytime Beth was on screen, I knew laughter was coming! I have since enjoyed seeing Beth in "Little Miss Sunshine," "Spork," and on ABC's "Pushing Daisies." When I heard that Beth was coming to NY to star in "Tricks The Devil Taught Me" along with Mary Testa, I knew I had to be there and try to interview her because I have been very privleged to interview almost all the principals from "Sordid Lives: The Series" (Del Shores, Jason Dottley, Rue McClanahan, Olivia Newton-John, Leslie Jordan, and Ann Walker). I am so excited to have been given the opportunity to sit down with Beth after seeing "Tricks The Devil Taught Me" and bring you the below interview! Beth is warm, honest, sophisticated, smart, and extremely funny in person! I'm even a bigger fan of hers now than I was before.
Beth Grant is a tour de force! She has won 2 Ovation Awards, 2 SAG Ensemble Awards, and an L.A. Drama Critics Award. Whether comedy or drama, Beth does it all...theatre, film, and television! For over 30 years, Beth has been entertaining audiences to much delight! I can say confidently, that if Beth Grant is attached to a project, it's worth seeing! Her L.A. theatre credits include "Picnic," "Summer and Smoke," "The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife" (L.A. Drama Critics Award, Ovation), "Grace and Glorie" (Ovation), San Diego's Old Globe "Cornelia." She has starred in world premieres by Romulus Linney, Maya Angelou, Horton Foote, Del Shores, and Mark V. Olsen.
In addition to "Sordid Lives" and "Little Miss Sunshine" for which she won a SAG Ensemble Award, Beth has delighted film audiences in such hit films as "Rain Man," "Donnie Darko," "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar," "The Artist," and "No Country For Old Men" (SAG Ensemble Award).
Along with "Sordid Lives: The Series," Beth's television credits include "Criminal Minds," "The Office," "Pushing Daisies," "King of the Hill," "Yes, Dear," "Delta," "Coach," and "The Golden Girls."
Now Beth is playing the role of a lifetime in Tony Georges "Tricks The Devil Taught Me" at the Minetta Lane Theatre in NYC (18 Minetta Lane in Greenwhich Village). From my review: Beth gives a powerfully mindblowing performance as the lead character "Betty!" "Tricks The Devil Taught Me" is in previews now and officially opens on August 18 for an open run! If you have only seen Beth in a comedic role or have never seen Beth Grant act, now is a GREAT time to introduce yourself to her dramatic talent, and if you are a fan of Beth's, she would love to see you! Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh, well, the first thing was my good looking uncle was in the Navy and he came home from Korea and my mother taught me a song to sing to him when I was 3 years old that went "Oh where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy" and my uncle was so handsome squatting down in his uniform and smiling as I was singing and I was hooked. That was the first moment I realized it was fun to perform. Also, my mom was a frustrated actress, she wished that she could have been an actress, so I know she had a huge influence over me.
2. Who's the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? I've been so lucky to have worked with so many good actors, but there are a few I would like to work with. I would like to work with Steve Buscemi and I worked with Annette Bening, but I would like very much to work with her again in a big huge wonderful thing together. I would also like to work with Billy Bob Thornton. We started out together and he's a friend of mine, but we haven't worked together in 30 years, so I would definitely like to do something with him. I'd also like to work with Quentin Tarantino, but him as an actor, because he's an actor too. I'm always telling him I want to play his backwoods mama because I think we look a lot alike and I think he's a good actor. It's been a dream of mine to work with Jack Nicholson. Women wise, in addition to Annette, I would like to work with Jessica Lange too.
3. What attracted you to "Tricks That The Devil Taught Me"? Well, the first thing was all the cussin...hahaha...because I come from cussers! My grandmother was a flapper and she did curse, but she didn't curse as "Betty," does in this show, but she did curse. My grandmother was a character! In fact, "Sissy Hickey" (from "Sordid Lives"/"Sordid Lives: The Series") is based on her. So there is an element of my grandmother in this show too. She was a smoker, she smoked Lucky Strikes unfiltered, she was very earthy and bawdy and had real bawdy sense of humor. I told Tony (the writer of the show) there's a lot of cussin' in here, but I thought it was just such a ballsy play and such a ballsy role because no one writes a role like that for a woman. I just thought this is a new voice in theatre. This is a guy who could be the next Horton Foote or Tennessee Williams. He's so young and he's really got that potential to write for women so I was so excited to find what I consider a feminist play. I think it's really about the suppression of women and the tragedies that happen because of that suppression. Each person in this play has to accept responsibilities for their actions and nobody gets off Scott Free. Me: Do you also feel that the show is an empowerment of women too? I do. I mean "Betty," does stand up for herself eventually, so there is some hope there.
4. What's your favorite part in the show? Mmmm...gol-ly I like a lot of it. I like bantering a lot with Jodie who plays "Lorraine." She's funny. Our banter is a lot of fun. I like the margarita scene. That scene which was the hardest for me to understand what Tony wanted there and once I understood, it gets richer and richer every night. I like that "Lorraine" and "Betty" are all each other have and they bond together and they love each other. I don't think these are two women who go around saying I love you or go around hugging and kissing. Sadly, they have to get drunk to do that, but there is a coming together. I also like the graveyard scene very much for kind of a demented reason. I lost my mom almost 3 years ago, so I use a personalization of my mom there and it's easy for me to go to my mom's grave in my mind and to be there in the family plot. This is might sound strange, but it's sort of like visiting with her every night. So even though it's painful to bring up that memory, that's why I'm an artist. Me: You have to draw from your own experiences sometimes. Beth: It helps heal my pain over losing her. Even though she died almost 3 years ago, I'm still grieving her. I mean, I'm sure I'll grieve her the rest of my life, that's just how it is. Me: I agree, my grandparents passed away three years ago and I never stop thinking about them. Beth: You never do stop missing them, even when you were mad at them, you still miss that part too. So, I find that scene very touching. Really, I like it all. I'm just having a blast. You know, I love all the characters I ever do because they are like friends of mine, so when I see those movies like "Donnie Darko" and "Sordid Lives" which are two of my favorite, or "No Country For Old Men" or "Little Miss Sunshine," they're like people I know and I'm like, "Oh I remember her." So "Betty" is new character and she's so richly developed. It's just the role of a lifetime! Me: There's a lot to her. Beth: A lot to her. I mean she's awful and you really have to be willing to not be liked. That was the thing Tony and I discovered initially (I'm sure he discovered it first), but I had to be okay with not being liked for most of the play. You don't start to like for quite a while. She's a bigot. Then you start to find out more. Me: Right, there's a reason to all that. I mean, I felt that way. At the beginning you laugh along with all her bigotry, but by the end I really felt for her, I was like "I get it." Beth: Exactly, you get why she's that way.
5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "Tricks The Devil Taught Me"? Oh, that's a great question. I think that it's very important for all of us to tell the truth. We need to talk. I think fear of confrontation stops us from being true to ourselves, which is very important and we have to stop the manipulations, the lies, and the half-truths because they don't work. People still do things for the wrong reasons even today and your're gonna have to accept responsibility for your actions anyway, so it's much better if you do it on your own and for yourself and tell the truth early on. Don't ruin your whole life feeling guilty and abused and angry. Deal with it. I hadn't thought about it, so I'm glad you asked the question. It's a good question.
6. What's your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show and where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? I'm lucky to be staying in town with some wonderful friends, so I've been able to use my bedroom to do some stuff. I like to walk and I have my lines on a tape recorder and I walk around the city with the lines. I don't say them out loud to myself, but I say them in my head. One thing I discovered about learning lines is, it's not just learning lines, what you do is using your imagination. Part of your brain is doing the memorizing, but the other part is imagining the scene and your finding moments. I found if I don't understand a line, I can't learn it, so it sometimes takes a lot of rehearsal for me. I love to rehearse though. I'm not always like "lala, I get to rehearse," but it helps so much.
I LOVE getting an audience in for previews. I think previews are the most wonderful invention because how can you go from rehearsal with no audience to opening night. We have the luxury of having 3 weeks of previews with different audiences and Tony's still shaping and fine tuning it, so we get to experiment a bit and to stretch and grow. To me, an audience is like the camera turned on. It just inspires you. You get instincts with an audience there that you don't get in rehearsal. It's the truth. I was just working on the Del Shores' movie "The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife" and I have all these props and they kept rehearsing me and finally I was just like, "you know what, just role the camera and I will get it" because when the camera's rolling you just do it. Sure enough they rolled the camera and I just did it with no problem...hahaha. So it's kind of like that with an audience as well. I'm loving the audiences and greeting people afterwards and finding out what they loved about it. It's very exciting, especially being back in NY. I'm so thrilled. I left here in 1975 and I planned to stay at the most 6 months and it's been all these years trying to get back and I've told my agents many times that I've wanted to do a play, but this is the first opportunity I've had. Me: Oh, I am glad you got this opportunity. Beth: Me too. I'm very happy. Me: I hope you get to do more theatre because we definitely need strong actresses like you. Beth: Oh, thank you. Me: The only thing I have to reference is "Sordid Lives" which I love, but this was a real dramatic role, and I have only seen you in comedy, so it's great to see you in different genres. Beth: Yeah, "Sissy" can be serious...haha. "Sissy" can have pain...hahaha.
7. What do you get form performing in a theatrical show that you don't get from film/television? Oh, it's the communication of souls. It's so corny, but it's church. It's indescribable. You have to be on a stage in front of an audience to understand this feeling. You can feel them when they're with you and when they're not with you, when they're laughing, when they're crying, whatever it is, it's like church. It's just the most spiritual thing I've ever experienced. It's the closet thing I've felt that I've come to God.
I feel similar with film, but the takes are never more than a few minutes and as sweet as that is, being in a full length play is just heavenly because once you start you are in the zone until the end. There's no going back. Me: There's no stopping until the end of the night. Beth: There's no going back.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned a lot. I have forgiven myself for being human because I've been allowed to play all these outwardly mean people like "Donnie Darko," she's very unlikeable, I've played "Medea," "Lady MacBeth," and in "No Country For Old Men," and "The Visit," they're all like this character, "Betty," seemingly unlikeable, but I've been able to find parts of myself that were like them, embrace it, and forgive myself which is a big deal to find self-acceptance and to know they are just parts of me, not all of me.
I think it's built my confidence with people because, and you wouldn't believe this (actors say it all the time), but I am a very shy person, and I over compensate by being too big, too loud, too much and over time I've become less that. I more just me. I think that's because I've been able to channel this stuff.
I've also been able to grieve my mom. This is the third play I've done that has helped me get through this process. I did a play at the Old Globe called "Corneila" where I played a progressive liberal democrat from the South which was my mom, so I got to have that experience. Last year, I played an 90-year-old Appalachian woman who was dying and even though my mom wasn't an Appalachian woman, I had that experience of her dying and so I got to act that out on stage and I felt like I was really channeling her in a show called "Grace and Glory." So "Tricks The Devil Taught Me" is the third one and this one really caps it. This caps anything I've done. I'm just so grateful to Tony because he's so special. You should really try to interview him. He started working professionally when he was so young and he's really got a gift. I mean, can you believe someone so young wrote this piece. Me: How old is he? Beth: I think he's 26. Me: Oh my gosh. Beth: I don't know how he can know what women feel like to this degree and it's mature themes. Tennessee and Horton were like that and I think some people just have a gift for channeling all the voices and things they've seen growing up. You just have to honor that and nurture it. Believe me, it was a big deal to make the decision to come here and do this play, but I thought not only do I love, I felt an obligation as an actress too because we need writers like Tony who write such wonderful roles. I'm very devoted to him. We became pen pals through e-mail and I just think he's an amazing person.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Why do you keep trying to be a Rolex watch when you are the salt of the earth?" by Milton Katsales, my acting teacher.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Into the Universe I go! Love to commune with all my ancestors.
11. Favorite website? IMDB.com
12. "Mary" or "Rhoda"? But of course, RHODA!!!!!
13. You've starred in many of Del Shores' projects. What has been the best part of working with Del? His great sense of humor and high energy.
14. You've starred in "Sordid Lives" the movie and "Sordid Lives: The Series." What was it like to revisit the role of "Sissy" and what brought you back after so many years apart? "Sissy" lives inside of me as do all my other characters! I can bring her out at a moment's notice and I can do her hair in ten minutes flat!
15. What did you like best about working on "King of the Hill" and what do you like about doing voiceover work over live action performance? Mike Judge! What a genius. I was also in his live action film, "Extract," and we created a wonderfully annoying character together.
16. Favorite way to stay in shape? Walking! Yoga. And my cute husband!
17. Favorite skin care product? Right now I'm using Stri Vectin and the high end Oil of Olay but must confess I'm missing my more expensive Prevage MD and may go back.