Beth Hall is an actress, a comedienne, and a mom all rolled into one. She has guest starred on such shows as Murphy Brown, House M.D., Parks and Recreation, and Jane the Virgin. Now she’s found herself a role as series regular, ‘Weeping Wendy’, on CBS’s sitcom, Mom.
This last week, Beth took time out of her busy schedule to talk to us for just a few minutes and gave us a better look at her character and a sneak peek at a little of what we might find in Mom’s third season when it premieres on November 5th.
You have actually played two different characters on Mom, Janice and Wendy. How did that happen and what was it like?
“When I was first hired on the show it was for a very small part, to play Janice. I was told Janice might be recurring in the AA meeting. And then, as they do here, they’re constantly rewriting and changing the show and at the very last-minute on Friday before we were about to go with the audience, they decided that the bit wasn’t working and they cut it. So they were like, ‘Oh, it’s not you, it’s just the writing. We’re gonna have you back. We’ll have you back.’ And they did. They had me back a few months later as Wendy. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, you know, crying in the AA meeting. And Chuck Lorre really liked it and they kept having me back and back. Then this year they asked me to be a series regular!”
Oh, that’s great!
“Yeah! It’s great that that first part got cut ’cause who knows, that could have been just it. (laughs).”
Yeah! How many times have you been a series regular before?
“This is my first time.”
Awesome! Are you excited?
“Oh yes. (chuckles) It’s, you know, it’s the goal.”
Right. How many episodes are you gonna get to be in this season?
“I don’t know. Right now we’re shooting episode nine and I’ve been in seven of them. So it looks like I’ll be in a good number of them.”
Good. I love your character.
“Oh, thank you.”
No problem. She’s…between her and Bonnie…gosh, you and Allison [Janney, who plays Bonnie] both have such great comedic timing and chemistry. Was that something that just kind of happened?
“Well, I’ll tell you. The first time I was on the set when I was playing Janice, there was camaraderie on the show. Allison Janney was just so warm and wonderful that I really felt like I was a part of the show. When I got cut out, I was like, ‘What?! No!’ (chuckles) So, when they had me back, everyone has just been so warm and friendly. All the women on the show have just been…it’s really just a good chemistry, I think, between all the women. Allison and Anna [Faris, who plays Christy] are so good that they just make it all so easy.”
That’s great. How did you end up acting and doing comedy?
“I knew I was gonna do this all my life. My father was a stand-up comedian. My mother was also an actress, but I never knew her as an actress. That’s how they met, and so I think comedy was just kind of ingrained in me. I just always liked comedy more than drama. I went into sketch comedy, and I did a lot of comic plays…you know, with a face like mine, you have to do comedy! (laughs)”
So is the comedic timing kind of instinct or is it something that you really had to learn and hone?
“I think a lot of it is instinct. You know, the going thing is, comedians can do drama, but a lot of dramatic actors can’t do comedy. I think that really the timing is crucial and it’s really a feeling that you have as far as what’s gonna work and when to say things and how to say it. Of course, as you work on anything – a play or improv or take classes in improv and do things like that, you’re just gonna get better, but I think there’s something that’s sort of ingrained in most comedic actors that just happens.”
What’s your favorite thing about being part of a show like Mom?
“I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché that it’s like a family, but this show really is. I’ve had guest roles on other shows where you don’t feel that same warmth and camaraderie. This show just really has it. It’s really run like a fine-tuned piano. The schedule on a three camera sitcom is really great because you know every day what your hours and schedule are going to be. It’s just a great job.”
Is the schedule more set, then, than some of the dramas that film at all times of the day and night?
“Absolutely. Yeah. Because they know, Monday we’re gonna do this, Tuesday we’re gonna rehearse, Wednesday we’re gonna rehearse run-throughs. Thursday they’ll shoot some scenes that they’re not gonna shoot in front of the live audience and then Friday, rehearse some more, and do it in front of the live audience and then that episode’s done. With the single camera comedies or dramas, they set a schedule and you may just work one day here and one day there. It could be day, it could be night, it could be sitting around a long time waiting for them to shoot certain things. So it’s just a much more definitive schedule.”
Which is probably kind of the ideal, right?
“Oh, it is. I have a six-year-old so it’s really great.”
In spite of the ever-present comedy of the show, it deals with some heavy topics: drug use, alcoholism, how difficult it can be for an addict to overcome their addiction. What’s it like to bring these issues to the forefront, addressing such real life problems in a comedic fashion?
“Well, I think what a lot of people are saying about the show – and it’s really due to the writing and how they approach it – is that it’s different in that way. It does delve into more heavy topics. It’s not making fun of them with the comedy. It’s just saying, ‘This is life. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s not.’ And these are some heavy topics that they do cover and I think they do really walk the line so well and handle it so nicely.”
They do, which is kind of part of my next question. Because they really do a great job showing the humanity of addiction, the struggle that addicts have with trying to clean up their lives. What do you think the trick is to the show doing such a good job dealing with these issues without being judgmental or accusatory toward viewers who may be in a similar situation?
“I think it’s the sensitivity of the writers. I think there’s probably people who are more familiar with the subject, maybe who have firsthand knowledge. I don’t know. So, they want to deal with it and respect that this does happen, but still, it is a comedy. They want to let you know that we are not making fun of this. We’re just saying, ‘This is how life goes sometimes.’ And I think it’s really the writing that walks that line so well. And, of course, when you have an actor like Allison Janney who can portray the pathos so well. The pain of what she went through and things like that. It’s just…it just makes it real and yet there’s a lot of laughs.”
Definitely. Is Wendy going to be getting in on any of the antics that we’ve seen? More than just the weepy stuff?
“Yes. I’m crying a lot less this season. (Laughs) Yeah, she’s like one of the gang. These women come to AA and Wendy’s one of the gang and it’s how they are just trying to make it through life. They’re kind of holding onto each other.”
Does that mean that we’ll get to see and hear about more of Wendy’s background, too?
“A little bit so far, but I don’t know what the future will bring. So far what we’ve done, you don’t see a lot of her background, but who knows. There’s a lot more to go.”
How do you manage to get yourself to cry as much as Wendy cries?
“I’m pretty much a crier in real life, so…I’ve had a lot of practice (chuckles). You know, I did a scene for Mad Men where I have to cry also and it takes some time to prepare and get into the mood of it. You know, for a drama like that. But for this show, it’s a little different, you have to try to make it as realistic as possible yet still being funny. So it can be difficult but like I said, I do it kind of often.”
Do you have any other projects that you’re working on right now? Or anything you’re hoping to get into in the future?
“I’m hoping in the off-season to do a little bit more film. I did a guest role on this really sweet kids show called Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street and I think that’s coming out at the end of this month. It’s on Amazon and I think they release the whole season at once. It was great because it was something my daughter could watch from start to finish, which she hasn’t been able to do with Mom. And then I’m just seeing what being on this show can bring for me. So far I’m just enjoying doing this show and we’ll see what happens.”
Check Mom out on CBS when its third season premieres on November 5th.