Betsy Brandt was on two panels for the Television Critics Association with only a day in between. After the “Breaking Bad” panel, Brandt and the cast were whisked away quickly, but she had more time to talk about “The Michael J. Fox Show.” Brandt plays Fox’s TV wife as the fictional Mike Henry (Fox) goes back to work while dealing with his Parkinson’s Disease.
On Thursday, “The Michael J. Fox” show made its premiere as we said “hello” the Henry family right before we say goodbye to Brandt’s character, Marie, the infamous Walter White and the rest of “Breaking Bad’s” characters on Sunday.
CraveOnline: Where are you going to be on the night that “Breaking Bad” finale airs?
Betsy Brandt: I’m hoping to be here with the rest of the cast watching it together. We’ll see. If I can get out of work on Monday.
Will this be a big TV week in your house?
Yeah, and in other ways. When I shot the pilot, I told everybody about it because I was still working on “Breaking Bad” and I said, “I felt like I was cheating on all of you. It was really fantastic and I love them all.”
Are you going to get emotional?
Oh, I almost cried on the panel yesterday which is not what I wanted to do. Like you don’t want to be Sobby Sue on the TCA panel and all. Especially when you have another one the next day.
How has “Breaking Bad” changed your life?
Oh my God. I don’t know. I don’t even know where to start. Stephen Soderbergh’s casting person called my agent and my manager because he saw me on “Breaking Bad” and wanted to put me in one of his movies. He would never know who I was if it weren’t for that show. Unless I like spilled something on him in a restaurant, he wouldn’t know who I was. I was in “Magic Mike.” I wasn’t one of the strippers.
Do you get to be funny a lot on “The Michael J. Fox Show?”
What sort of funny things do you get to do?
Well, it’s a comedy, but it’s a very kind of real-life comedy. And it’s great. It’s just fun. I mean, I’ve ruined more than one take on this show, and I laugh my ass off when we’re rolling and when we’re not rolling. So it’s great. It’s really good.
Were you looking for a comedy after “Breaking Bad?”
How different a woman is this character versus Marie?
They’re so wildly different and thank God for that. They’re just wildly different and I love them both. I really do, I love them both, but they’re wildly different. But it’s a different situation. This woman’s in this family and she’s got kids and married and she doesn’t have obsessive compulsive things like Marie does and isn’t obsessed with purple and all of that, and does not have a meth making brother-in-law.
That you know of yet.
Well, I haven’t seen the outline for episode seven, but anything is possible.
Have you discovered what her peculiarities and quirks are as sitcom characters?
You know, it’s early in the season. Some things, I mean, it’s definitely a whole different animal from what I did on “Breaking Bad.” Like Marie is like, here’s my freak flag, and I’m flying it. And Annie is much more of myself than probably any other character that I’ve played.
As just a fan, what were your feelings about Michael coming into it?
Oh, I was a huge fan of his. As an actor, he’s one of the best actors that I’ve ever seen, and so to work with him was just amazing to me. But he has this amazing quality that when you meet him, he’s just a really nice guy.
A lot of people will say Michael J. Fox is inspirational, a hero. What do you take from him?
For me it was huge for me to meet him as an actor because I used to watch “Family Ties.” What a great cast and for him to, and this was before I think I even knew I wanted to be an actor, but for him to stand out the way he did to me among that cast, really says a lot about him. He is just so wildly talented. If I can hold my own with him, to meet him and read with him I was just happy to meet him and read with him. But then once I read with him, I was like this was my job. Some shows come up that are really great shows but it’s not your show. That’s not your character and that’s not your show, and how lucky for the actor who gets it, and this one I felt like this was my show.
For you, the change in gears, I’m sure was very refreshing for you. Was it a super easy transition in the style?
Some of it’s really easy, and some of it’s really scary. But I think it’s scary, – it’s the appropriate amount of scary. It’s an appropriate amount of scary that I feel like it’s right, that it’s good.
What’s been the most challenging part?
I don’t know. I’ve got to say, it’s been pretty fun. I don’t have anything to complain about.
It’s a half hour as opposed to an hour in the final product, but it is the work week the same amount?
It’s totally different for me. Like I didn’t work this many days in a row on “Breaking Bad.” It’s just different. It’s a different format, different thing.
But a smaller ensemble, so there’s more for each of you to do? Is that it?
I don’t know that it’s really smaller, but there’s more crossover in this. And in “Breaking Bad, there were people I would never have scenes with.
But you did get to play comedy though, particularly the shop lifting episode. It probably was a different kind of comedy, but was that in some respects prep for this?
Oh, I mean, I couldn’t even have imagined this when we were shooting that.
Did you draw anything from the lighter moments that you got to do on “Breaking Bad?”
Not really. I mean, it’s just like you do what’s in front of you. Like if it’s funny, you do funny. If it’s drama, you do drama. And in “Breaking Bad,” I got to do a little bit of both, so that was pretty amazing.
And this style of humor is notably lighter than the “Breaking Bad.”
Yes, I definitely am like, this show is much funnier.
Can you contrast a little bit working with Albuquerque versus working in New York?
Oh, I mean, they’re different cities. But I loved being in New Mexico and New York is really, really fun too. They’re just fun in different ways.
Does your family come with you?
Yeah. They come with me.
Doing straight comedy now, is it just a different acting muscle? What feels more natural to you?
Yeah, but it’s really fun. I wouldn’t say either feels more natural, but it’s so fun to do. I mean it. Like when we do drama, I mean it, and when we do comedy, I just mean it, you know? But it’s different enough to be really exciting to me. And also, I think the show is so funny. When I read both pilots for “Breaking Bad” and the “Michael J. Fox Show,” I turned to my husband in real life, and I’m like, “That is an amazing script.”
For “Breaking Bad,” it was like, that’s one of the best pilots, probably the best pilot I have ever read. When I read this, it was like, “That is a phenomenal pilot. I have said those things to my kids.” Like some of the lines that my character had, and I said to him, “I’ve said some of these things to you.” It was just so real to me and so funny. It reminded me of one of those really amazing comedies that I grew up watching, like “Cosby Show.” I wanted to do a comedy, and I’m so happy that it’s that.
What do they see in you that they thought, this relationship, something between the two of them has to work.
I don’t know, but I’m glad they saw something and gave it to me. The first time I read with him, I felt like I’d known him for years. It was great.
Are you keeping in touch with Dean Norris on “Under the Dome?”
Oh, I have no scoop for you on “Under the Dome,” only that I know he’s really happy and he loves it and he’s having a great time. It’s weird for me to watch the first episode because I was like, “Wait a minute. Wait, wait.” And then I forgot that he was ever Hank which is I think a lot to say coming from me.
Is Tracy Pollan influential in this role?
I mean, I hadn’t met Tracy until I already got the role and was working on it. We look totally different. Listen, that’s flattering to me if anybody thinks that I remind them of Tracy. She’s gorgeous and awesome and amazing but no, I look at that and I look at the role and I look at who I think that woman is and talk to the people that are helping me create this character and that’s just what I do. In my mind, when I do this role, it’s Mike Henry. It’s not Mike Fox.
With “Breaking Bad” you knew you had about 13 episodes a season. Now you know you have 22. How does it feel as an actor to know you have that security?
Well, listen. Security, because I said to Mike the other day, I try and remind myself how good it is right now, because five years from now I could be really trying to get an infomercial and then they turn me down. That’s just the nature of the business and you have to enjoy it.
I was just thankful, because sure, the work is great and to have the work and the stability in that way is great for the first season but we have a first season, that’s what we have. I’m just glad it’ll allow the show to really do some things and get its legs. Sometimes what could have maybe been a great show, they do a pilot and that’s it. They don’t get a chance. I feel like this pilot was so really, just really good and it’s funny. The material is so funny.