Exclusive Interview: Betsy Brandt on ‘Masters of Sex’ and ‘Breaking Bad’

Betsy Brandt

I was a die hard fan of “The Michael J. Fox Show.” It started just because I wanted to see Fox do comedy again, but I ended up loving the whole family. So I was actually legitimately disappointed it did not get renewed for a second season.

Then Betsy Brandt, who played Fox’s TV wife after wrapping her run on “Breaking Bad,” popped up on “Masters of Sex.” She plays the new secretary Bill Masters (Michael Sheen), Barbara Sanderson. When I went to the set of “Masters” with the Television Critics Association last month, there was Brandt standing at the Masters kitchen counter. I interviewed Brandt in the Masters kitchen about her new role.

CraveOnline: I am so disappointed in NBC for canceling “The Michael J. Fox Show.”

Betsy Brandt: Oh, me too. They don’t let me make those decisions.

But I’m even more disappointed in America.

[Laughs] What did they do, not watch it?

For not supporting it enough.

Yeah, you don’t want people to watch you because they feel obligated. You want them to not be able to shut the TV off. That’s the goal.

That’s how you had me. I thought it was the perfect family sitcom.

I loved it. I could’ve played that character forever. I loved the family, I loved the whole thing.

“Masters of Sex” is exciting though. Did this come up right away?

Yeah. I think a few months into pilot season. It was such a whirlwind because I didn’t know if I was available or not available because of “The Michael J. Fox Show” which I thought would probably come back, but it didn’t. And I had been a fan of this show before it shot. I got a hold of the pilot and read it. I think I still that the 16 episodes to go on “Breaking Bad” and I called my manager and I said, “Listen, I read this. It’s a stunning show. It is amazing. Get me on it.”

She said, “You already have a job for Sony and you have 16 episodes to do for them of a show that you love.” And I said, “I know, but it’s ending. We’re going to have to live life after ‘Breaking Bad.’” When this job came up for me now, I felt like I won the lottery.

Your introduction is very subtle. Was it maybe intended for an actor not as recognizable as you?

Maybe. I don’t know. They certainly didn’t write it for me, but my agent and my manager knew that I was a fan of the show. I also said, “I want to recur.” You have goals. That was a goal of mine, to recur on this show. I specifically said “Masters of Sex” because I said I want to do what Allison Janney got to do. I want to recur in “Masters of Sex” and get my street cred and be on it because I’m a huge fan of it. When the role came up, my team was very excited because they’re also fans of the show so we put it out there. I’m so lucky.

You come into an episode with a great ethical crisis, when Bill is asked to perform a hysterectomy by the parents. Does Barbara find herself witnessing even juicier situations after that?

I feel like it’s always juicy on this show, so I think there are some things that shock her. She’s not very worldly in that way, but she really wants to do a good job and I love that about her.

That seemed like the beginning of a more complicated situation where Bill has to make compromises he didn’t expect to be asked to do. Is your character involved with that?

My character definitely is so intimidated by Dr. Masters. He’s such an intimidating presence, and then for a character like her, I think he just rocks her even more so. That is constant throughout my time on the show. Her relationship with him and how she views him and his effect on her. In that, I find that it’s interesting. She still finds a way to be true to herself in her dealings with him and who she is and how she fits into this world.

Is Barbara by any chance based on a real person who worked with Masters?

I don’t believe she is. I think they would have told me. She’s Barbara Sanderson. She’s real to me. I love her.

Is even going to work controversial for Barbara?

No, there are women that are working. I don’t think it’s that so much for her. I think if you’re not married, that’s what you do. I think she has a very strong work ethic and wants to be good at her job. She works hard.

Is this your first period piece?

Yes. I think so. I believe yes.

Is that something you enjoy, or is it tougher than you imagine?

I love it. I do. I love it. It’s so fun to be in a different world and wear these clothes. We do the whole thing. You wear your girdle, you wear the stockings. I had to ask Lizzy how to go to the bathroom in less than an hour the first time I was working. It took me four episodes to learn to dress myself, but by the end I got it.

When you see yourself in the mirror does it change the way you look at yourself?

No, I don’t really look at it. I don’t really look at myself. They have good people. I trust them much more than I do about how I look.

Now that we can talk about the finale of “Breaking Bad,” I’m sure you’ve talked it all out, but were you left with any remaining questions? Was it totally satisfactory to you?

After I read that script, I said to Vince, “This is the perfect ending for the show.” And then when I saw it, I just felt so satiated. When I saw what happened with Marie, I said, “That’s exactly where she should be, just trying to carry on and pull herself together after she loses Hank.” I think before that, if you asked her, she probably couldn’t imagine herself living without him.

Do you think she’s going to be strong now?

Eventually she will be. In my mind, I hope that she and Skyler end up being close again. I always loved that relationship.