Every local bar has one, a lonely middle-aged woman who drinks cheap brandy and hopes to meet somebody to keep her company, even for one night. In Merlotte’s her name is Jane Bodehouse. Actress Patricia Bethune brings Jane to life and transformed her from a sad barfly in the first season into a wild orgy beast in season 2.
Patricia is thrilled that True Blood has become such a big hit and I was very happy to receive the invitation to talk with her about it.
Patricia Bethune is a very versatile character actress with an impressive resume that lists over 50 television, film and stage roles including parts in well known tv shows such as Desperate Housewives, Two And A Half Men, My name is Earl, Cold Case, Boston Legal, Grey’s Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, Everybody loves Raymond and Seinfeld.
Becoming an actress was not a childhood dream for her however, first she worked as an insurance underwriter until she realized that this was not the right path for her to follow.
“I was from the Mid-West and not really from an arts community per se, it wasn’t anything that even would be conceptually in the mind to do to make a living”, Patricia explains. “I remember hearing the story about a woman who didn’t have the financial base to leave a bad marriage with her children. As a young person I thought that’s terrible, I better make sure that I can always make money no matter what my life is. That sent me towards the direction of business and making money. “
“Then I realized, well if I’m going to live a long time I should probably also add in something I love to do and I started to try and figure out what it’s that I want to do. I started with voice over and radio and then I got brave with acting on stage and taking classes and it just came very naturally to me. And I loved it. I auditioned and received parts; a number of plays in a row which I thought was a nice sign. I started taking it seriously as a business. I just loved the freedom and the safety of being other people and sharing their stories. So I found my path a little later but my business background helped me with the everyday discipline to pursue it and to do the work. It’s work to look for work and that I knew how to do.”
Can you explain what it is about acting that you enjoy so much? What is the magic?
“It’s being able to share stories of individuals, by reading the character, I read the heart. I will always care about whomever I’m playing, I think everybody needs a voice. I think acting provides a voice to a lot of human beings that exist because a character is written that people disregard or don’t pay attention to. And as a character actress I really love to tell regular people’s stories and showing their value in this world when sometimes they don’t get the attention they deserve. To tell stories about issues and moments in time and it’s very fun.”
Are you comfortable watching yourself on screen?
“Well, it’s awful really [laughs]. It takes me 3 times a scene sometimes to actually see the performance. The first couple of times you are just looking at every flaw and how you know you don’t look like that, you look so much more fabulous [laughs]. But then I get over it and I can see if I look like who I am playing and that is far more important to me. But it takes about 3 times and then if I can see the story.”
Your list of work is very impressive, stage, tv and film. Do you prefer one over the other or do you like them all as much?
“I do like them all as much, really. Stage is very freeing because no one stops you once it starts and it’s nice to have that control and be in the moment with the energy of the audience and taking a story from beginning to end without interpretation from the director or any one else coming and stopping you, that is really quite freeing emotionally and wonderful. But I have come to really enjoy both television and film. I like the challenge of being fresh 50 times, depending on what angle they are shooting it from. It’s a great exercise. And being able to correct and getting it a little bit different each time, or try to stay consistent but keep it fresh, that is a great personal challenge and I enjoy that a lot. I also enjoy that family and friends can see what I do, most people live far away from me and can’t see me perform on stage.”
Many True Blood cast members auditioned for more than one part in the show before landing their role. Patricia only tried out for Jane, it was a good fit.
“In the very first season I auditioned for Jane Bodehouse with Alan Ball and the casting people, it was just supposed to be a possibly recurring part. I had read the books when I heard I was auditioning, so I had an idea who Jane was. I showed up at the audition seemingly drunk, I went into the room as Jane and almost fell of my chair. I think that’s what got me the job. “
How would you describe Jane Bodehouse?
“I think Jane is hopeful in a very sad way. She hasn’t given up, she is not staying at home, but I think she knows that she is at the end of what she can have in life and she is making the best of it. Some days are just harder than others.”
We know so little about her, what do you think her back-story is?
“Charlaine Harris has never given her a back-story in the books although she is mentioned throughout all of them; she is kind of a staple of the town and in the bar. Alan and the writing team have developed her far more than she was in the books. She is a nice painting on the wall in the books and kind of established what is happening in the bar at any given time. She represents the town. As far as the back-story goes, I make up my own, but I don’t say it out loud because the writers will change that on any given day. I’ll let them decide and I’ll work up a back-story that matches it.”
“My standard answer is: a big good laugh or a good lay, not necessarily in that order. [laughs] Truthfully I think Jane just wants company, she is very lonely and looking for companionship. I don’t know if she is really able for much more than short term company, but I think that if she had somebody in her life to talk to she would be OK, but I think she is on her own.”
They should hook her up with some nice vampire of shapeshifter….
“Yes, I think that would be good. A shapeshifter would at least keep her interest.”
Obviously you look very different from Jane…. [Patricia burst out in laughter at this point]… how do you get in character for you scenes?
“The hair and makeup people are great. It starts with Audrey Fisher and the costume itself. When they first were costuming me what I was wearing was probably smaller than my bathing suit, it took some time getting used to. They go from the underwear all the way to the outside. It all starts really with the costume and the hair and makeup and as far as the rest … I know a lot of these kinds of people who basically spend their evenings like Jane, their only contact with the community is through a bar. So I knew where to start with her. I don’t think that they are necessarily bad girls, nobody should write them of just because they don’t fit the picture.”
I enjoyed watching Jane Bodehouse’s transformation from desperate town drunk to wild orgy beast. What was your first reaction when you heard you had to do all that crazy stuff?
“We didn’t know until right before shooting each episode what was going to happen. So I really didn’t have a heads up on it other then I knew I would be the first to be turned and wear the black contacts. That much I knew. And after that it was pretty funny. John Billingsley who plays Mike Spencer is a wonderful guy, but we had not met before we started mashing on each other. I know his wife and have worked with her in the past, so that helped to make us comfortable with one another. But we had a very funny conversation as we were sitting “so how often has this come up in your career?” [laughs] The two of us were supposed to be rolling around naked with one another and I said well it’s a first time for me, it has never come up before and he only had had it one time before. I said well just make a leap and have a good time and I know that they’ll take care of us. And they did.”
What was it like to shoot the orgy scenes?
“It was kind of a worst nightmare, in some ways [laughs]. Thankfully I didn’t have to be out within it. For most of the night it was so cold and my feet got a little frostbite whenever we had to do the dancing and grumping around on the ground because it was 30 degrees, it was cold! Thankfully the black contacts provide no peripheral vision so I didn’t have to look a lot at the other people and what they were doing. There were very intimate moments for the atmosphere people who just wanted to stay warm and did what they could and many of them obviously had no problem with being naked and they kind of enjoyed it. Some had boundary issues, not with the performers though, all the leads and regular cast were quite professional. When it came to very close up intimate scenes we were by ourselves, they shot it in a way that everybody had their private scene.”
What is your favorite scene that you filmed on True Blood?
“There were a couple of different ones, of course where I am cutting off my finger. It was such a brilliant contrast between singing children’s songs and slicing my finger off at the same time. That was really my favorite. The other was the night where we capture Sam in the bar. Ryan was so hysterical on top of the truck with that mask on his face; it was a really long night. All of us being a little out of it, but it was very fun. Ryan was brilliant, he is an amazing technical actor, he pays attention to everything, so he is not just beautiful. He is a very fine actor.”
What is your all time favorite True Blood scene?
“Oh….. wow … let me think. I do love the scenes with Hoyt. I think the very first time that he meets his new mate. It is so beautiful between the two of them. Deborah Ann Woll is lovely, I love to watch her work, she is very special. Those two met each other that night at Merlotte’s, I think that is my favorite: sweet and scary amidst all of the vampire stuff. It was just beautiful. Jim and Deborah captured high school feelings and awkwardness: truly beautiful work.”
Do you check out the fansites to read the comments?
“I don’t. I am not really internet savvy; I am still finding my way through on how to create fan pages and how to respond if somebody writes to me directly. Those things I do. But I don’t go look at the other fan sites because I don’t want my feelings hurt [laughs]. I am glad that people are that involved but I also don’t want to be swayed by any kind of comment; good or bad.”
Do you Twitter?
“I have an account and I am learning that as well, I am about four pages behind on the next technology. I don’t know what I would be twittering about, but I will start looking into that.”
Recently Patricia landed a role on another very successful show: Mad Men. The new season starts on July 25th and Patricia’s character appears in the fifth episode.
“I just started working on Mad Men. Unfortunately I cannot say anything about the part I am playing, they asked us all not to give away anything: the year, the name of the character, anything that might give a clue to what is coming up. To honor their fan base and keep it all a surprise. But I can say that my character is a complete opposite of Jane Bodehouse, they won’t be hanging out together [laughs].”
Your wardrobe must be very different.
“The wardrobe is from support hose to girdle and bra to the slip and then the clothes come on top of that. And then the hair and makeup. I was brought to tears the first time I looked in the mirror with it all on because it was like looking at old family photos of my parents and my aunts and uncles. It really touched my heart. You are very fortunate to have all of that and then all you have to do is pay attention to the words because the visual is so taken care of.”
When not working, Patricia mentors new actors, as well as folks transitioning from one career to another. She also devotes time to several charities including the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving.
“There are a few charities that I am involved with, but my main focus is on the Caregiver Advocate. I have done quite a bit of caregiving myself to people who have been ill until they passed so it is close to my heart to provide support for the caregivers. I work with the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving, which was the former first lady and has an institute which is a science base, but basically it’s a research place to help provide support for caregivers. I have a commercial spot that is airing all over for the Alzheimer patch which is the first spot that has ever focussed on the real trials and tribulations of the caregiver. Because the patient really isn’t aware of what is going on. But how you lose your life and your income for a period of time because you are doing a private gift to a human being. I am hoping to try and change that, because in the next few years in the United States one out of five people will be a caregiver to someone. And as we age we have to find a way to make it easier on us, so we can still live our lives while taking care of people. I have been a caregiver in the past and I have friends who are caregivers and I am trying to find a better path for all of us.”
For more information about Patricia Bethune visit her website
and become a fan of her official Facebook fanpage.