Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Betsy Brandt on Better Call Saul, Michael J. Fox, and her new show Life In Pieces

Illustration for article titled Betsy Brandt on Better Call Saul, Michael J. Fox, and her new show Life In Pieces

Before our intrepid TV Club correspondents traveled to this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, we asked readers to submit questions that we could pose to the TV pros attending the event. (And we made one up ourselves.) With those questions and the answers they prompted, we bring you the TV Club Questionnaire.


Betsy Brandt started her TV career in the 2000s, bouncing around quite a bit while steadily increasing her profile with appearances on series like ER, NCIS, CSI, and Boston Legal. But the value of her stock soon went off the charts thanks to her work on AMC’s Breaking Bad. Since then, Brandt has had high-profile guest arcs on Parenthood and Masters Of Sex. Although her most recent series-regular gig, The Michael J. Fox Show, failed to earned a sophomore season, she’s getting another shot in a sitcom ensemble this fall, playing Dan Bakkedahl’s wife on Life In Pieces, airing Monday nights on CBS.

If you could be working on any other television series currently on the air, which one would it be, and why?

Betsy Brandt: Oh, Better Call Saul. Because it’s really good, and because I love those people.

A.V. Club: Has there been any talk about how to try to figure out how to get Marie onto Better Call Saul?

BB: [Teasingly.] Maybe. It’s not my place to say.

What are your earliest memories of TV, and did they have any bearing on you wanting to have a career in TV?

BB: My earliest memories would be Little House On The Prairie. I also really liked watching Three’s Company. I would watch All In The Family with my babysitter. [Laughs.] I don’t know why I was allowed to watch that when I was that young, but I loved it. The great thing about being in this business is that you meet people, and I met Sally Struthers. I remember we were in the green room at the Ovation Awards in Los Angeles, and I’d had just enough champagne, and I’m, like, “So what was that like for you? Did you know what it was when you were doing it?” ’Cause when you’re young, sometimes it’s just day to day. And it was phenomenal to get the chance to talk to her about that.

I also remember watching Family Ties and watching Michael J. Fox. He stuck out. That whole cast was great, but the way he stood out to me in watching his work: I was moved by that as a person. But for me becoming an actor, I saw a Shakespeare play when I was in high school, and it was just crystal clear: I said, “That’s what I want to do.”

AVC: Did you inform Fox of this epiphany when you were working with him on The Michael J. Fox Show?

BB: Oh, I’m sure I did. There was really very little that I didn’t tell him. [Laughs.] He’s just that kind of guy. He’s great.

What efforts do you take to promote diverse viewpoints, and how do you think that has affected storytelling, either on your show or the television medium as a whole?

BB: Wow. Now that is just crazy talk. [Laughs.] You know, for me, I think you make a choice what kind of actor you want to be, and then it’s kind of the material you choose. Listen, I’m happy to have a job. I’m happy to have a good job with nice people. But if you are in the fortunate position where you have some say in it and you can choose a good show where you’re working with smart people, I just think that only good is going to come from that into what you put out there. Let’s just try not to put crap out there. We see enough crap. I don’t want to work on crap. And that’s how I feel I participate in that. [Sighs.] It’s hard to watch the news some days.


If you could add something to the show you’re working on, without anyone knowing about it beforehand and free from any consequences from upset coworkers/networks/viewers, what would it be?

BB: Ooh! I like this question, but I have to say, honestly, that my show’s too new. I wouldn’t do that without thinking about it. It’s funny, though, because now I am thinking about it, and I’m thinking about—and this is a conversation I want to have with Justin Adler and the writers—what my character did for a living before she decided to stay home for her kids. Because hopefully what decisions you make now, you live with, like, three seasons down the road. [Laughs.] So that I’d like to put thought into.


If any character from your show could be given a spin-off, who would it be and what would be the premise of the new show?

BB: I’d say probably Dan Bakkedahl. I’d like to see him do one of two things: something political that’s a little bit wrong—like, his own kind of Veep, but even more so—or I’d like him to be a guy in a small town with a hardware store. Kind of a Newhart kind of thing. Oh, and that reminds me: I remember watching the Newhart show when I was a kid, and I just loved it. And then I got to work with Bob Newhart on ER. Oh, my God, I love clips of his stuff. Sometimes my husband and I just watch him—we just watched the one of him on Mad TV—and he’s hilarious. He’s got amazing timing.