TV Goodness Q&A: Anne Heche Discusses NBC’s Save Me [INTERVIEW + PREVIEW]
We’ve been Anne Heche fans since she started in this business. She’s had a long and varied career and you can see and feel the passion she has for this character and this series. TV Goodness participated in a Save Me press call. Anne talks about what to expect on the show this season as what it’s been like to play a woman who talks to God.
Q: Can you describe Beth in three words?
Anne Heche: “Enthusiastic, goofy and loving.”
Q: You started your career with drama, but more recently the roles you’ve taken, like this and Hung, are comedy. Is that because it’s a better schedule for a mom or is there another reason that you want to do comedy now?
Anne: “You know what? Nobody saw my bad soap acting. I think a lot of people laughed at that when I was 17. But I think I’ve always been drawn to making people giggle. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to do so many different things in so many different mediums, you know? And I guess when I went to Broadway with Alec Baldwin – I did â€œ20th Centuryâ€ – I just fell in love with physical comedy. You cannot get more pleasure, I don’t think, then throwing yourself up against a wall and listening to an audience just cackle with laughter. And I guess I kind of set out to make more of those opportunities happen for myself, for sure. And Save Me has fallen into that desire to make people giggle. I do like the schedule though, that’s for sure. But it’s not necessarily about schedule, it’s just that the joy of my life kind of , it’s funnier probably for people to hang out with me when I’m making them laugh than when I’m making them cry. So it gets addictive.”
Q: Thinking back to your early career, did you ever imagine that you would work consistently like you have?
Anne: “Oh my gosh, no. I mean no. I tried to quit acting after I stopped [working on Another World]. I wanted to go to Parsons School of Design. I never thought in a million years that anybody would continue to hire me as an actress. And when I was getting ready to go I paid my first tuition and everything and then I got a call asking if I wanted to go and audition for O Pioneers!, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. And I got it and then was like, â€˜Wellâ€™ – and this is so funny because it does dovetail kind of perfectly into Save Me, because I thought, â€˜I must be getting a message from God. I must be – I mean come on. Somebody’s hiring me to go work with Jessica Lange? I better do this.â€™ And so I didn’t go to Parsons School of Design and I haven’t stopped working since. So God does dictate some things in our life I guess. But as I was, I’m meant to be a fool.”
Q: So you believe in messages from God then, like in the show?
Anne: “Well, I think we all get messages. I think sometimes we’re more in tune to it than others. And like Beth in my show, I probably misinterpret messages often. And I’m going down trippy, windy roads trying to find out if I’ve interpreted them correctly. And I’m sure we all do that. It’s part of what I love about the show. We look for signs, we look for messages. Sometimes it comes in a book, sometimes it comes in the stars, and we try to figure out how to make our lives work. And that’s all Beth has really tried to do. And she doesn’t always do it elegantly, and certainly neither have I so I relate.”
Q: What was it that really attracted you to the script in the first place? What made you say you had to do this?
Anne: “I believe that we get second chances in life. And Beth, my character, is in a situation; she’s an Ohio housewife, I’m from Ohio. That’s kind of the first of many things that Beth and I have in common. But she’s a housewife and she hasn’t done it very well. She’s not a great mom, she’s not a great wife, she drinks too much, she plays too hard, and she hasn’t really been responsible. And by the time we come in to meet her and she’s choking on a hoagie, her life isn’t great. And she gets a second chance to do it again. And I love that because I’ve been so blessed with many chances in my life that I get really excited by being able to play women that get to do it all again, you know? I think that we do come to points in our life where we need something to believe in. And whether or not we believe – or wherever we get our strength from, I think we have so much courage, everybody, to walk through this life and try to make it right. And that’s really all Beth is trying to do. She wants to do it right and she wants to make people happy along the way. And I like that. She’s a really positive person. And this message, this connection that she has with God has filled her with the joy of life. And she wants to give it to everybody like a gift. And sometimes when you have that big of a gift, sometimes people don’t want it. So it doesn’t always work out perfectly for her, but she is really trying to figure it out in a positive way. And I love all that about her. And she’s a goofball. She’s a total goofball, and so am I.”
Q: What do you find the most challenging?
Anne: “About Beth? About the show? You know humor, for me anyway, I always want it to be something that people understand and can relate to. When you’re playing a person who talks to God, you want to be sure that people believe that’s actually really happening. So that’s kind of the balance that we’re trying to strike all the time in the show, that you really believe in Beth, that it’s not so far in a realm that we don’t understand. We want to stay grounded too.”
Q: What was the preparation for the role like for you?
Anne: “Let’s see, what did I do? Before Beth gets filled with God she’s kind of a slob and a drunk and everything. So in the pilot, for the first time she decides to get herself together and go out and start running. And I remember thinking, â€˜I wonder how God feels in your body? What would it feel like if all of a sudden God started walking around in your body?â€™ So I went into Hancock Park, which is where I live in Los Angeles, and I went to a gorgeous street that kind of looked like Cincinnati. And I remember putting on earphones and I looked all around and was really hoping that nobody was watching me, and I started acting – I started feeling what it would feel like. Like, â€˜What would it feel like if all of a sudden I was just filled with God?â€™ And so I started running down the street and I was jumping and doing jumping jacks and shaking my leg and doing all of this goofy stuff. And I looked over and there was like two dogs and two people with their heads tilted like, â€˜What is in that girl? What is that about?â€™ And I realized that I had figured it out, that this character needs to be filled in her body all the time. And so my work kind of started there. Just, â€˜What does it feel like to feel that good? What would it feel like if I knew that I was going to be okay?â€™ Which is really what I feel like God is to Beth, an answer that everything’s going to be okay for her, that she’s going to make it, she’s going to live, she’s going to reconnect with her daughter, she’s going to reconnect with her husband, her friends, everything’s going to be okay. And so that’s the feeling that I have when I’m working on her.”
Q: During your time on the set, how well did you bond with your fellow cast members?
Anne: “My gosh, they’re like my family. They’re just the most super-duper people. My daughter – I just, I adore Madison [Davenport]. From the time she came in to audition with us it was like she – like she calls me her second mom. Her mom is adorable and I love her mom, but I’ve basically adopted her. My friends are just the most darling group of, supportive actors. And Michael Landes is the best TV husband you could hope for. We have a terrific time.”
Q: Have you learned anything about yourself from playing Beth?
Anne: “That I am more of a dope than I ever have imagined. I like making people laugh. I mean people say to me on the set, â€˜Man, you will do anything.â€™ I won’t tell you what the episode is, but we do move toward a place where Beth takes in the messages from God and she is on her death bed, again. She believes that she has to do something and her family says, â€˜You know what, if you’re going to go this far, like this is it. This is enough. I’m leaving. You cannot be this person. I’m leaving you.â€™ And even in the rejection of her family she believes in God, she believes God is telling her something to do. And I will tell you, I got down on my knees. This path of – which is the hilarity about Beth – the path that she goes on leads her to a place where she ends up in the mud eating the dirt off the ground and shoving it in her face in front of television cameras to prove something to her friends. And after I did it they yelled cut and it was so disgusting. Actually, my son was there watching because I knew that he just loves when I make a fool out of myself. So he was there just barfing. He’s like, â€˜Oh no you did not do that.â€™ And I looked and the director said, â€˜You know what Anne, you will just – you will do anything to make people laugh won’t you?â€™ And that was a thing, that’s kind of what I’ve learned; that I will eat mud. I will eat mud if it’s funny.”
Q: Besides making people laugh, what do you hope people take away from the show when they watch it?
Anne: “That we can feel good and make people feel good and that we can find hope in our day. God is something that I have confronted, questioned, dealt with, looked at, experienced, rejected, embraced my whole life. I’ve had a give and take with this God identity. And I think everybody has. I think everybody talks to God sometimes. I think everybody tries to figure God out. I think we all would love to have a helping hand. I think we would all like to trust that we’re being taken care of, that life means something. And this is a story about a woman who’s dealing with that every single moment of her life, and wanting the best for everybody and wanting to use that experience of God to help people. So I hope that people feel like God’s out there helping them out, that we’re here for each other because that’s all we’ve got. So if you can find God in a friend, if you can find God in a smile of a stranger, it’s here you know? It’s here. We’re here to help each other out. And I hope people feel that from the show, even if it’s to make people laugh. Who’s to say that laughter isn’t God?”
Q: How long did you actually live in Ohio? And how did your knowledge of Ohio inform you as your performance?
Anne: “I moved from Ohio when I was about 6. So my knowledge of Ohio probably informed me – well I lived with a mom who’s from Ohio and Indiana so I probably took some of my Ohio mom from her. But probably not a lot. It’s probably more my visits to Ohio. I shot a movie called Milk Money in Cincinnati and so it’s probably more those memories that kind of informed my Ohio sensibility for the movie.”
Q: You’ve done series TV before, so at this point how easy or difficult is it for you to say, â€˜Yesâ€™ to committing to a show?
Anne: “Oh my God well, â€˜Yesâ€™ is the easiest answer I have. Like, â€˜What? You want me to be on TV? Sure.â€™ I love it. I mean at this point in my life I find it so extraordinary that people are still asking me to be on TV. It’s just amazes me sometimes because I go, â€˜Wow. You want me to go be in this show that I think is so hilarious and so awesome?â€™ And I think I’m amazed that people keep coming up with new ideas, let alone new ideas that they want me to be in. But I love to work. I guess if I could have shaped a show or an idea or a sense of humor for myself, I would have come up with this. I did not create this show for myself but I’m happy — thrilled — that I’m a producer on it. So when NBC approached me about it I couldn’t believe it. The blessings of my life are extraordinary. And this is one that I’m just, you know, I’m thrilled that they asked me to do.”
Q: How easy is it for you when you’re doing a series to keep the character fresh when you’re going back to it season after season, as opposed to working on a feature film?
Anne: “Well, I would love to be able to tell you in three years what it feels like to be keeping it fresh. Right now I am just keeping my fingers crossed that I get a second season. I feel like we haven’t even begun to tap into what Beth’s life is and what will happen to her with this extraordinary thing that she has going on in her life. Because of the subject matter, because Beth talks to God, itâ€™s just is kind of endless. I think Darlene Hunt and I are – we’ve just done 6 – 7 episodes really. So we just think that the possibilities are endless. I can’t imagine getting tired of what that journey is because the show is like starting at the beginning of somebody’s life, but as an adult. So it would be really hard for that not to be fresh, to me. But, talk to me in seven years. I can’t wait. I mean please, I hope we’re having this conversation and I’m like, â€˜I’m so bored with her. I’m so bored with this God topic.â€™ I mean it has fascinated people for millions of years, so I think we’ve got a lot of stories that we could tell.”
Q: Is there like a specific moment that you have that’s your favorite, either behind the scenes or a scene?
Anne: “I did – I mean I have to tell you, it’s so fun because I go back and forth in time. See Beth finds God, right, or God finds Beth as she’s about to die. But we keep going back in time and seeing what we call Bad Beth. So the Bad Beth stuff that I get to do is so outrageous because I am always playing a plastered drunk, usually most of the time, and making an absolute ass out of myself. The hilarious thing about Beth is that she makes an ass out of herself in the past and she makes an equal ass out of herself in the present. So what’s really funny is that she’s been saved, except she’s still has no idea what to do with the information that God is giving her so she becomes an absolute fool. Her enthusiasm and her trust in God makes her an utter fool, equal to the amount to the Bad Beth that she was, so she confuses people the same in her present life as she did in her past. So I get to do some really funny, ridiculous stuff. But Beth does get to meet God. The day that Beth met God in the show was one of the most amazing moments for me shooting. I could not believe it happened. And the person playing God was somebody that I had wanted to meet. And I literally begged this person to do it. I wanted this to happen so badly, and it did, and I cannot tell you who it is, but I was so thrilled. And everybody on the set was so thrilled. It was a very, very magical moment, the day I met God.”
Save Me premieres tonight at 8/7c on NBC tonight. Here’s what you have to look forward to in the first two episodes:
From the Network
“The Book of Beth”
Emmy nominated actress Anne Heche stars as Beth Harper, an absentee wife and mother who suffers a dramatic near-death experience. She is revived only to discover that she now receives messages from God. As she warms up to her powers and begins dispensing advice that is astonishingly accurate, her husband Michael Landes‘ Tom is skeptical and their teenage daughter Madison Davenport’s Emily is horrified. Complicating matters even more, Tomâ€™s mistress Alexandra Breckenridge‘s Carly shows up to confront Beth about the affair and quickly gets a shocking surprise.
“Take It Back”
Beth begins a new life on the straight and narrow and wants to make amends with old friends she has offended. Her efforts to return a long-ago stolen espresso machine to next door neighbor Joy Osmanski’sÂ Maggie are rebuffed. Meanwhile, Tom learns to adjust to his wifeâ€™s newfound ability to communicate with God and they both try to re-establish some sense of normality with their old friends and their daughter Emily.
Edited for space and content.
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