Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview B&B: Betty White Returns to Tie Up Loose Ends

Betty White (photo courtesy JPI Studios Inc.) last appeared on “The Bold and the Beautiful” as the not-so-great mother of Stephanie and Pam a year ago. Betty is back as Ann starting Nov. 18, but this time Ann is very ill and preparing for her death. But first, she has some loose ends to tie up with her daughters.

Betty was thrilled to return to the “B&B” set, telling me: “I was so surprised that they wanted to have me back. Ann hasn’t been there in about a year, so it was kind of nice to come back and revisit the character — not only from an actor’s standpoint, but also because it is such a great show to work on. They are the nicest people in the world, and they greet you back like a member of the family — even though it’s a member of the family they don’t like on camera.

“It didn’t even feel like I had been away for a year. I think it’s amazing that as long as that show has been going, that they keep the freshness to it. It’s amazing. It’s also, for me, such a great stretch, because I don’t get the chance to do serious acting. So to get some serious things to do was kind of fun.”

Switching between comedy and drama is easy when you’re a pro like Betty. “You get a different mind-set. You try to see it from a different perspective from the other things you do. A couple of times there was a chance to almost go for the laugh, and I had to resist that temptation strongly.”

Having the chance to work with the “B&B” cast again was another perk for Betty. “When you get into the acting that is on this show — Susan Flannery is so good, as is Alley Mills — it really makes it easy to get into character and really go for it. You’re playing very heavy, serious scenes, and during the breaks, you can laugh at it all. It’s nice that they don’t take themselves so seriously that they can’t get out of character.”

Betty assures me that fans will be happy with what they are going to see. “I was very happy with how they handled Ann’s story. There are some surprises. We had one beautiful day up at Malibu on the beach. We were up at Paradise Cove, and Ann is so taken with this setting — again, another side of Ann that you don’t expect to see, that she would be that taken with natural beauty — that for me it opened up a new door for playing Ann.”

Betty almost didn’t get to play Ann this second time around. “I was so surprised when they invited me back. They had asked me before, but I couldn’t schedule it because I was working on other projects. I was glad when they asked me again, because they had written such an interesting story line, and it’s tough for an actress to turn down something like that. It’s fun to play.

“‘B&B’ is the closest for me to doing something I don’t get the chance to do, which I enjoy doing, and that is playing a serious role. Comedy is still my heart, but this satisfies that craving to do a serious role.”

However, the role that Betty craves most is that of animal lover and advocate. She tells me: “I’ve been with the Morris Animal Foundation for 43 years. We are a health organization; we fund research for specific health problems of dogs, cats, horses and wildlife. We helped develop the feline leukemia vaccine and the parvovirus vaccine. I’ve also worked with the Los Angeles Zoo for 45 years. Zoos these days take such good care not only of animals in the zoos but of animals overseas that are diminishing in population.

“That’s the big half of my life. I have to be in show business to pay for my animal business.”